Fun facts about books and reading

You may think that it is just because I work in a library that I find books fascinating.  Ok, you would be right – but you don’t have to work in a library to be interested in these fun facts about books and reading.  Bonus points – these facts will make you a hit at your next trivia night!

The Earliest Work of Literature

The earliest known work on literature is an epic poem titled the Epic of Gilgamesh, from Ancient Mesopotamia.  Since paper hadn’t been invented then, the poem is told on 12 stone tablets.

The First Modern Novel

The world’s first novel, in the format we now know, was The Tale of Genji. This was written by a Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting, Murasaki Shikibu, in 11th century Japan.

The First Published Book

The first book every published was the Gutenberg Bible in 1453.  It was printed by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press.

The First Book Composed On a Typewriter

Life on the Mississippi, written by Mark Twain in 1882, is considered by historians to be the first manuscript fully written on a typewriter.

The Largest Book Ever

The largest “book” in the world is located in Manday, Myanmar in Burma at the Kuthodaw Pagoda.  The Kuthodaw Pagoda features a collection of 730 marble tablets surrounding the base of its structures, double-sided with text.  This collection of tablets bears the complete scripture of Theravada Buddism.  It was built in 1857 by King Mindon and originally featured gold ink and precious stones.

The Largest Book Made of Paper

The world’s largest paper book is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  It is titles This the Prophet Muhamed and was created by the Mshahed International Group and unveiled in February 2012.  It is 5 meters wide, 8.06 meters long, contains 429 pages and weighs over 3,000 pounds.

The Largest Published Book

The largest book every published in a conventional manner is a Brazilian copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Ezupery.  It measures 3.08 meters wide (opened) and 2.01 meters high.

The Smallest Book in the World

The Guiness Book of Records states that the world’s smallest book is Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, which measures 100 micrometers by 70 micrometers.

The Longest Novel Ever

The world’s longest novel ever written is Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust.  The novel is estimated to have 9,609,000 characters.

The Thickest Book Ever Published

The thickest book ever published, The Complete Miss Marple, is 12.47 inches wide and 4,032 pages long.  It is a collection of 20 short stories and 12 mystery novels by Agatha Christie.

The Longest Audiobook Ever

The longest published audiobook is almost 5 days long.  It was published in 2008 in Japan and consists of lectures from Takaaki Yoshimoto, a philosopher, poet and literary critic.  The total runtime is 115 hours, 43 minutes.

The Most Expensive Book Ever

The most expensive book in the world was Codex Liecester by Leonardo Da Vinci, purchased by Bill Gates for US$30.8million.

There Is Official Word for Loving The Smell of Old Books

Bibliosmia is the official word for loving the smell of old books.  This chemical reaction that causes the ‘old book smell’ is produced by the breakdown of two chemical components in paper, cellulose and lignin.  The byproducts of this  process are toluene and ethylbenzene (which produces a sweet odor), vanillin (which produces a vanilla odor), benzaldehyde and fufural (which produces an almond odor), and 2-ethylhexanol (which produces a flowery odor).  This chemical process allows scientists to determine the age of old books, in a similar way to carbon-dating.

The Three Most Read Books in the World

The 3 most read books in the world are The Holy Bible, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, and Harry Potter.

The Longest Sentence Every Printed

The longest sentence ever printed is 823 words long.  It appears on Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

Who Reads the Most Books in the World?

Icelandic people read more books than any other country.

The Fear of Running Out of Something to Read is Real

The fear of running out of something to read is called Abibliophobia.

1 in 5 Adults Around the World Cannot Read or Write

Illiteracy is still a huge problem around the world, with the highest rates in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Reading helps prevent Alzheimers

A study has found that you are 2 1/2 times less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimers in later life if you read regularly.  A good reason to keep reading.

People Who Read are Nicer

According to a 2017 study by Kingston University, there is a relationship between reading fiction and real-word social abilities.  People who read more fiction are more empathetic, open minded to others’ viewpoints and more likely to demonstrate positive social behavior.

Reading Can Relieve Stress

According to a study by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%, outscoring listening to music (61%) and having a cup of tea (54%) as methods of relieving stress.

People Who Read Live Longer

According to a study published in Social Science & Medicine, reading books for at least 30 minutes a day can increase your lifespan.  Researchers found that people who read books for half an hour or more a day had a 23 month survival advantage – living almost 2 years longer, on average.

In Sydney, 2012, a record was made for the most people to balance books on their head

998 people balanced books on their heads in November 2012.

There Are Tons of Books Out There

An estimated 755,755 new books are published every year.  As of mid-2017, there were an estimated 134,399,411 total published books in the world.

Buying Books and Not Reading Them is Also a Thing

The Japanese word Tsundoku means “to let reading materials pile up in one’s home and never read them”.

Medieval Books Came with Curses

Before the printing press was invented, books had to be written and copied by hand.  The scribes would protect their life’s work with a wide variety of curses inscribed at the beginning and end of the handwritten books.  These curses involved being mutilated by demonic swords, the gouging of eyes, bookworms eating away at the entrails of thieves and even having the book turn into a serpent in the hand of those who borrow and do not return them.

Charles Dickens Had a Novelty Bookcase Filled With Fake Books

Charles Dickens had a bookcase in his house filled with fake books with comical names.  This bookcase functioned as a secret door.  Some of the titles included: King Henry the Eighth’s Evidences of Christianity (5 volumes); Jonah’s Account of the Whale, The Lives of Cats (9 volumes) and The Art of Cutting Teeth.


11 Random Facts About Books That Are Weirdly Interesting“, by Jill Layton, February 19th, 2017
36 fun facts about books“, by Zach H, August 7th, 2017
Top 20 book facts“,
14 facts about books and reading for the fanatical bookworm“, by Laura-Blaise McDowell, March 19th, 2018]

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