book facts

Book Facts: 18 Fun Facts about Books

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

September 11, 2023

Looking for some book facts for inspiration? Writing a book of any length can be challenging, frustrating, and exciting, and it puts you in a literary club with authors and would-be writers worldwide. Books impact our lives from the time we are emerging readers, flipping through picture books to the age of discovering a favorite genre or an author that we love.

And for many, that love of words and how a book makes us feel has developed into writing our books. But you don’t have to be an author to appreciate our list of fun book facts that cover everything from the quirks of authors to where we keep the most books in the world in one place. These 18 book facts are sure to give you insight into the world of writing, whether you are penning your own book, are dreaming about becoming a self-published author, or simply enjoy picking up a book to lose yourself in a story.

Book Facts — The Distinct Scent of an Old Book

If you think that old books have a particular smell to them, you are right. This distinct aroma is one that is easy to remember but hard to describe, as evidenced by these book facts.

1 Scientists have studied the process of “material degradomics” by assessing the increasingly strong scent that cellulose and lignan, two components in books, create as they degrade.

2 Scientists can even date the age of a book using this process in the same way that carbon dating is used to determine the age of found materials.

Book Facts — Eccentric Authors

Just like athletes have superstitions or habits they like to follow to ensure success, some well-known authors also have a few memorable writing quirks that they integrate into their creative processes, as evidenced by these book facts.

3 Author of A Star is Born and many other famous works, Joan Didion was known to sleep in the same room as a book she was writing so she could feel close to it.

4 Infamous author Truman Capote notoriously liked to write while lying down in bed while both Gertrude Stein and Vladimir Nabokov did their best creative writing sitting in their cars.

Book Facts — The Words We Use

Over the centuries, many words have developed around the art of writing, printing, selling, and reading books, providing plenty of surprising and unusual book facts for the bibliophile.

5 We call someone who is constantly seen with their nose down in a book reading a bookworm, but the term comes from a real problem early book readers might encounter. Small insects like beetles were commonly known to bore into books and bindings, ruining them as they ate the paper and dry, starchy components, so readers were encouraged to look deep into the bindings of a book to check the publication for the tell-tail holes left by these pesky insects.

6 The Danes call booksellers boghandlers, an ironically funny term that doesn’t seem to fit the task of selling books.

7 The Latin word scrinium, meaning “chest for books,” gives us our modern-day term shrine, further confirming that mankind’s fascination with books has been around for a millennium.

8 A common problem for readers worldwide is bringing home a stack of books but not finding the time or inclination to read them. The Japanese word for this, tsundoku, translates to “buying a load of books and then not getting round to reading them,” an experience that even the most avid reader can relate to.

9 In 1649, poet Andrew Marvell coined the term “book scorpion” to describe someone who is aggressive and unreceptive to learning or books, taking the name from a real species of scorpion that was known to feast on booklice that made books or scrolls their homes.

Book Facts Any Book Lover Should Know

10 The most-read book of all time is the Christian Holy Bible, and the second most-read book is Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, commonly called “The Little Red Book” for its easily recognizable bright red cover indicating the book’s connection to communism.

11 The book with the largest initial printing run is the last Harry Potter book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. With a first printing of 12 million copies, this book along with the rest of the series also earns a place in the top tier of most-read books.

12 Don Quixote, first published in 1605 in Spanish, takes the honors of the best-selling novel of all time with an impressive 500 million copies sold.

13 In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg used the newly invented printing press to produce books much more quickly and efficiently than transcribing them by hand. Gutenberg’s work resulted in the first mass-produced book that we now refer to as the Gutenberg Bible, only the second known printed run of the Holy Bible. Today, only 48 complete or partially complete copies of the original 150 remain.

14 Shakespeare’s “First Folio” is thought to be the rarest book in the world. Comprised of the master author’s works, the official book title is Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies and the book includes 36 of his plays. Today, this sought-after book is worth upwards of $5.2 million because the book is thought to contain the only authentic and reliable text of 20 of Shakespeare’s plays. The book also has the bragging rights of being the location where 18 of Shakespeare’s plays were first published, making the few known copies of this book uncommon gems among collectors around the world.

Book Facts — How Long is It?

Reading a short book can be exhilarating or disappointing, depending on how well you like it. Coming across a monster book, or even an unbelievably long sentence can be exciting or challenging, but work that is extraordinarily lengthy is guaranteed to inspire and awe even the most casual writer who likely understands how much effort it takes for an author to create such an impressive piece of work, as evidenced by these book facts.

15 The longest book on record is Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. His masterpiece of over 9,609,000 characters and over 3,000 pages was published initially in seven volumes over a span of 14 years.

16 The popularity of audiobooks is due in part to their convenience, especially when a lengthy book can be experienced at a measured pace when read aloud. But the world’s longest audiobook, Taaki Yoshimoto’s 50 Lectures, would take a listener almost five full days to complete.

17 The longest known sentence in a published book is in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. At 823 words in length, this sentence could stretch over a few pages, no doubt confusing and amazing readers of this iconic story.

Making Your Mark as a Self-Published Author

Your dream of becoming an author may have already been realized, or your journey into writing a book may just be getting started. But writing your first book is always easier when you have a reliable printing company to help you transform your manuscript into a beautiful book, ready to put into the hands of your readers.

Partnering with Publishing Xpress is a great way to print your book, and you never know if your book will end up as one of the fun book facts future authors will learn about. Because even over a thousand years later, we are still awed by writers who compiled their ideas into book form for others to enjoy, like Japanese author Murasaki Shikibu.

18 Considered to be the first novel ever by many scholars, Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, was penned before the year 1021 CE.


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