If it were possible to wear out an internet browser, I would probably be guilty of doing such a thing in my ongoing and never-ending quest to learn about the origins of certain words and phrases.
I know what you're thinking, but not all words lead back to Shakespeare. Even though the number of words and phrases he coined comes in at around a whopping 1,700, he did not, in fact, invent the English language. Indeed, we have lots of different writers to credit for contributing to it throughout the centuries.
In his addictive new book, Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers, Paul Dickson offers a delightful A-to-Z exploration of familiar words and phrases that were coined or popularized by a wide range of authors, including these:
• Butterfingers—Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers (1836)
• Egghead—Carl Sandburg in a letter (1918)
• Eyesore—William Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew (1593)
• Freelance—Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1820)
• Nerd—Dr. Seuss in If I Ran the Zoo (1950)
• Scaredy-cat—Dorothy Parker in "The Waltz" (1933)
• Shotgun wedding—Sinclair Lewis in Elmer Gantry (1927)
• T-shirt—F. Scott Fitzgerald in This Side of Paradise (1920)
• Yahoo—Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels (1726)
This fun, breezy (though authoritative), enlightening book will also give you the lowdown on and background of such words as pandemonium, chintzy, factoid and so many more. You'll never have to endure another awkward, cocktail-party conversation lull when armed with all of the knowledge packed into this entertaining compendium.
Move over, Maru. Watch out, Grumpy Cat (real name: Tardar Sauce). Refocus on your ennui, Henri. There's another cat taking over the internet: yours! Not yet, but soon, if you follow the advice in the hilarious new guide How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom (Quirk Books) by Patricia Carlin, with photographs by Dustin Fenstermacher.
It's hard not to notice just how wildly popular cats are on the internet—BuzzFeed even has a whole page devoted to precious and precocious kitties. All it takes is one photo, one brief video to go viral, and then we're talking pillows, t-shirts, these, a book deal and perhaps even—for the top, er, cats—a movie deal. Ca-ching! Of course, all of this exposure also leads to something that can't be bought: the love and adoration of millions of fans around the world.
Whether you're looking for legions of followers or cold hard cash, How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity is full of practical wisdom, including:
• Identifying your cat's type: sweet baby kitten, lazy bum, total badass, daredevil and a complete moron among the options.
• Formulating a catchy stage name for your soon-so-be-famous feline.
• Picking the right location (bathtub, stairs, chest-of-drawers) and props (ceiling fan, toilet paper roll, string) to feature in your photo or video.
• Driving traffic to your hilarious new masterpiece once it's uploaded.
• And so much more.
It's the perfect tongue-in-cheek gift that'll have your cat-loving friends and family members LOL-ing . . . perhaps even all the way to the bank.
South African novelist Lauren Beukes, author of last year's supernatural thriller The Shining Girls, returns this fall with a new violent mash-up of fantasy and crime fiction. Broken Monsters is set to publish on September 16 by Mulholland Books.
Beukes had us on the edges of our seats with her wildly imaginative, uber-creepy second novel, the international best-selling The Shining Girls. With the help of a portal in a mysterious House, an unfathomably cruel serial killer travels through time to hunt his victims—all women. The only one of his targets to ever escape is Kirby, who decides to track down the villain and put an end to his murderous reign.
Broken Monsters once again finds a capital-B Bad Guy who indulges his sick compulsions, this time in abandoned Detroit warehouses. The publisher gives a preview:
Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused. The cops nickname him "Bambi," but as stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?
If you're Detective Versado's over-achieving teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you are the disgraced journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to investigate what may become the most heinous crime story in memory. If you're Thomas Keen—known on the street as TK—you'll do what you can to keep clean, keep your head down, and try to help the broken and possibly visionary artist obsessed wth setting loose The Dream, tearing reality, assembling the city anew.
What do you think, readers? Looking forward to getting creeped out by Beukes' newest horror-filled vision?
• 101 Books debunks 5 literary legends, including the one about Dr. Seuss and Kurt Vonnegut.
• Coming next year from Random House is Garlic in Fiction, a new collection of works by Shirley Jackson, culled from her archives and edited by two of her children. It'll feature stories, drawings, lectures—can't wait!
• Something you don't have to wait for: Zadie Smith's new short story from The Paris Review.
• Short on free time for reading? Flavorwire has put together a list of 50 incredible novels under 200 pages, including Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, and The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.
• In movie news, last year's National Book Award winner for fiction, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, is heading to the big screen, with Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith set to star. Are you looking forward to seeing it?
• Finally, BuzzFeed gets inside the mind of legendary romance cover model, Fabio. Enjoy!
Occasionally, a work of nonfiction comes along that completely changes the way we look at a problem—or brings an issue into focus for the first time. Such was the case with Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, first published in May 1994 and now available in a revised and updated 20th anniversary edition. Author Hope Edelman was only 29 years old when the book was released, and as she notes in a recent blog post, promotional events like an appearance on the "Today" show left her terrified. Despite the author's inexperience, the book went on to sell more than a half a million copies, prompted considerable thought and discussion, and was translated into 11 languages. Motherless Daughter support groups sprang up to help women deal with the lifelong after effects of growing up without a mother's love and guidance.
Motherless Daughters grew out of Edelman's own experience of losing her mother to breast cancer when she was 17. Using skills she honed at the Medill School of Journalism and the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, she began to investigate what happens to girls and young women whose mothers die. After reviewing scientific studies and conducting hundreds of interviews with women, Edelman concluded that a mother's death can have lasting repercussions in many areas of a daughter's life, including her sibling relationships, her romantic relationships and her relationships with her own children. "Losing my mother wasn't just a fact about me," she writes in the book's introduction. "It was the core of my identity, my very state of being."
After Motherless Daughters was published, hundreds of women wrote to Edelman with their own stories of grief and healing. Excerpts from these personal accounts were compiled in Letters from Motherless Daughters, a companion volume also available in an updated edition with new letters. In addition, Edelman's book has inspired a new HBO documentary, The (Dead Mothers) Club, which follows three young women dealing with the deaths of their mothers. The film debuts May 12 on HBO and includes interviews with Rosie O'Donnell, Jane Fonda and Molly Shannon, who all lost their mothers early in life.
Edelman's groundbreaking work stands the test of time, offering not only comfort and understanding to mother-loss survivors, but also valuable information for anyone coping with devastating loss and grief.
The fun will actually begin on Tuesday (April 22) evening, though, with more than 20 author events planned to kick things off. Check out all of the who, when and where details to see if there will be a celebration near you.
Then, next Wednesday night, thousands of volunteers will be giving away 550,000 copies of books to light or non-readers in under-served communities. The list of 38 books to be distributed includes fiction and nonfiction, new books and classics, as well as several YA titles and even a collection of poetry.
The WBN folks have created a handy interactive map detailing all of the giveaway locations across the country, and there's also a list of participating bookstores and libraries, sorted by state.
All participants are encouraged to write about their experiences and enter the WBN ebook essay contest. The winning essays will be featured in an ebook to be distributed at next year's World Book Night. Check out all of the contest details here.
The World Book Night tagline says it all: spreading the love of reading, person to person. Will you be taking part? If so, we'd love to hear about it! Share your plans—or past WBN experiences—in the comments section, below.
Why does the same joke leave one person LOLing and another yawning or stone-faced? Why do we laugh? Does humor have a dark side? Is laughter really the best medicine? These thought-provoking questions—and more—are tackled head-on in The Humor Code, the fascinating, thoroughly entertaining new book by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner—released just in time for National Humor Month.
McGraw—founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder—and award-winning journalist Warner traveled the globe on a quest to get to the root of what makes things funny, stopping in Los Angeles, Tanzania, Palestine, Copenhagen and even venturing into the Amazon. Among the experts they consult are a head writer for The Onion, Hunter "Patch" Adams (yes, that Patch Adams), New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff and several "top members of the Japanese Humor and Laughter Society."
Their around-the-world romp ended in Montreal, where Warner drew upon their newfound wisdom by attempting stand-up at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival, which is basically the Olympics of comedy fests. How did he do? I won't spoil it for you.
If you're still scratching your head over why Tanzania, wonder no more. In this excerpt from the fourth chapter, the authors explain what drew them to the East African country:
Good news greets us in Uganda as we disembark our plane: "Uganda has defeated the outbreak of Ebola," announces a large placard standing in the airport's main hall. "Please have a nice stay."
Well, that's a relief.
We actually have a different malady in mind—one far less lethal than Ebola, but evocative nonetheless. We're here in East Africa on the trail of the so-called 1962 Tanganyika laughter epidemic. As the story goes, in 1962 in the northwest corner of Tanganyika (a country now known as Tanzania), hundreds of people began laughing uncontrollably. The affliction, if you could call it that, spread from one person to the next, and nothing seemed to stop it. Schools shut down. Entire villages were caught in its throes. When the laughing stopped months later, a thousand people had some down with the "disease."
Since then, the Tanganyika laughter epidemic has captured imaginations the world over. Newspaper articles have been written about it, radio shows have explored it, and documentaries have dramatized it. But many of these accounts detailed the incident from afar, relying on secondhand sources, scraps of information, and rumors. Few people have investigated the event themselves, tracking the laughter all the way to its source. That's why we're here.
To be honest, we're a bit skeptical of the whole account. Uncontrollable laughter, jumping from person to person like a devilish possession, doesn't make sense. But something happened in Tanganyika in 1962. There are enough firsthand accounts and medical reports to confirm that. But what that something is—and what, if anything, it has to do with humor—is still up for debate.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out The Humor Code?
• "Mad Men" returns this weekend. Which of these books do you want to see Don Draper (or other characters) reading on the iconic show's final season?
• Pop quiz time! Don't panic—it's a fun pop quiz. Check the books you've read on BuzzFeed's list to find out just how scandalous your reading taste skews.
• Did you know that Shakespeare's 450th (!) birthday is coming up this month? Perhaps you didn't know that there are several online Shakespeare courses that you can take—for free!
• Since you were such good sports about the quiz, how about a super-cute game called How to Be a Writer?
The twists and riffs of an Eoin Colfer story combined with the gleeful quirkiness of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations? That's what I call an unbeatable team. Their first-ever picture book collaboration, Imaginary Fred, is coming this fall from HarperCollins.
Here's what we've got to look forward to:
Imaginary Fred is a unique take on the concept of imaginary friends. It’s the story of two little boys and their shared love of movies, music, and comic books. It is about how a little bit of electricity, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of magic can spark a friendship like no other. The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork will make for a treasured new picture book.
The publisher's already calling it an "instant children's classic," "genius" and "the stuff of dreams." It's way too soon to be throwing labels like that around, but we're nevertheless excited to see what fun this duo whips up.
Random House will release Leaving Time, formerly titled “Elephant Graveyard,” on October 14. The story mines territory familiar to Picoult—family, memory and identity—as it follows 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, whose mother Alice (a scientist specializing in elephant behavior) went missing in the wake of a tragic accident more than a decade ago. Refusing to believe she would be abandoned as a toddler, Jenna scans her mother's old journals for clues and enlists the help of a famous psychic and the now-jaded detective who originally investigated Alice's case.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter below:
My first memory is white at the edges, like a photo with too bright a flash. My mother is holding spun sugar, on a cone, cotton candy. She raises her finger to her lips—This is our secret—and then tears off a tiny piece. When she touches it to my lips, the sugar dissolves. My tongue curls around her finger and sucks hard. Iswidi, she tells me. Sweet. This is not my bottle; it's not a taste I know, but it's a good one. Then she leans down and kisses my forehead. Uswidi, she says. Sweetheart.
I can’t be more than nine months old.
This is pretty amazing, really, because most kids trace their first memories to somewhere between the ages of two and five. That doesn't mean that babies are little amnesiacs—they have memories long before they have language but, weirdly, can't access them once they start talking. Maybe the reason I remember the cotton candy episode is because my mother was speaking Xhosa, which isn't our language but one she picked up when she was working on her doctorate in South Africa. Or maybe the reason I have this random memory is as a trade-off my brain made—because I can't remember what I desperately wish I could: details of the night my mother disappeared.
Are any of you BookPage readers particularly interested in Leaving Time? If so, find more information and an even longer excerpt at Picoult's website.
Author photo by Adam Bouska.