19th Century and Onwards, Books

Secret Lives of Great Authors

Note: This post originally appeared on Wordscience, a now defunct writing-focused blog of mine, on March 15, 2009. I was recently flipping through that blog’s archives and came across this post, which I thought would be neat to share here too. I’ve recently shared another post from that blog, “Weather, history, and the origins of words,” which you can read here.


The title of this entry is the name of the book I just finished reading, which my dear friend Carly gave me for Christmas. It was a quick, fun (and funny) read. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Thoreau invented raisin bread.
  • It is thanks to Lewis Carroll that books’ titles are printed down their spines.
  • Walt Whitman donated his brain to science, but a technician dropped that Walt Whitman brain all over the floor.
  • Dickens could only sleep with his head facing the North Pole.
  • Salinger tried to treat his family’s ailments with acupuncture, except he used wooden dowels.

My only complaint with the book was the concentration of authors from mostly the States and the UK. I’m sure the term “great authors” is one that’s never easy to define and one probably can’t fit in all the authors one would like to, but was there really not even one Canadian? Or anyone from any other country?

Either way, it was an interesting book. Thanks Carly!

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