9 Mind-Blowing Facts about Your Favorite Books

The crazy secrets behind Faulkner, Lee, Tolkien and Tolstoy

Frankenstein’s Title Doesn’t Refer to the Monster

When you hear the name “Frankenstein,” you probably think of a giant green monster. But in Mary Wollstonecraft’s original novel, Freaky Frankenstein, the title refers to Dr. Frankenstein, who created the undead creature. Confusingly, the monster in the book is also named Frankenstein. Thus the technical name for the monster is Frankenstein’s Frankenstein.

“Oops!” — William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying was Originally Titled As I Laid Dying

Until the manuscript was turned into the publisher, William Faulkner’s Southern Gothic epic featured a glaring typo in the title. Faulkner, a self-described “grammar Nazi” was so embarrassed that he went on a four-year bender. He later died fighting actual Nazis in World War II.

A rare first edition

The First Edition of Of Mice and Men Was Tiny!

Literally! John Steinbeck wanted his 1937 masterpiece to be published in both man-sized and mice-sized format. (However, the mouse edition was quickly discontinued due to poor sales.)

“The umbrella trees eat purple limes”

Gabriel Garcia Márquez Developed “Magical Realism” from a Surprising Source

The author of 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera brilliantly created surreal worlds by combining surprising ideas. How? Poetry. Refrigerator magnet poetry, specifically. “They have these little magnets on the back and you can just move them around and make up weird sentences,” Márquez once told an interviewer from The Paris Review. “That’s how I developed magical realism. Like look at this, ‘The umbrella trees eat purple limes’! That’s crazy. I’ll put that in my next novel.”

Fatten up first

To Kill a Mockingbird Had a Sequel

No, we’re not talking about the “lost” draft published as Go Set a Watchmen in 2015. Harper Lee’s one and only novel was followed up with a nonfiction sequel. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee intended her second book to be “instructional and informative.” It was titled To Grill a Mockingbird and consisted of recipes for seasoning and preparing mockingbird delicacies. Yum!

not taken roads

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Does

Frost’s classic poem about a guy in the woods on a road is taught in schools across the world. But what does it mean? There are many interpretations, but according to the poet himself, the poem isn’t about blazing your own path or about how little things change your life. Frost, a famous advocate for infrastructure improvement, wrote the poem to convince the US Congress to increase funding for road paving. In the poem’s original epigraph, Frost wrote, “We can put an astronaut on the moon / How come the government can’t fill these damn potholes?!”

Men never change

Lord of the Rings Was Inspired by a Household Argument

When J.R.R. Tolkien was a struggling author, his girlfriend at the time was impatient to get married. Allegedly, she told him, “if you like it then you should put a ring on it.” Tolkien, who had already purchased several other rings as presents that year, loudly shouted “What am I, the lord of the rings?” The rest is history.

“What is good for? A lot!” — Leo Tolstoy on war

War and Peace Has a Hidden Message

Count Leo Tolstoy’s epic asks the question, which is better, war or peace? In fact, early drafts of the manuscript contain Tolstoy’s answer on the final page: war.

“A well-fed writer is a happy writer” — Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy Has a Unique (and Tasty) Writing Process

The famously reclusive McCarthy doesn’t talk much about his writing habits, but what he has said is fascinating. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, McCarthy remarked: “I do most of my writing at breakfast. I name the eggs and pieces of toast and bacon after my characters, then I have them dance around on the plate while I do funny voices for each of them. Whatever character I eat last becomes the protagonist of the novel.”

Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien Read ‘The Lord of the Rings’

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