Little Books, Big Ideas: Inspiring Quotes About Writing

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you visit a used bookstore, you might stumble upon an often neglected section: miniature or compact books. A miniature book generally measures 3 by 4 inches; some are even smaller: 1.5 inches by 2 inches. A compact book, also known as an octodecimo in American Library Association lingo, generally measures 4 x 6 inches. Unfortunately, these types of books are often dismissed due to their small size. “If they are so small, how can they possibly matter?” you think to yourself. Astute book lovers, however, know that even little books can contain big ideas — profound thoughts that can change your life.

In my periodic visits to used bookstores, I recently came across such a thought-provoking little book: The Wit and Wisdom of Women edited by the editors of Running Press, published in1993. Founded in 1972 by Stuart and Larry Teacher, Running Press specialized in small books that could be purchased as gifts.

In the introduction of The Wit and Wisdom of Women, the editors write: “The book you hold is a celebration of women’s lives, at once funny, poignant, passionate, and irrepressibly joyful… Many of these women, bound by time, place, and circumstance, could not possibly have conversed during their lifetimes — but that doesn’t mean we can’t delight in a spirited dialogue of our own making… These unexpected meetings of the mind affirm the universal quality of experience.” Here are some inspiring quotes about writing:

“We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I feel my courage wavering, I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resiliance to push on.”
From A Gift of Joy (1965) by Helen Hayes

“A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told — returned to the world it came out of.”
From the short story “No Place for You, My Love” (1952) by Eudora Welty

“We inherit a great responsibility as well for we must give voice to centuries not only of silent bitterness and hate but also of neighborly kindness and sustaining love.”
From The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) by Alice Walker

“Although some use stories as entertainment alone, tales are, in their oldest sense, a healing art. Some are called to this healing art, and the best, to my lights, are those who have lain with the story and found all its matching parts inside themselves and its depth… In the best tellers I know, the stories grow out of their lives like roots grow a tree. The stories have grown them, from them into who they are.”
From Women Who Run with Wolves (1989) by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins. The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”
From The Writing Life (1989) by Annie Dillard

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Little Books, Big Ideas: On Things That Really Matter
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
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To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Famous Misquotations: Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIf you have attended any event that celebrates an important milestone, like a graduation or retirement, you have heard someone say: “And like Dr. Seuss said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.'” And like many memorable quotations, this is found on all kinds of merchandise: posters, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and so forth. But like many quotes found on the internet, there is absolutely no evidence that Dr. Seuss (the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel) wrote it. No, he did not write that. Nor did the Cat in the Hat. He did not say it here or there. He did not say it anywhere. Some websites attribute the quote to Gabriel Garcia Marques or Anonymous. So which is correct? Let me welcome you into the classroom of Famous Misquotations 101, where we will seek enlightenment.

Garson O’Toole, better known as the Quote Investigator and author of the fascinating book, Hemingway Didn’t Say That (2017) joins forces with another quote investigator, Barry Popik, to discover that the actual source of this quotation is a variant of two lines from a poem by German poet Ludwig Jacobowski (1868-1900). Jacobowski lived and worked for most of his life in Berlin. He edited a local newspaper and wrote several volumes of poetry and two novels. The poem that is the focus of our attention is titled “Bright Days” (or “Radiant Days”), published in the August 1899 edition of Das Magazine fur Litteratur, a literary journal. Two key lines from that poem read “Night weinen, weil she voruber! / Lacheln, weil sie gewesen!” Translated into English the lines read: “Don’t cry because it’s over! Smile because they have been!” The entire poem appears below:

Bright Days by Ludwig Jacobowski
Ah, our brilliant days
shine like eternal stars,
They glow past as consolation
for future sorrow.
Don’t cry because it’s over!
Smile because they have been!
And if the days get cloudier,
Our stars redeem!

Fast forward to 1996, when an anonymous contributor posted this line on a Usenet newsgroup under the heading rec.humor: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” The Wikiquotes page devoted to Dr. Seuss points out that this quotation has also been attributed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who wrote: “No llores porque ya se terminó, sonríe porque sucedió.” Translated into English it reads, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” However, there is no source to confirm that Marquez ever wrote this.

The erroneous attribution to Dr. Seuss begins with one individual who was too lazy to do his research: Christopher Roche, the valedictorian at Albertus Magnus High School. In June 1998, The Rockland Journal-News (Rockland County, New York) quoted Roche’s valedictorian speech. Roche claimed that he was paraphrasing some lines from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go: “Like Dr. Seuss tells us, today is our day. We’re off to great places, so let’s be on our way. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yikes. Even ChatGPT wouldn’t make a bonehead attribution like that. Realize how easy it would be to confirm: Oh, the Places You’ll Go is not some sprawling epic novel, like War and Peace — the book has only 56 pages with just a few sentences on each page with lots of large pictures. If Roche had even flipped through it, he would discovered that this sentence or anything with a similar sentiment simply isn’t there.

So the next time you hear someone quote from “Dr. Seuss,” please interrupt them politely and graciously enlighten them: “You mean the obscure German poet, Ludwig Jacobowski, don’t you? Please, don’t cry that you made a mistake; smile that I corrected you — so that you are spared the humiliation of looking like a fool.” Oh, the places you’ll go…

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading:
Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations, Garson O’Toole, Little A, 2017.

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/07/25/smile/
http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/dont_cry_because_its_over

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

New Buzzwords for 2023

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn early January, the editors of NPR published a list of global buzzwords that will likely dominate the headlines in 2023. Some of the words are neologisms, while others are old, well-known terms. Here are their selections:

polycrisis: a series of old problems (famines, wars, pestilence, etc.) occurring at a faster rate and with compounding effects.

poverty: the state of being extremely poor (from the Latin paupertas from pauper meaning “poor.”

traveler surveillance: testing and gathering date on people who travel.

child wasting: a life-threatening form of malnutrition in which a child has very low weight for their height.

zero-dose children: children who never receive any of the most essential vaccinations (eg, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus).

tarmac to arm: the delivery of urgent supplies (eg, medical supplies, PPE, and food) flown into crisis-hit areas and offloaded onto airport tarmacs.

gender food gap: women who are underpaid or unemployed and live in poverty, unable to feed themselves.

aridification: the increasing mismatch between supply and demand of available water.

climate impact resilience: adopting strategies to prepare for and help blunt the impact of climate change.

The editors reached out to its readers and asked them to submit additional buzzwords for 2023. Here are some additional new words for 2023:

elite-directed growth: “Global problems (poverty, climate change, child wasting) stem from the same cultural cause. Power has become concentrated among elites — decision makers who make decisions that benefit themselves but are maladaptive for the population and environmentbecause these decision makers are insulated from the impacts of their policies. So they are either unaware of the adverse human consequences their policies have or they don’t care.”

microplastics: Microscopic bits of plastic that find their way into land, ocean, and humans (eg, the lungs) that can cause great harm.

precariat: a person who does not live in security. A portmanteau combing the words precarious and proletariat.

solastalgia: a form or emotional or existential distress caused by environmental change. Formed by the Latin word solacium (meaning “comfort”) and the Greek word forming element -algia (meaning “pain, suffering, grief”

superabundance: an amount or supply more sufficient to meet a person’s needs.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
Word of the Year 2022
Banished Words and Phrases for 2023

For further reading: .npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/01/17/1148994513/a-guide-to-9-global-buzzwords-for-2023-from-polycrisis-to-zero-dose-children
npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/01/22/1150062051/we-asked-you-answered-more-global-buzzwords-for-2023-from-precariat-to-solastalg

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

The Dog that Ate the Manuscript of a Famous American Novel

alex atkins bookshelf literatureIt’s one thing when you’re dog eats your homework and you have to face your skeptical teacher — but what if your dog eats a manuscript considered one of the most famous American novels set in the Great Depression? Now that’s a tragedy! American writer John Steinbeck experienced that exact situation and imagine the reaction from his publisher when he had to explain that his dog ate his manuscript Of Mice and Men. The dog of this sad tale was a setter puppy named Toby that in Steinbeck’s words “[was] a very serious dog who doesn’t care much for jokes.” Apparently, he didn’t care too much for his regular dog food and switched to something with a bit more fiber. In his journal entry for May 27, 1937, Steinbeck wrote: “Minor tragedy stalked. My setter pup [Toby], left alone one night, made confetti of about half of my manuscript book. Two months work to do over again. It set me back. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically. I didn’t want to ruin a good dog for a manuscript I’m not sure is good at all. He only got an ordinary spanking… I’m not sure Toby didn’t know what he was doing when he ate the first draft. I have promoted Toby-dog to be a lieutenant-colonel in charge of literature. But as from he unpredictable literary enthusiasms of this country, I have little faith in them.”

The title Of Mice and Men was inspired by two of the lines from the poem “To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Lough, November, 1785” by Scottish poet Robert Burns. The poem is written in a light Scots dialect which is foreign to modern readers. The specific lines from the seventh stanza are: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley. (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)” Steinbeck completed his work on his manuscript for Of Mice and Men and the book was published later that year in 1937. Toby eventually recovered from his spanking and never ate another manuscript again.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
The Founding Father that Vandalized Shakespeare’s Chair
Which Author has the Most Film Adaptations?

For further reading: Conversations with John Steinbeck by Thomas Fensch

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

The Most Beautiful People Are Those Who Have Known Defeat, Suffering, Struggle, and Loss

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

From the book Death: The Final Stage of Growth, published in 1975, by  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004), a Swiss-American psychiatrist who was the leading authority in the field of death and dying. Kübler-Ross introduced her theory of the five stages of grief in her seminal work, On Death and Dying published in 1969.  The five stages of grief, known as the Kübler-Ross model, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In a work published after her death (Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” co-authored with David Kessler, 2019), Kübler-Ross adds a sixth stage: finding meaning. Interestingly, Kübler-Ross theory was based on people who were dying as opposed to actually grieving; therefore, perhaps it would be more accurate to call them the “five stages of accepting death by individuals with terminal illness.” More significantly, the theory is not supported by empirical research or evidence.

 ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: www.ekrfoundation.org/elisabeth-kubler-ross/quotes/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Most Expensive Books Sold in 2022

atkins-bookshelf-booksWhen dedicated bibliophiles want to purchase a book, they generally turn to AbeBooks rather than Amazon Marketplace or eBay. AbeBooks was founded in Victoria, British Columbia, as the Advanced Book Exchange in 1995 by four bibliophiles. The company was acquired by Amazon in 2008. The site lists more than 140 million books from thousands of independent booksellers, many former brick-and-mortar establishments, from more than 50 countries.

Each year, AbeBooks publishes the list of the most expensive rare books sold on the site, providing a glimpse into what books have come onto the market and what bibliophiles are willing to pay for their Holy Grails. Despite how high these numbers are, they pale in comparison to the price that bibliophiles pay for exceptionally rare and valuable books that are only sold at auction or through private broker sales.

(1) I Quattro Libri dell Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture, 1570) by Andrea Palladio, $57,750
This influential first edition set of four books about architecture was written by Andrea di Pietro (nicknamed Palladio) who worked extensively in Venice. His style, known as Palladian architecture, was influenced by the classical architecture from ancient Greek and Roman traditions. Palladian architecture is characterized by its grand appearance and use of classical elements, specifically, symmetry, harmony, balance, tall columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian), and intricate detail.

(2) Cook’s Voyages (1773-1784) by John Hawkesworth, $50,000
This is a rare first edition set (nine volumes) of the official accounts of British explorer Captain James Cook’s three voyages in the Pacific Ocean published in 1773, 1777, and 1784. During the 18th century, these books were bestsellers because Europeans were curious about life in distant lands: New Zealand, Australia, and the Hawaiian Islands.

(3) How to Trade Stocks (1940) by Jesse Livermore, $40,000
A first edition, signed by the author, published by Duell, Sloan & Pearce. In the 1920s, Livermore was one of the great stock traders, worth millions, who traded with his own money. His formula for monitoring trends is still used today — more than 80 years later.

(4) Cantiques des Cantiques (1931) by Solomon, $25,000
This is a rare French limited edition (1 of 8) of The Canticle of Canticles (or Song of Songs), an erotic poem, illustrated by British artist Eric Gill. The Song of Songs, which signifies the “most excellent, best song,” is one of three books of Solomon, contained in the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Christian Canon of the Scriptures. The literal subject of the poem is love and sexual longing between a woman and a man. Because it explicitly says little or nothing about the relationship of God and man, Christians commentators turn to allegory to treat the love that the poem celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and Church.

(5) The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Wells – $30,500
This is a first edition of Wells’ first novel published by Henry Holt. The author’s signature appears below his misspelled name on the title page (“H.S. Wells”). Wells not only popularized the concept of time travel in a machine, and coined the term “time machine.” The novel is considered one of the seminal works of science-fiction literature that inspired countless stories about time travel.

 ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
The Most Expensive Books Sold in 2019
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For further reading: http://www.abebooks.com/books/rarebooks/most-expensive-sales-2022

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Banished Words and Phrases for 2023

alex atkins bookshelf wordsBack in 1976, W. T. “Bill” Rabe, who was director of public relations for Lake Superior State University (LSSU) published a tongue-in-cheek list of banished words (inspired by a conversation at a New Year’s Eve party the previous year) as a way to promote the university and to distinguish it from it earlier association with Michigan Tech. (LSSU is located in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, one of the oldest European settlements in the American midwest.) The list, should really be titled “words and phrases from the previous year that are overused or misused and should be retired.” The list was a hit around the globe, and the tradition of publishing a list of banished words on December 31 of each year. After Rabe retired, the university copyrighted the concept in order to “to uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by encouraging avoidance of words and terms that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical—and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating.” Amen.

Throughout the year, the university invites the public (apologies to the Statue of Liberty) to send us your tired, your hackneyed, your annoying, horrible words, yearning to be excised from the modern lexicon, the wretched refuse of the English language. And the public responds generously: LSSUThe university receives tens of thousands of nominations. LSSU recently published its list of Banished Words for 2023 along with its rationale for inclusion.

1. GOAT (Greatest of All Time)
This acronym gets the goat of petitioners and judges for overuse, misuse, and uselessness. Ironically, “goat” once suggested something unsuccessful; now, GOAT is an indiscriminate flaunt.

2. Inflection point
Originally a mathematical term, it is a pretentious way to say turning point.

3. Quiet quitting
A very misleading term: the definition is not an employee who quietly resigns, but rather an employee who completes the minimum requirements for a position. This is nothing new: older words are burnout, ennui, boredom, disengagement.

4. Gaslighting
The term is often misused as incorrect catchall to refer generally to conflict or disagreement.

5. Moving forward
Related to the term “going forward” that was banished in 2001.

6. Amazing
It is a worn-out adjective from people short on vocabulary.

7. Does that make sense?
The term with — its demand, for clarification or affirmation as filler, insecurity, and passive aggression — annoyed many people. “Why say it, if you must ask?

8. Irregardless
Let’s begin with the obvious: this is not even a word. At most, it’s a nonstandard word, per some dictionaries. Take ‘regardless’ and dress it up for emphasis, showcasing your command of nonexistent words.

9. Absolutely
Why not simply say “yes.” It is often said too loudly by annoying people who think they’re better than you or it sounds like it comes with a guarantee when it doesn’t.

10. It is what it is
Whether you call it tautology or a verbal crutch, the phrase is absolutely useless, pointless. Of course it is what it is; what else would it be? People who use it are being dismissive or borderline rude.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
Word of the Year 2021
Word of the Year 2020
Word of the Year 2019
Word of the Year 2018
Word of the Year 2017
Word of the Year 2016
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?

For further reading: https://www.lssu.edu/traditions/banishedwords/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Word of the Year 2022

alex atkins bookshelf words

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,” wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, “and next year’s words await another voice.” To that observation, we can add: this past year’s words also define the language, the conversations, or more accurately, the zeitgeist of the year. — in the words of the editors of Oxford Dictionaries, “the Word of the Year is a word or expression reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance.”

Across the pond, the editors of Oxford Dictionaries decided to change things up a bit. Typically the editorial board decides on the word of the year; however, for 2022 they launched an online poll to have the public select the word of the year from a list of three candidates: goblin mode, metaverse, and #StandWith. And the winner is — drum roll, please — “goblin mode.” Goblin mode is defined as “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” The editors explain, “Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline. The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media.”

Meanwhile, the editors of Merriam-Webster selected the word “gaslighting” as its 2022 Word of the Year. Gaslighting is defined as “psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.” A more general definition provided by the dictionary is “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” Merriam-Webster senior editor, Pete Sokolowski elaborates, “There is this implication of an intentional deception. And once one is aware of that deception, it’s not just a straightforward lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little bit more devious quality to it. It has possibly an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.” Other candidates for word of the year that the editors reviewed were: oligarch, omicron, codify, queen concert, raid, sentient, cancel culture, LGBTQIA, loamy.

For 2022 Word of the Year, the editors of Macquarie Dictionary (the Webster’s Dictionary of Australia) selected “teal” — and it is not the initial definition you think of (green-blue color), but rather a newly formed political meaning: “an independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritizing of integrity in politics.” In Australia’s 2022 elections, teal candidates — independent candidates that challenged established figures in the Labor and Liberal parties — dominated the election. The etymology is based on the use of the color teal as a branding color for Zali Steggall’s political campaign. Teal stood out against the colors used by Labor candidates who used red, and Liberal candidates use use blue. Runners up to the word of the year included: goblin mode, spicy cough, bachelor’s handbag, 

For 2022 Word of the Year, the editors of Dictionary.com selected “woman,” defined as “an adult female person.” Woman is derived from the Old English wifman, combing the words wif (meaning female or woman) and man (meaning person). The first recorded use is in the year 900. The editors explain their rationale for selecting this old word: “It’s one of the oldest words in the English language. One that’s fundamental not just to our vocabulary but to who we are as humans. And yet it’s a word that continues to be a source of intense personal importance and societal debate. It’s a word that’s inseparable from the story of 2022. This year, searches for the word woman on Dictionary.com spiked significantly multiple times in relation to separate high-profile events, including the moment when a question about the very definition of the word was posed on the national stage. Our selection of ‘woman’ as our 2022 Word of the Year reflects how the intersection of gender, identity, and language dominates the current cultural conversation and shapes much of our work as a dictionary… The biggest search spike started at the end of March, during a confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who in April became the first Black woman to be confirmed as a US Supreme Court justice. Specifically, the surge in lookups came after she was asked by Senator Marsha Blackburn to provide a definition for the word woman. It was a rare case of not just a word in the spotlight, but a definition. We at Dictionary.com weren’t the only ones to take notice. The prominence of the question and the attention it received demonstrate how issues of transgender identity and rights are now frequently at the forefront of our national discourse. More than ever, we are all faced with questions about who gets to identify as a woman (or a man, or neither). The policies that these questions inform transcend the importance of any dictionary definition—they directly impact people’s lives.”  Runners up included: Ukraine flag emoji, inflation, quiet quitting, democracy, Wordle.

Collins Dictionary, published in Glasgow, Scotland, selected “permacrisis” as its 2022 Word of the Year. Permacrisis is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity” or a series of consecutive dramatic events that create a sense of dread, wondering what the next crisis will be. The editors of Collins Dictionary note, “[Permacrisis] is one of several words… that relate to ongoing crises the UK and the world have faced and continue to face, including political instability, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and the cost-of-living crisis.” Runners us include: partygate, warmbank, lawfare, sportswashing, Kyiv, splooting, Carolean, quiet quitting, vibe shift.  

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
Word of the Year 2021
Word of the Year 2020

Word of the Year 2019
Word of the Year 2018
Word of the Year 2017
Word of the Year 2016

How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?

For further reading:
https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-year/
https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/woty
languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2022/
https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year
https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/resources/view/word/of/the/year/2022

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

 

What Can Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Teach Us?

atkins-bookshelf-xmasStudents of literature, indeed anyone who loves books and stories, can agree on one universal truth — that, in the words of C. S. Lewis “we read to know that we are not alone.” Novelist and essayist James Baldwin adds: “You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone.”

Another universal truth is that we read to learn, to heal, and to transform ourselves. As George Dawson, an English literature lecturer and founder of the Shakespeare Memorial Library in Birmingham, observed: “The great consulting room of a wise man is a library… the solemn chamber in which man can take counsel with all that have been wise and great and good and glorious amongst the men that have gone before him.”

On this day after Christmas, we turn our attention to a ghostly little story that has much to teach: Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol — a story of about redemption, forgiveness, and generosity. But Dickens did not write A Christmas Carol simply to amuse us; he wrote it to inspire self-reflection and change — to help us become better human beings. “Beyond entertaining us,” writes Bob Welch in 52 Little Life Lessons From A Christmas Carol, “Dickens wanted to make us uncomfortable, because it’s only after we get a touch uneasy with ourselves that we open ourselves to change… to create a spark that might lead to flames of action: changing how we look at the world, changing how we act in the world, and ultimately changing how we will be remembered in the world.” Indeed, if we are able to transform ourselves, in light of the lessons from Dickens’s classic story, this is the Christmas miracle.

Bookshelf presents some important life lessons from A Christmas Carol gleaned from Welch’s enlightening little book:

Don’t be selfish
Don’t let people steal your joy
See life as a child
Everyone has value
Life isn’t just about business
You make the chains that shackle you
Humility enhances vision
To heal you must feel
Your actions affect others
The love of money costs you in the end
Life is best lived when you are awake
Learning begins with listening
Attitude is everything

The past can be empowering
Don’t return evil for evil
Bitterness will poison you
Dying lonely is the result of living lonely
Pain is the privilege of losing someone you care deeply about
Amid tragedy, others still need you
Before honor comes humility
Give because you have been given to
Giving changes your perspective
Live with the end in mind
It is never too late to change
Be the change you want to see

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens gives us one of the most famous endings in literature, highlighting the fact that the holidays present a special opportunity for redemption, the chance to be a better human being:

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Why Read Dickens?
The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

Words invented by Dickens
The Power of Literature

For further reading: 52 Little Lessons From A Christmas Carol by Bob Welch (2015)

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Twas The Night Before Christmas History and Trivia

atkins-bookshelf-literatureTwo literary works that have had the greatest impact on how we celebrate Christmas today are A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” or “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) by Clement Clarke Moore. Like A Christmas Carol, Twas the Night Before Christmas has never been out of print for over 150 years. The poem endures as a cherished tradition as parents read the poem to the entertainment and delight of their children on Christmas eve as they anxiously await the magical visit of St. Nicholas.

Who Really Wrote Twas the Night Before Christmas?
Although the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was originally published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel (New York) on December 23, 1823 (under the title “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”), it was eventually attributed to Moore (1779-1863), a professor of Theology and Oriental and Greek Literature at the General Theological Seminary in New York, who had written the poem a year earlier. Moore eventually included the poem in an anthology titled Poems published in 1844.

Because Moore had not taken credit for the poem much earlier, relatives of Henry Livingston, Jr. (a distant relative of Moore’s wife, Catherine), began promoting a story that Livingston, an aspiring poet, had actually written “A Visit” in the early 1800s. The main evidence was their recollection (Elizabeth Clement Brewer Livingston recalled in 1848 or 1861 after reading Moore’s poem, that her father had actually written the poem in 1808); the only manuscript, they claimed, had been destroyed by fire. The claim gained traction when Don Foster, an English literature professor and expert on textual analysis (he worked on the Unabom case), examined writings by Moore and Livingston and concluded (based on the metrical scheme, phraseology, and Dutch references) that it was indeed Livingston who wrote the poem.

The evidence supporting Moore is overwhelming. First there is contemporaneous testimony from colleagues that Moore wrote the original poem (they physically handled and read a handwritten copy). Seth Kaller, a leading expert in American historic documents, who once owned one of the four handwritten copies of the poem, did extensive research and disputed Foster’s analysis point by point. Kaller’s research also turned up earlier writings and poems by Moore that are consistent with the meter and phraseology of “A Visit.” Moreover, Kaller could not find any written evidence to support the Livingston claim; he writes: “By the time [Moore] included it in his own book of poems in 1844, the original publisher and at least seven others had already acknowledged his authorship. Four manuscripts penned by Moore… survive: in The Strong Museum, The Huntington Library, The New-York Historical Society, and one in private hands.”

Why is the Poem Twas the Night Before Christmas so Important?
The poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is significant because it directly influenced the mythology of Santa Claus in the 19th century: the red suit, the bundle of toys, the eight flying reindeer (and their names) pulling a sleigh, filling the stockings with gifts, the smoking pipe, and entering and exiting the house through the chimney. Prior to Moore’s colorful depiction, Christians were familiar with the legend of the original St. Nicholas (Saint Nicholas of Myra), a Greek bishop who lived in the 4th century (270-343). He was the patron saint of sailors, merchants, children, brewers, unmarried people, students [take a breath here] — and a partridge in a pear tree. Depicted as a tall, slender man, St. Nicholas was known for his charity work — during the evening he would secretly bestow gifts to his parishioners. Moore was also influenced by the depiction of Santa Claus in Washington Irving’s famous work, A History of New York (also known as Knickerbocker’s History of New York) published in 1809. Irving, of course, drew from the Dutch and German lore of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus). Unlike St. Nicholas who was an actual person, Sinterklaas is a fictitious character who is based on St. Nicholas. Sinterklaas was depicted as a willowy bishop who rode a white horse. He carried a large red book that contained children’s names and whether they behaved good or bad the previous year.

From a literary and linguistic point of view, the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is significant on two fronts: first, it is one of the best known verses composed by an American poet. Just about everyone knows the line even if they have never read the poem. Second, it is one of the most well-known uses of a clitic — a morpheme that functions like a word but is not spelled or pronounced completely: “twas” is a contraction of the two words “it was.” Because the morpheme is attached before the host word, it is known as a proclitic. Two other common proclitics are the words “c’mon” (a contraction of “come on”) and “y’all (a contraction of “you all”).

What is the Origin of the Poem Twas the Night Before Christmas?
The actual origin of the poem is a fascinating story. The staff of Heritage Auctions, which sold a handwritten and signed copy of Moore’s famous poem for $255,000 on December 9, 1994 summaries the origin of the poem in the manuscript’s listing: “Eliza [Moore’s wife], was roasting turkeys to be given to the less fortunate parishioners from their church, and she found that one additional turkey was needed. Being a good husband and a compassionate man, he set out on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1822 to make the requested purchase. Calling for his coachman and sleigh, he set out for the market, which was then in the Bowery section of town. It was cold and snowy in Manhattan and Moore sat back and composed a poem for his children, the meter of which was probably inspired by the sleigh bells… Later that evening, after dinner, he read the quickly composed poem to his family as a surprise present… Written only for the entertainment of his family, Moore probably put his original manuscript in a desk and forgot about it.. [The] next year, a family visitor to the Moore home by the name of Miss Harriet Butler (daughter of the Reverend David Butler of St. Paul’s Church in Troy, New York) was told about it by the Moore children. She copied the poem into her album and later gave a handwritten copy of it to the editor of the local newspaper, The Troy Sentinel where it was printed anonymously on December 23, 1823, with the editor-assigned title “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” The response to the poem was overwhelmingly positive and he reprinted it every year thereafter. Soon it was being printed and reprinted in almanacs, books, and school primers. It was not until 1837 that Moore allowed his name to be published as author and, in 1844, he included it in a published collection of his poetry.”

The Value of the Poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”
Heritage Auctions sold a handwritten and signed copy of Moore’s famous poem for $255,000 on December 9, 1994. The buyer was Ralph Gadiel, founder of International Resourcing Services Company (Northbrook, IL) that marketed miniature Christmas village houses (Liberty Falls Collection) from 1990 to 1998. Gadiel died of cancer in 1998 and sold his company to another businessman. The Liberty Falls Collection, never regained its popularity and success and was eventually discontinued in 2008. The poem went up for auction again through Heritage Auctions on December 20, 2006. The auction house identified the buyer as a CEO of a media company who wanted to read it to friends and business associates at his holiday party held in his Manhattan apartment.

Twas the Night Before Christmas By the Numbers
Number of lines: 56
Number of words: 500
Meter: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable (anapestic meter)
Number of reindeer: 8

First written: December 24, 1822
First published in newspaper: 1823

First published in a book: 1844
Poem is first illustrated: 1863
Number of hand-written copies of poem: 4 (3 are owned by museums; one is privately owned)
Value of a hand-written copy: $280,000
Value of a first edition of Poems: $15,000
Number of editions of “The Night Before Christmas” owned by the Carnegie Mellon Hunt Library: 400
Number of results for “The Night Before Christmas” on Amazon: over 6,000
Number of results for “The Night Before Christmas” on Google: 1.86 billion
Number of results for “The Night Before Christmas” on Google Books: 5.7 million

“Account of A Visit From St. Nicholas” as originally published in the Troy Sentinel (New York), on Tuesday, December 23, 1823
The poem, under the title “Account of A From St. Nicholas,” was printed with the following introduction, most likely written by the newspaper’s editor, Oroville Holley. Careful readers may note that in line 22 of the poem, two of the reindeer are named Dunder and Blixem. There are two explanations for this mistake: either the newspaper’s typesetter misread Harriet Butler’s handwriting or perhaps Butler transcribed Moore’s poem incorrectly; Moore used the names “Donner” and “Blitzen.”

“We know not to whom we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children—that homely, but delightful it personification of parental kindness—Sante Claus, his costume and his equipage, as he goes about visiting the fire-sides of this happy land, laden with Christmas bounties; but, from whomsoever it may have come, we give thanks for it. There is, to our apprehension, a spirit of cordial goodness in it, a playfulness of fancy, and a benevolent alacrity to enter into the feelings and promote the simple pleasures of children, which are altogether charming. We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them —as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas; that they may long retain their beautiful relish for those unbought, homebred joys, which derive their flavor from filial piety and fraternal love, and which they may be assured are the least alloyed that time can furnish them; and that they may never part with that simplicity of character, which is their own fairest ornament, and for the sake of which they have been pronounced, by authority which none can gainsay, the types of such as shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,
And Mama in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap—
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprung from the bed to see what was the matter,
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they-meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys—and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jirk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.—

The Night After Christmas by Clement C. Moore
The Library at the General Theological Seminary in New York City owns several copies of the poem, including a first edition of Poems (1844) that is signed by Moore to the the Reverend Samuel Seabury; it reads: “To the Reverend Dr. Seabury, with the respect of his friend the author, July 1844.” The library also owns a copy of “The Night after Christmas” that is a follow-up to the original poem. The “Night after Christmas” was published anonymously after Moore’s death in 1863. The poem appears below:

Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house
Every soul was in bed, and as still as a mouse;
Those stockings, so lately St. Nicholas’s care;
Were emptied of all that was eatable there;
The darlings had duly been tucked in their beds,
With very dull stomachs and pain in their heads;
I was dozing away in my new cotton cap,
And Fancy was rather far gone in a nap,
When out in the nursery arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my sleep, crying “What is the matter?”

I flew to each bedside, still half in a doze,
Tore open the curtains and threw off the clothes,
While the light of the taper served clearly to show
The piteous plight of those objects below;
But what to the fond father’s eyes should appear
But the little pale face of each little sick dear,
For each pet had crammed itself full as a tick,
And I knew in a moment now felt like old Nick.

Their pulses were rapid, their breathings the same;
What their stomachs rejected I’ll mention by name;
Now turkey, now stuffing, plum pudding of course,
And custards and crullers and cranberry sauce,
Before outraged nature all went to the wall;
Yes — lolypops, flapdoodle, dinner and all;
Like pellets that urchins from pop-guns let fly,
Went figs, nuts and raisins, jam, jelly and pie,
Till each error of diet was brought to my view-
To the shame of mamma, and of Santa Claus too.

I turned from the sight, to my bed room stepped back,
And brought out a phial marked “Pulv. Ipecac,”
When my Nancy exclaimed, for their sufferings shocked her,
“Don’t you think you had better, love, run for the doctor?”
I ran — and was scarcely back under my roof,
When I heard the sharp clatter of old Jalap’s hoof;
I might say that I had hardly turned myself around,
When the doctor came into the room with a bound.

He was covered with mud from his head to his foot,
And the suit he had on was his very worst suit;
He had hardly had time to put that on his back,
And he looked like a Falstaff half muddled with sack.
His eyes how they twinkled! Had the doctor got merry?
His cheeks looked like port and his breath smelt of sherry.
He hadn’t been shaved for a fortnight or so,
And his short chin wasn’t as white as the snow;
But inspecting their tongues in spite of their teeth,
And drawing his watch from his waistcoat beneath,
He felt of each pulse, saying “Each little belly
Must get rid” — here they laughed — “of the rest of that jelly.”

I gazed on each chubby, plump, sick little elf,
And groaned when he said so in spite of myself;
But a wink of his eye when he physicked our Fred,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He didn’t prescribe, but went straightway to work
And dosed all the rest; — gave his trousers a jerk,
And added directions while blowing his nose,
He buttoned his coat, from his chair he arose,
Then jumped in his gig, gave old Jalap a whistle,
And Jalap jumped off as if pricked by a thistle;
But the doctor exclaimed, ere he drove out of sight.
“They’ll be well by to-morrow; good night Jones, good night.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”
The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “Twas The Night Before Christmas”
Adventures in Linguistics: Clitic

Words invented by Dickens

For further reading: Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous by Don Foster, Henry Holt (2000)
The World Encyclopedia of Christmas by Gerry Bowler, McClelland & Stewart (2000).
Diedrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York by Washington Irving, Easton Press (1980).
http://iment.com/maida//familytree/henry/xmas/poemvariants/troysentinel1823.htm
http://www.cmu.edu/cmnews/031217/031217_nitebefore.html
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17382/17382-h/17382-h.htm
theconversation.com/twas-the-night-before-christmas-helped-make-the-modern-santa-and-led-to-a-literary-whodunit-171637
http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Exhibitions/Christmas/nightafter.htm
http://www.sethkaller.com/about/educational/tnbc/
historical.ha.com/itm/autographs/authors/handwritten-and-signed-fair-copy-of-clement-clarke-moore-s-twas-the-night-before-christmas-the-only-one-in-private-hands-/a/629-25885.s
https://apnews.com/article/efdeb698d67ff9dbf0074e7410f1665e
https://www.telegram.com/story/news/local/north/2006/12/21/1860-christmas-poem-twas-sold/52998978007/
https://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/xmas/vsn/vsn01.htm

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index: 2022

alex atkins bookshelf books

Back in 1984, the PNC Bank (a bank based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania) developed the Christmas Price Index that totals the cost of all the gifts mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a flippant economic indicator. In 1984, the Christmas Price Index was $12,623.10; more than three decades later, in 2022, it reached $45,523.27 — an increase of $4,317.69 (10.5%) from 2021 (CPI was $41,205.58). In 2022, the most expensive gift is the ten lords-a-leaping that costs $13,980. On the other hand, the cheapest gift is the eight maids-a-milking that costs $58 (due to the low federal minimum wage).

Despite their symbolism, the twelve gifts of Christmas are not only extremely random, they are more of a nuisance than carefully-selected gifts that you would actually cherish. As if the holidays are not stressful enough, imagine all those animals running and flying about helter-skelter, defecating all over your clean carpets — not to mention the nonstop, grating sound of drummers drumming and pipers piping pushing you toward the brink of a mental breakdown. Truly, no book lover would be happy with these gifts. Bah humbug! Therefore, I introduced the Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index in 2014 that would be far more interesting and appreciated by bibliophiles. The Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index replaces all those unwanted mess-making animals and clamorous performers with first editions of cherished classic Christmas books. The cost of current first editions are determined by the latest data available from Abe Books, the leading online antiquarian bookseller.

For 2022, the Atkins Bookshelf Literary Christmas Price Index is $150,485 (shipping and tax are not included), a whopping increase of $41,860 (about 39%) from last year ($108,625). The biggest hit to your wallet remains — by a very large margin, Charles Dickens’ very coveted and valuable first edition of one of the most well-known literary classics, A Christmas Carol valued at $75,000 (a price unchanged from last year) — a valuation that would be sure to warm Scrooge’s heart. The second most expensive Christmas book, coming in at $15,000 (the price is also unchanged from last year), is Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (more commonly known at “The Night Before Christmas”) that has largely influenced how Santa Claus is depicted. The poem was included in a collection of Moore’s poems in 1844, a year after the publication of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Below are the individual costs of the books that make up the

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens: $75,000

A Visit from St. Nicholas (included in Poems, 1844) by Clement C. Moore: $15,000

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) by Dr. Seuss: $8,800

A Christmas Memory (1966) by Truman Capote: $35,000

The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg: $2,250

The Nutcracker (1984 edition) by E. T. A. Hoffman: $1,250

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) by Valentine Davies: $1,800

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) by L. Frank Baum: $5,635

The Greatest Gift (1944) by Philip Van Doren Stern: $3,000

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (A Christmas Story) by Jean Shepherd: $250

Old Christmas: from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving (1876) by Washington Irving: $1,250

The Gift of the Magi (included in The Four Million, 1905) by O. Henry: $1,250

Happy Holidays!

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

Words invented by Dickens
Why Read Dickens?

For further reading: https://www.pnc.com/en/about-pnc/topics/pnc-christmas-price-index.html

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

 

The Antiquarian Bookseller’s Catalog: December 2022

alex atkins bookshelf booksAn antiquarian bookseller’s catalog is a bibliophile’s literary treasure trove between two covers. Open any catalog, and you will find beautiful, sought-after gems — rare first editions, inscribed copies, manuscripts, letters, screenplays, and author portraits — from some of the most famous authors in the world.

Ken Lopez has been an antiquarian bookseller since the early 1970s. Formerly the president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Lopez focuses on first editions, literature of the 1960s, the Vietnam War, nature writing, and Native American literature. He is the quintessential bibliophile — as passionate about discovering rare books as he is about preserving literary history. Bibliophiles salivate as they browse through his comprehensive catalogs, filled with fascinating and valuable literary treasures. Here are some highlights from his most recent catalog, Modern Literature No. 173 (December 2022):

Light in August by William Faulkner (1932), in a custom clamshell: $15,000

Turn About by William Faulkner (1939), one of only five copies of the first separate edition of Faulkner’s short story of WWI that was first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1932: $15,000

The Mansion by William Faulkner (1959), Limited edition (91 of 500) signed by the author: $1,500

Privacy by Richard Ford (1999), a fine press limited edition (1 of 35), in a clamshell case: $5,000

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1971), first American edition: $125

Stepppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (1970), the uncorrected proof copy of a reissue of Hesse’s novels, first published in 1929: $250

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Types of Book Readers
Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?
Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores
How Indie Bookstores are Thriving
Bookstores are Full of Stories
Who Will Save Our Bookstores?
The Sections of a Bookstore

For further reading: lopezbooks.com

What Do You Call That Wonderful Old Book Smell?

alex atkins bookshelf booksA fews decades ago, in a top ten list of holiday gifts to give or receive, books were the number one gift. (Today, according to Statista, the top five gifts for consumers are: clothing, toys/hobbies, gift cards, and food.) One of the most cherished memories of those earlier times was visiting bookstores, especially used bookstores where holiday shoppers could delight in that wonderful, enchanting old book or bookstore smell. Any book lover knows what I am talking about — that initial blissful sight of countless stacks of books enriched by the aroma of old books. It’s hard to explain exactly — a bit of mustiness mixed with a hint of vanilla. A team of British chemists that tested the air surrounding old books using electronic sniffing equipment described the bouquet more precisely: “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” Bingo. This is of course, a very different smell than walking into a bookstore that sells new books. There, the bibliophile immediately detects the “new book smell.” So what exactly creates the unique scent of old books?

The scent of a book is created by four main factors: paper (and the chemicals used to make it), ink, adhesives used to bind the book, and to a minor degree environment (the smells that paper absorbs during its lifetime). Let’s start with the paper. Paper is made of would pulp that is processed with many chemicals during its manufacturing — sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, alkyl ketene dimer (AKD), among several others. These chemicals, through their presence or reactions, contribute to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which produce unique odors. The same thing happens with the chemicals found in the ink to print the book (e.g., AKD and hydrogen peroxide) and the adhesives used to bind the book (e.g., vinyl acetate ethylene). Since new books have not absorbed much of their environment (e.g., cigar smoke, coffee, mold etc.), this is not a critical factor for new books.

When it comes to old books, things become far more interesting, chemically speaking. The most salient factor in “old book smell” is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper due to the presence of acids in the environment. Researchers at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage at University College London were interested in studying the smells that are a part of our cultural heritage. The scientists write: “We don’t know much about the smells of the past. Yet, odors play an important role in our daily lives: they affect us emotionally, psychologically and physically, and influence the way we engage with history. Can this lead us to consider certain smells as cultural heritage? And if so, what would be the processes for the identification, protection and conservation of those heritage smells?… The smell of historic paper was chosen as the case study, based on its well-recognized cultural significance and available research.” The scientists found that the breakdown of cellulose and lignin produces eight classes of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) depicted in their “Historic Book Odor Wheel” that shows these eight unique scents: smoky/burnt; fragrant/fruity/vegetable/flowers; medicinal; fishy/rancid; chemical/hydrocarbons; earthy/musty/moldy; sweet/spicy; grassy/woody. More specifically, the researchers identified the unique aromas of these key VOCs: benzaldehyde creates an almond scent; vanillin creates a vanilla scent; 2-ethyl hexanol creates a slightly floral scent; and ethyl benzene and toluene create sweet scents. In fact, some compounds, like furfural (which smells like almond), can even be used to determine the age of a book. Unlike a new book, an old book’s paper has had time to absorb some environmental odors (e.g., smoke, coffee, etc.) that can add to its rich aroma.

A rich, nuanced, and evocative aroma like this deserves a proper name, doesn’t it? Enter Dr. Oliver Tearle, an English professor at Loughborough University (UK) and author of The Secret Library: A Book-Lover’s Journey Through the Curiosities of History. Teale, a true bibliophile and scholar, introduces us to the word “bibliosmia” derived from the Greek words biblio (meaning “book”) and osme (meaning “scent, smell, or odor”). He writes, “Clearly ‘bibliosmia’ names something which people feel is an important part of the reading experience, and something which Bradbury’s ‘burned fuel’ cannot provide. In the supposed age of the e-book, bibliosmia is one of the key weapons of the resistance.” By ‘burned fuel,’ Teale is referring to an oft-quoted remark made by Ray Bradbury at BookExpo America (New York City, May 2008): “There is no future for e-books, because they are not books. E-books smell like burned fuel.” Ironically, this is after his publisher, Simon & Schuster, announced that they would be making thousands of titles available for the Kindle — including Fahrenheit 451. Awkward.

Coming up with a word for the smell of old books was also the subject of a discussion on Facebook post back in 2017. A contributor named Arun Prasad (writing with the user name “The Bookoholics”) wrote: “The most commonly used word to describe the smell of old books is ‘musty.’ However, there’s no defined word yet. A bibliophile refers to the smell [of old books] by the word ‘bibliochor.'” Prasad explains that the word was inspired by the beautiful word petrichor (introduced by Australian mineral chemists in 1964; petrichor is defined as the distinctive smell associated with the first rainfall after a long dry period), a word that combines the Greek word-forming element biblio- (meaning “book,” derived from biblion meaning “paper, scroll”) and from the Modern Latin word ichor or Greek word ikhor (meaning “ethereal fluid that flows in the veins of the gods.”) So now, dear reader, you have beautiful, wonderful words to define that pleasant, intoxicating smell of old books: bibliosmia and bibliochor.

This invites the question: if they can make “new car smell” sprays, why can’t they make “old book smell” sprays? No company has actually tried and succeeded; it remains the elusive Holy Grail of the burgeoning ebook market. In an article for The Guardian titled “Old Spines — Why We Love the Smell of Secondhand Books,” David Shariatmadari introduces two perfumes that evoke the smell of a used bookstore: Paperback (made by Demeter) and Dzing! (made by L’Artisan Parfumeur). in their fascinating book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, perfume critics Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez discuss how lignin, a polymer that stops trees from drooping and is chemically related to the molecule vanillin, is the key ingredient in Dzing! that evokes that alluring old book smell. The authors elaborate, “When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good-quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.” 

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
Words for Book Lovers
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
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The World’s Most Expensive Book
The Sections of a Bookstore
Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein

For further reading: interestingliterature.com/2017/07/on-the-science-of-bibliosmia-that-enticing-book-smell/
theguardian.com/fashion/shortcuts/2015/nov/25/old-spines-why-love-smell-of-secondhand-books-perfume
http://www.colorado.edu/libraries/2020/05/01/science-behind-smell-books-explained-preservation
doaj.org/article/891aa13d1caa455ea8703ea4953ecce8
http://www.gordostuff.com/2008/06/do-e-books-smell-like-burned-fuel.html
http://www.statista.com/statistics/246589/holiday-gifts-to-be-bought-by-consumers-by-item/
m.facebook.com/thebookoholics/photos/the-most-commonly-used-word-to-describe-the-smell-of-old-books-is-musty-however-/1383423145109246/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

The Best Gift for Book Lovers: A Christmas Book Advent Calendar

alex atkins bookshelf christmasOne of the most popular decorations in a home during the Christmas holiday season is the advent calendar. Advent calendars were introduced in Germany in the late 19th century. Since the birth of Christ is the most important date in the calendar for Christians, the advent calendar (from the Latin adventus, meaning “a coming or arrival”; in Church Latin it means “the coming of the Savior”) counts down the days until Christmas. Lutherans began by making chalk marks on their doors from December first to the 24th. There are two claims for the first advent calendar that bears some resemblance to the ones we see today: one claim is that protestant bookshop owner in Hamburg produced the first advent calendar. The other claim is that the mother of Gerhard Lang made the first advent calendar, cutting squares to reveal small sweets. Soon after, she added small doors adorned with pictures. By 1930, printers began printing advent calendars, often using biblical verses behind each door.

But a book lover is not that interested in sweets or biblical verses, or even sweet biblical verses. Moreover, everyone knows how challenging it is to shop for a book lover. Holiday shoppers meet the Christmas Book Advent Calendar: a basket (or box) filled with 25 gift-wrapped books about Christmas. Here are 25 classic literary works, modern novels, and anthologies that celebrate the spirit of Christmas, culminating in the greatest Christmas story of all time — Charles Dickens’ timeless novella, A Christmas Carol that has never been out of print. All these books are easy to find in paperback, hardback, or elegant leather-bound editions. Book lovers will be thrilled to count down to Christmas with these literary classics. Happy Holidays!

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
2. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
4. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
5. The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann
6. Old Christmas by Washington Irving
7. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
8. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
9. Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
11. A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
12. Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
13. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
14. Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
15. The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
16. The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
17. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
18. The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories by Jessica Harrison
19. A Classic Christmas: A Collection of Timeless Stories and Poems by editors of Thomas Nelson
20. The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories by Tara Moore
21. A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories by Bettye Collier-Thomas
22. Christmas Stories (Everyman’s Pocket Classics) by Diana Secker Tesdell
23. The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
24. The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
25. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”
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Why Read Dickens?

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

You May Not Know It, But You Are Quoting Shakespeare

alex atkins bookshelf shakespeareAs many scholars have noted, Shakespeare had an enormous impact on the English language. In his book, The English Language (1929), British philologist Ernest Weekley (best known for his seminal work, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English) wrote: “Of Shakespeare it may be said without fear of exaggeration that his contribution to our phraseology is ten times greater than that of any writer to any language in the history of the world.” What is astonishing is that due to the influence of his writing, people don’t even need to read Shakespeare to quote it. As Michael Macrone notes in Brush Up Your Shakespeare: An Infectious Tour Through theMost famous and Quotable Words and Phrases from the Bard, “Whether they knew it or not, people had been quoting Shakespeare piecemeal for hundreds of years. Indeed, we have derived from Shakespeare’s works an almost “infinite variety [Antony and Cleopatra] of everyday words and phrases, many of which have become so common that we think of them as “household words [Henry the Fifth].”

Of course, the question of the size of Shakespeare’s vocabulary has fascinated scholars for centuries. To answer that question, all scholars turn to The Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare by Martin Spevack (1968, 1974) based on the Riverside Shakespeare (G. Blakemore Evans, 1973). The concordance lists every word used in the published work of the Bard — a grand total of 884,647 words. Spevack also machine-counted 31,654 different words in 1968 and revised that to 29,066 different words in 1974. Using those numbers, different experts use different approaches to estimate the number or words that Shakespeare knew.

According to lexicographer and Shakespeare scholar David Crystal, the entire English vocabulary in the Elizabethan period consisted of about 150,000 words. Turning to the Harvard Concordance, Crystal notes that although Spevack machine-counted 29,066 unique words, that includes variant forms of words (eg, take, takes, taking, took, taken, takest) that are counted as different words. By removing those grammatical variants, the total of different words is reduced to 17,000 to 20,000. Therefore, Crystal believes that Shakespeare had a vocabulary of about 20,000 words (13.5% of the known lexicon). Compare that to the size of the vocabulary of the average modern person (high school-level education) that is 30,000 to 40,000 words (about 6% of the 600,000 words defined in the Oxford English Dictionary). Other lexicographers estimate that Shakespeare’s vocabulary ranged from 18,000 to 25,000 words.

But alas we digress — let us return to the original discussion of quoting Shakespeare even though we may not be aware of it. I was what recently exploring the maze of bookshelves at a quaint antiquarian bookstore and came across this poster, featuring the text of British journalist Bernard Levin [1928-2004], a fan of the Bard and one of the most famous journalists in England, that eloquently and succinctly makes this argument in a single sentence containing 369 words. The essay, titled “On Quoting Shakespeare,” appears in his book Enthusiasms, published in 1983.

ON QUOTING SHAKESPEARE

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare it’s Greek to me, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is father to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are,as good luck would have it, quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high timeand that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! – it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

How Every Book Lover Can Own Their Own Bookstore

alex atkins bookshelf booksAt one time or another, every book lover has thought about owning their own bookstore. What a dream job it would be — imagine opening up the bookstore’s front door each day and being greeted with that wonderful smell of books and walking through the neatly arranged bookshelves, their ornate covers beckoning “read me!” And each day you meet kindred souls, bibliophiles and ardent readers, so that you can share your passion for reading and collecting books. How fulfilling it would be to recommend books that will be meaningful and be treasured by the customers who visit your quaint bookstore.

I know what you are thinking. How can a every book lover own his or her own bookstore. Isn’t it really expensive to open a bookstore? Interestingly, bookstores have lower starting costs than other businesses. The biggest expense, as you can imagine, are rent and initial inventory. Consider that the average bookstore in the United States is 3,000 square feet; micro-bookstores and pop-up bookstores, on the other hand, use very little space: from 100 to 500 square feet. In general, opening a small bookstore (assuming the 3,000-square-feet size) will cost between $60,000 to $112,000. Opening a large bookstore will cost more than $400,00 to open. After rent and inventory, the largest expenses are furniture (sales counter and bookshelves), an inventory management system, and marketing expenses (website, signage, advertising, etc.). In an article for Forbes titled “How to Open an Independent Bookstore,” Rachel Bussel interviewed several people who had opened bookstores in 2018. One bookstore owner revealed that it took about ten months of work (writing a business plan, obtaining loan, searching retail locations, ordering books, etc.) to open up a bookstore.atkins-bookshelf-bookstoreBut what if I told you that for less than $50 you can own your bookstore? That’s right — you read that correctly: for under $50. Let me introduce you to an innovative company called Rolife. Rolife is a sub-brand of Robotime Technology (Suzhou) Co,. Ltd, based in Beijing, China, which is a toy company that designs and manufactures do-it-yourself wooden puzzles and educational toys for kids and adults. One of their products is the Miniature Bookstore that retails for about $40. The wooden model is built to 1:24 scale; when completed it will be about 7 x 8 x 9 inches. Unlike a real brick-and-mortar bookstore that will take almost a year to get off the ground, this miniature bookstore will take you about 15 hours to build. The bookstore includes bookshelves, shelf ladder, table, wingback reading chair, cabinets, wall decorations, signs — and of course, lots of books. The best part of this kit is that you can copy the kit’s photo or customize any of the elements to align with your dream bookstore. The miniature bookstore even features a working ceiling lamp which uses battery-powered LED lights. The kit materials include wood parts, cloth, printed paper, and metal fittings. In order to build the kit, you will definitely need some tools. Fortunately, the helpful folks at Rolife include tweezers and a paintbrush; however you will have to supply the glue and AAA batteries.

The miniature bookstore can be purchased on Amazon here.

Rolife also makes a smaller and simpler bookstore, called the Book Nook – Free Time Bookshop, seen here.

other kits that booklover’s would appreciate like the Book Nook – Sunshine Town, seen here.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
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Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
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Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
The Sections of a Bookstore
Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

The Wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomDo you recall who wrote this famous line: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”? If you answered Ralph Waldo Emerson you can pat yourself on the back. Well done, you! The latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (Nineteenth Edition) features five full pages of quotations from one of America’s most famous writers and philosophers. Consider that Emerson’s content exceeds the contributions of two other prolific American authors: Mark Twain (3.5 pages) and John Steinbeck (.5 pages). Even more impressive is the number you see when you search “Best Emerson Quotations” on the internet: 18.5 million results! Therefore, it can be reasonably argued that Emerson is one of the most quoted American writers — and for good reason. “If Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin are our Founding Fathers, Ralph Waldo Emerson is our Founding Thinker,” writes Emerson scholar Richard Geldard. “Born in 1803 in Boston, Emerson became in his lifetime America’s seer and prophet. His collected works, including poems, essays, and extensive journals not only inspired such notable figures as Henry David Thoreau, William James, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and numerous nineteenth and twentieth century poets, painters, and musicians, but also a wide readership of ordinary Americans who found in Emerson a teacher of profound depth and idealism… Emerson  was the conscience of his nation and a man of great moral courage.”

The previous excerpt appears in the introduction to Emphatically Emerson: Gems From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson edited by Frank Crocitto. Although there are many worthy collections of Emerson’s quotations both in print and on the internet, Crocitto’s collection is unique because it presents Emerson through the thoughts expressed in his journals. The editor has arranged them chronologically and has included Emerson’s age at the time of writing. The first entry is dated 1820, when Emerson was 17; the last from 1874 when he was 71 (he lived until 1882, aged 78). Here are some notable quotations.

“When the whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.” (1824, age 21)

“All the mistakes I make arise from forsaking my own station and trying to see the object from another person’s point of view.” (1834, age 30)

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee, and do not try to make the universe a blind alley.” (1844, age 41)

“Do the duty of the day. Just now, the supreme public duty of all thinking men is to assert freedom.. Go where it is threatened, and say, “I am for it. and do not wish to live in the world a moment longer than it exists.'” (1861, age 57)

“Within, I do not find wrinkles and used heart, but unspent youth.” (1864, age 61)

“The secret of poetry is never explained, is always new. We have not got farther than mere wonder at the delicacy of touch, and the eternity it inherits.” (1874, age 71)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

What is the Paradox of Love?

alex atkins bookshelf wisdom

“Love occupies a central place in people’s expectations and wishes, but these often remain unfulfilled,” writes philosophy professor Aaron Ben-Zeev (“The Love Paradox,” Psychology Today, April 21, 2013). “Love songs, novels, and movies have emphasized the great hopes and profound happiness associated with love, as well as the great disappointments and profound pain that love generates. Our hearts are enlarged by love, but by the same token, they can also be broken.” Ah, the paradox of love…

Over the years, several networks have discovered that love — with its inherent complexities and paradoxes — is incredibly entertaining. Millions of viewers strap onto the rollercoaster of love to virtually experience its inevitable highs and lows through the lives of those brave (or foolish, depending on your perspective) enough to appear on reality-shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love at First Sight, Love is Blind, and their ilk. The viewers become, in some respects, like couple therapists who can observe the profound range of emotions associated with love. But alas, love is inherently paradoxical — something that psychologists and philosophers have observed and written about for decades. Here are some of the key paradoxes of love.

“You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.”
Spoken by Professor Levy in the film, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) written and directed by Woody Allen.

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.” [The paradoxical longing for independence and intimacy with another person.]
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties (1975)

“In motherly love the relationship between the two person involved in one of inequality; the child is helpless and dependent on the mother. In order to grow, it must become more and more independent, until he does not need mother any more. Thus, the mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent. It is easy for any mother to love her child before this process of separation has begun — but it is the task in which most fail, to love the child and at the same time to let it go — and to want to let it go.”
Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (1955)

“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.”
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1962)

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1962)

“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter. When people become fused — when two become one — connection can no longer happen. There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity (2006)

“The inability to love and accept yourself and your humanity is at the heart of many illnesses. To be loved and accepted, you must start by loving yourself. If you have traits that you consider unlovable, you must love them anyway… it’s a paradox.”
Christiane Northrup, A Daily Dose of Women’s Wisdom (2017)

“Does [being programmed to connect with a significant other] mean that in order to be happy in a relationship we need to be joined with our partner at the hip or give up other aspects of our life such as our careers or friends? Paradoxically, the opposite is true! It turns out that the ability to step into the world on our own often stems from the knowledge that there is someone beside us who we can count on—this is the dependency paradox.”
Amir Levine, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Your Love (2010)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-name-love/201304/the-love-paradox

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Plato: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPlato (427-347 BC) is considered one of the most brilliant and influential philosophers in history. Plato (his given name was Aristocles; Plato is his nickname, from platos, meaning “broad” since he had a broad physique and forehead) was a student of Socrates and took what he learned to found the influential Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West. Amidst a beautiful grove of olive trees, Plato taught some very fortunate and intelligent students (including Aristotle who later founded his own academy) philosophy, mathematics, politics, and astronomy. His most famous and influential work, that is still widely studied in universities, is the Republic, where Plato cover a broad (pun intended) range of significant topics: philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and of course, political philosophy. It is this last topic that concerns us today as we examine his views on political participation in the context of today’s critical mid-term elections that challenge the fundamental principles of a democracy.

The quote that serves as the title of this post is actually a tongue-in-cheek variation (underscoring the importance of voting in a critical election) of the quote most often attributed to Plato, ubiquitous on the internet: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” There are many other variants of this famous quotation. Among them is this one crafted by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that appears in Society and Solitude (1870): “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men.”

The source of all these variants is The Republic, (Book 1, 346-347), where Plato makes the point that if good, honorable, intelligent men do not to wish to serve in government, then they will be punished by being ruled by those who are bad, dishonorable, and dumb. The actual sentence is: But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. For those who are curious to partake of the entire discussion of the issue among Socrates (Plato, of course, is speaking through Socrates), Glaucon (Plato’s older brother), and Thrasymachus (a sophist who believes essentially that it does not pay to be just), here is the relevant passage from The Republic

“Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself — but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why… I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people’s troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.” “What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don’t understand.” “Then,” said I, “you don’t understand the wages of the best men for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don’t you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?” “I do,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him.”

Tomorrow will decide what kind of government America has. At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, legend has it that as Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall, he was asked this question: “What have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A republic — if you can keep it.” In 1787 as in 2022, this republic is amazingly fragile. Dr. Richard Beeman, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, elaborates: “If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens… Democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Quotations Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Republic by Plato (translated by Christopher Ellyn-Jones)
Society and Solitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson
https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-platos-famous-academy-112520

https://www.iep.utm.edu/academy/
https://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

There’s A Word for That: Mugwump

alex atkins bookshelf words

Over the past few decades, every election seems to be “the most important election the country has ever faced” The midterm election on November 8 is no exception: it is appropriately seen by many political observers as a referendum on democracy — the fundamental right to vote and to have fair elections. Consider that in this election more than half of Republican nominees (300+) for Congress, governor, or secretaries of state deny or question the results of the 2020 presidential election. Despite the seriousness and urgency of this threat to democracy, there are some people who are not concerned and remain undecided about how to vote — they are mugwumps.

A mugwump is political slang for an independent voter or a person who is undecided. The word is derived from the Algonguian term mugquomp or muggumquomp, meaning “great chief,” used by the Massachusett Indians in the late1800s. The anglicized term, mugwump, came to mean “leader” or “decision maker.”

Another definition of a Mugwump (with a capital M) is a member of the reform-oriented faction of the Republican Party who declined to support the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 1884. In contrast to modern-day Republicans, Mugwumps were extremely opposed to political corruption of any kind. In that election, characterized by scandalous accusations and bitter mudslinging (see how politics doesn’t really change), voters had to choose between Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, and the Republican candidate, James Blaine, who was a Senator. The Mugwumps did not support Blaine due to numerous allegations of corruption and financial impropriety; moreover, they believed that he could not be trusted. Cleveland won by a narrow margin (48.8% vs 48.3% of the popular vote) and became the 24th President of the United States (1885-1889).

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Again?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

World Records in Books and Publishing

alex atkins bookshelf booksGuinness World Records, the best-selling authoritative guide to the world records of extremes of the natural world and human feats, was hatched from a disagreement at a pub. Sir Hugh Beaver (18090-1967), managing director of the Guinness Brewery, had attended a hunting trip in County Wexford, located in the southeast region of Ireland, on November 1951. Beaver missed a shot at a golden plover which led to a spirited debate at the pub that evening: what was the fastest game bird in Europe — the golden plover or the red grouse? Because the Internet and Siri had not been invented, they had to go old school and consult reference books; however, with great frustration, they realized that a book with this specific type of information simply did not exist. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention — Beaver realized that a book that contained information about the superlatives (the fastest, the largest, the tallest, etc.) could be quite useful. Subsequently, Beaver was introduced to twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter who ran the London-based Fact and Figure Agency that provided statistics and facts to newspapers. The Guinness Book of Records was published in August 1954. Originally, the 198-page book was given to pub patrons (at the time, there were more than 81,400 pubs in Britain and Ireland) as a way to promote the Guinness brand and serve as a really thick coaster; however, the book was so popular, it was republished as The Guinness Book of Records in October 1955 and sold more than 100,000 copies. To date (the 2023 edition is now in its 69th year of publication) the reference book has sold more than 100 million copies in 100 countries in over 35 languages. 

Incidentally it took the editors 35 years to answer the question that was the catalyst for the book of records. The 36th edition, published in 1989, noted: “Britain’s fastest game bird is the Red Grouse (Lagopus l. scoticus) which, in still air, has recorded burst speeds up to 92.8-100.8 km/h 58-63 mph over very short distances. Air speeds up to 112 km/h 70 mph have been claimed for the Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) when flushed, but it is extremely doubtful whether this rapid-flying bird can exceed 80-88 km/h 50-55 mph – even in an emergency.”

The Guinness World Records is updated each year and published in October to capture holiday sales. Each edition contains new world records (and crtieria for inclusion which may change from year to year) and a selection of records from the Guinness World Records database that contains over 53,00 verified records. For the recently published 2023 edition, the editors presented the following world records in the realm of publishing and books. Here are some highlights:

Best-selling book
The Holy Bible: 5 to 7 billion copies (according to the British and Foreign Bible Society, 2021). According to Wordsrated, a non-commercial international research data group, there are about 6 million copies of the Bible. Each year, there are more than 100 million Bibles printed worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 20 million Bibles are sold each year, generating annual sales revenue of more about $430 million. Internationally, there are more than 80,000 different versions of the Bible sold,

First Library
The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh (now northern Iraq, near Mosul) was established between 668 and 631 BC. The library was named after the last great king of the Assyrian Empire, Ashurbanipal, who was a great martial commander, but also an intellectual and passionate collector of texts. Not surprisingly, he stocked his library by looting the cities that his armies conquered. The library contained 30,000 clay tablets and fragments inscribed with cuneiform writing from the 7th century BC. One of its most famous texts was the Epic of Gilgamesh, a masterpiece of ancient Babylonian poetry. One of the tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh is on display at the British Museum, in London, England.

Oldest Continuously Operating Library
The library of St. Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt, established between 527 and 565 AD.

Largest Library
The U.S. Library of Congress, located in Washington, D.C., contains more than 173 million items, including 41 million books and print materials. The collection is spread across more than 838 miles of shelves. The second largest library is the British Library, located in Lodon, England, with more than 170 million items.

Most Successful Book Thief
American Stephen Carrie Blumberg (born 1948), known as the Book Bandit, stole more than 23,600 rare books worth more than $5.3 million (about $11 million in today’s dollars) from 268 different libraries from U.S. and Canada between 1970 and 1990. Unlike most thieves who steal to sell for a profit, Blumberg stole books to build his own reference library. After he was finally apprehended (thanks to a tip from a former accomplice who wanted to collect a $56,000 bounty), Blumberg was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 71 months in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Oldest Book Printed Using Movable Metal Type
The Buljo jikji simche yojeol, simply known as Jikji, is a Korean collection of Zen Buddhist teachings. The book, consisting of two volumes, was printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377 with movable metal type — 78 years before the Johannes Gutenberg printed the 42-Line Bible from 1452 to 1455. Today, only the last volume survives and is kept at the National Library of France, located in Paris France.

First Audiobook
Typhoon by Joseph Conrad, sold as a set of four LP records in 1935.

First ebook
The U.S. Declaration of Independence as a plain-text file uploaded to the ARPAnet by Michael Hart on July 4, 1971. It became the foundation of the Project Gutenberg public domain ebook service.

Most Expensive Printed Book Sold at Auction
The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book, was the first book ever printed in British North America by the residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640 — 20 years after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The book, coveted by bibliophiles, was purchased by David Rubenstein for $14.16 million. It is extremely rare — of the 1,700 of the books of hymns printed, only 11 copies survive today; however only five of those are complete.

Most Expensive Book Sold Privately
The Sherbone Missal, a beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript purchased for $24.88 million in 1998 by the British Library.

Largest Trade Publisher
Penguin Random House posted revenues of $3.78 billion for the 2019 fiscal year. It publishes more than 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles each year.

Best-Selling Fiction Book
Verified sales data has not been available for books before the early 2000s. The books that have sold more than 100 million copies include: The Hobbitt (1937) by J R R Tolkien, The Little Prince (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) by J. K. Rowling.
The best-selling fiction book with verified sales data is Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) by E L James with global sales of more than 16.9 million copies (as of November 2021).

Most Downloaded Digital Classic Book from Project Gutenberg
Frankesntein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley: 86,000 downloads per month

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: 57,000 downloads per month

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 39,000 downloads per month

Largest Collection of Comic Books
Bob Bretall (Mission Viejo, CA) owns more than 101,822 unique comics.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Words for Book Lovers
The Most Amazing Private Library in the World
Profile of a Book Lover: Richard Macksey
Profile of a Book Lover: Gary Hoover
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
Confessions of a Book Scout: Old Bookstore Have Been the Hunting Grounds of My Life
Confessions of a Bibliophile: J. Kevin Graffagnino
The Man Who Launched 75,000 Libraries
Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
Words Invented by Book Lovers
The Sections of a Bookstore
The Library is the DNA of Our Civilization

For further reading: Guinness World Records: 2023
guinnessworldrecords.com/about-us/our-story
guinness.book-of-records.info/history.html
wordsrated.com/bible-sales-statistics/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Little Books, Big Ideas: African Proverbs

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you visit a used bookstore, you might stumble upon an often neglected section: miniature or compact books. A miniature book generally measures 3 by 4 inches; some are even smaller: 1.5 inches by 2 inches. A compact book, also known as an octodecimo in American Library Association lingo, generally measures 4 x 6 inches. Unfortunately, these types of books are often dismissed due to their small size. “If they are so small, how can they possibly matter?” you think to yourself. Astute book lovers, however, know that even little books can contain big ideas — profound thoughts that can change your life.

In my periodic visits to used bookstores, I recently came across such a thought-provoking little book: African Wisdom edited by Mary Rodarte and published by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2003. In the introduction, Rodarte notes: “African proverbs do the work of a school lesson and a story in one. They entertain with humor and wit and open a window onto the social mores and values of a people. And unlike a complicated lesson, they are simple to remember and to pass on. As you read the proverbs… you will become a witness to a chain of humanity that began long before you and will stretch on long after you are gone.” Here are some notable African proverbs:

A friend is like a source of water during a long voyage.

Children are the reward of life.

There are three friends in life: courage, sense, and insight.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

A village without the elderly is like a tree without roots.

The mouth does not forget what it tasted one time.

The thorn will come out from where it went in.

A stone in the water does not understand how thirsty the hill is.

Before healing others, heal yourself.

The voyager’s path is marked by the stars not the sand dunes.

If you have a lot, give some of your possessions; if you have little, give some of your heart.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Little Books, Big Ideas: On Things That Really Matter
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
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The Wisdom of a Grandmother
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The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

What is the Most Complicated Word in the English Language?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you guessed Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (a disease, silicosis) or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (a contrived word introduced in the musical and film Mary Poppins) you are wrong. Think shorter — way shorter. It will help if we clarify that by “complicated,” we mean having many different aspects, or more precisely, definitions. If you have the time, you can thumb through a dictionary, like the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED), where you will eventually run across the lexical rascal. By the way, there was a clue in that sentence.

The most complicated word in the English language is “run.” The word “run” is a real Olympian with more than 715 different meanings. As a noun, “run” has more than 70 unique definitions, while as a verb, the word has 645 different meanings. In the printed second edition of the OED, the definitions of “run” run 63 columns across 21 full pages, which took a lexicographer more than nine months to complete. Perhaps he ran out of time…

The OED begins with these definitions of ‘run’ as a verb with the following citations:

(1) To move the legs quickly so as to go at a faster pace than walking.
A hundred… men ready to run

(2) To go about freely free without being restrained or checked in any way.
We are resolved… not to let them run about as they like.

(3) To hasten to some end or object, or to do something.
The people…  run almost from all places to assist his cause.

(4) To retire or retreat rapidly, to take flight.
He… had been forced to cut and run.

(5) To rush at, or, or upon a person with hostile intention.
He ran at me and kicked me.

In an interview with NPR, Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, elaborates on the complexity of “run” and the runners-up to the words with the most definitions in the English language:

“When they prepared the first edition of the OED, which took them 70 years to do, so they began this in 1857 and finished – the first edition was published in 1928 – the longest word then or the one with the most definitions was another three-letter word. It was the word ‘set’… it occupies 32 full pages, 75 columns with about 200 meanings… Well, during the 20th century, that word was displaced by another rather similar word, which was the word ‘put.’… But when the OED got around to working on the letter R, which they began working on about two years ago [2009], and got towards the end of R and started looking at words beginning with R-U, it became rapidly apparent that ‘run’ completely outran… both ‘put’ and ‘set.’ And when [the 2011 update to the online edition of the OED] was finished… Peter Gilliver [a lexicographer on the OED team] counted out — just for the verb alone — 645 different meanings. So it’s the absolute champion. So the order is: run, put, set.”

Winchester seems to think that the unique senses of run exploded after the Industrial Revolution, when all sorts of inventions (eg, machines, and eventually computers and digital devices, etc.) that run were introduced.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
What is the Longest English Word Without Repeated Letters?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?

For further reading: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/30/136796448/has-run-run-amok-it-has-645-meanings-so-far

The Gift of 11 Cents that Made A Lifelong Reader

alex atkins bookshelf booksMost people who love books and reading can instantly recall from their youth a single book that opened the door to literature and changed their lives forever. One is reminded of Carl Jung’s concept of collective unconscious when one observes the deep sense of wonder and enchantment that washes over a reader’s face as they share this “literature discovery” story. You feel instantly connected to one another in this vast, universal community of fellow travelers along the seemingly infinite byways of literature… “wandering with our heroes and poets.”

I recently came across such a story in American historian Will Durant’s (1885-1981) fascinating autobiography titled Transition: A Mental Autobiography (1955). Durant and his wife, Ariel, are best known for their monumental work, The Story of Civilization. Written over four decades, encompassing 11 volumes, the series presents the compelling history of eastern and western civilizations. The series was a bestseller (2 million copies in nine languages) and the Durants won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1968. What is remarkable about Durant’s “literature discovery” story is that it was the serendipitous conjunction of two experiences: encouragement from a friend and the kindness of a stranger — specifically a gift of 11 cents — that helped open the door to become a lifelong reader. Durant writes: 

“It was Irene [a friend from school] who introduced me to literature… One day I saw in Irene’s hand a book called Pickwick Papers. I opened it and was at once allured by the abundance of conversation it contained; here was a lively book and a juicy one and it was so immense-seven or eight hundred pages; surely the author had been paid by the page, and had had an extravagant wife. I thought it would be quite a feat to read such a volume through; perhaps I should be the first boy in the world to accomplish it. But what moved me most was that it was Irene’s book; it must be good if her soft hands had touched it and her bright eyes had traveled along its lines. I begged it from her, and that night, against the protest of my parents, I burned the midnight oil over the adventures of the Pickwick Club, and Sam Weller, and the fat boy who always fell asleep. O happy and undisillusioned Victorians! maligned and misunderstood, what a delight it must have been to watch the creation, week after week, of that incom­parable imaginary world! What a delight it was even now, across a thousand obscuring differences of land and speech and time, to know this vivacious style, this inexhaustible drama, this endless chain of existing incident! I read every word and marvelled that I had lived twelve years without discovering the book. I returned it to Irene, and begged her for more. 

“It’s all I have by Dickens,” she said, sorrowfully. “But Papa says he’ll get me David Copperfield for Christmas.” 

Christmas was several months away; I could not wait that long. Within a week I had managed to accumulate fourteen pennies; and armed with them I walked the three miles be­tween our new home in Arlington and Dressel’s book-store in Newark. I asked the grouchy old gentleman behind the counter for the cheapest edition of David Copperfield. He went into a rear room, worked his way precariously among stacks of brokendown books, and emerged with a copy that might have rivaled Ulysses’ wanderings. 

“I will let this go for twenty five cents,” he said, munifi­cently.

My heart was broke temporarily.

“But mister,” I said, with a politeness which I seldom achieved, “I’ve only got fourteen cents.” 

He was unmoved, and turned away to another customer. I looked longingly at the book, and helplessly at space in general. Then a tall handsome gentleman, whom I conceived as a millionaire philosopher but who turned out to be a butcher, came over to me and put his arm around my shoul­der.

“What do you want, sonny?” he said.

David Copperfield,” I replied. 

“How much do you need?” 

“Eleven cents.”

“Is that all? Here you are; when you get rich you can pay me back.” 

Fortunately, he is dead now. But I was so grateful that I could not speak. I accepted the eleven cents as a gift from God, and walked out of the store in a daze. I trudged home in ecstasy over the kindness of Providence, the goodness of human nature, and the pleasures in store for me in the 860 pages which I carried under my arm. 

From that day I became a tremendous reader. When every­body else in the house was asleep I would read on despite a thousand admonitions about the injury I was doing to my health, and the cost of gas. It is true that I lost something of my taste for sport, and more of my skill in it… But what a new universe I had found! I no longer lived in prosaic New Jersey; I wandered around the world with my heroes and my poets.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Reading Teaches that the Things that Torment Us are the Things that Connect Us
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Triplets: Castles in the Air

atkins bookshelf quotations

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

From Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) by Henry David Thoreau.

Everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house, and it fell with a big crash.

From The New Testament, The Gospel of Matthew, 7:24-27 (written about 66-74 AD), New Century Version.

A neurotic is a man who builds a castle in the air. A psychotic is the man who lives in it. And a psychiatrist is the man who collects the rent.

From the Collected Papers of Lord Robert Webb-Johnstone quoted in the Oxford Book of Medical Quotations (2003) edited by Peter McDonald and Familiar Medical Quotations (1968) edited by Maurice Strass. There are many websites that erroneously attribute this quote to Jerome Lawrence, the American playwright, best known as the co-author of Inherit the Wind about the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925. (Robert Edwin Lee was the other playwright. The play inspired the 1960 film of the same name directed by Stanley Kramer.)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Doublets: Love
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Doublets: The Lessons of History
Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid