Monday, February 19, 2018

The World Almanac Turns 150!

The World Almanac and Book of Facts: 2018 celebrates 150 years of informing us of all kinds of things, including statistics, facts, and history as it relates to sports, politics, culture, entertainment, science, arts, and other areas.  Every year since I was a boy I’d get the new edition to read up on things.

A number of items covered relate directly to books, including stats on libraries (p. 248), most challenged books in libraries (p. 249), best-selling books (p. 250), best-selling books (p. 250), winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature (p. 261), Pulitzer Prize winners for Fiction (p. 263), new words in English (p. 208), writers of the past (p. 209), Poets Laureate (p. 214), and foreign words and phrases (p. 709).

The World Almanac claims it is the best-selling U.S. reference book of all time with more than 82 million copies sold since 1868.  It actually disappeared for a decade, from 1876-1885, when the newspaper that published it, The New York World, folded.  In 1886, famed newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer revived The World Almanac and has published it annually ever since.

So what happened of interest back in 1868, the year of the inaugural edition?  It was a time of rebuilding a tattered post-Civil War America -- and it was a year before professional baseball leagues would be formed.

In literature, Willkie Collins published what is considered to be the first full-length detective novel in English, The Moonstone.  Also penned that year was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Horatio  Alger’s Ragged Dick.

A century ago, in 1918, some of the headline stories included:

·         Influenza pandemic begins, killing up to 100 million worldwide, of which some 650,000 die in the U.S.
·         World War I concludes.
·         The Sedition Act is signed into law, forbidding “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive” speech about the U.S. government or its military.

Just 50 years ago, in 1968, some big books were published, including:

·         The Double Helix by James D. Watson.
·         The Population Bomb by Paul Ehlrlich
·         Couples by John Updike
·         Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
·         The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

Lastly, I leave with some predictions of the future that were made in the past.  In 1968, to celebrate the book’s 100-year mark, Professor Isaac Asimov made a number of predictions for 2068.  We’re now within 50 years of those bold insights.  Here are some things that he said:

"Food will become the product of gigantic laboratories and the percentage of space on land and sea which must be devoted to food will be decreasing in 2068.  More and more of the Earth’s surface can be turned into amusement resorts, parkland, and wildlife refuges.

"With the declining birth rate, the rise in ectogenesis (the development of fetuses outside the human body) the disappearance of routine housework, and the conversion of all work into low-muscle, high-brain endeavor that can be performed by either sex, it is clear that the woman of 2068 will be completely equal to the man economically and socially…Sexual associations will be looser in 2068 and more casual."

“To have a National Endowment for the Arts is to sanction creativity to provide space to support the poetic and to give meaning to struggle, hope and life.  Whether it’s transcribing Great Negro Spirituals, protecting indigenous Native languages, attending outdoor jazz concerts, preserving quilting b the Amish and the Gee’s Bend women, singing the Delta blues, weaving narratives of neglected LGBTQ history, creating plays of the immigrant experience or collaborating across state lines, we are a country of expression.  Art is the bridge when walls of fear keep us insulated and reactive.  A society loses meaning, purpose and direction without it.”

--Karen Finley, Time Magazine

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs.

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