Random Facts About Books!

As of 2010, there are 129 million books in existence: Google had released the number of books existing in the world to be exactly 129,864,880. The amount of books now since a decade had passed must be larger. I can’t find a more recent number of books in the world which isn’t surprising since I don’t think anyone wants to count all of the books in the entirety of the world. But you never know how bored people can get 🙂

The most popular book genre at the moment is Romance: Book sales has exposed the fan-favorite of all genres being romance. This could be since there are a lot of subgenres to romance and can be combined with another genre in many other cases. Another one to mention here would be that the most popular romance trope at the moment is enemies-to-lovers. Everyone loves a little bit of tension, especially Booktok based on the books they recommend with their very heart and soul. They have also really turned the tide against friends-against-lovers and honestly, I would like to see them proceed.

Bill Gates bought the most expensive book, sold for 30.8 million dollars: Come on, this is Bill Gates we are talking about. He probably earns that type of money in 10 minutes. But anyway, the book he bought was by Leonardo Da Vinci called Codex Leicester. This book is basically a collection of scientific writings named after Thomas Cooke who became the Earl of Leicester. Bill Gates said he bought it to share the same wonder and curiosity that Leandro Da Vinci had himself. And it was done on the 500th anniversary of his death!

Like the smell of books? Well, there is a word for it now: Those who liked the smell of books are known to be called Bibliosmia. Finally, a word that can finally describe my thought process as I first lay eyes on a book I newly purchased. Hopefully, I am not alone in this. I;m probably not. But you never know.

The longest sentence ever written contained 823 words: Victor Hugo really wants to torture his readers by having them follow along with this long sentence. But nevertheless, this occurs in one of his more famous books Les Miserables. I don’t know in what scene or act (I haven’t read the book) but even if I did, I think I would have skipped that entire sentence.

Authors’ names weren’t written on the book cover at first: This may seem like a normal sentence but the reason behind why may shock some (It shocked me). Back in the days, only the wealthy could read and purchase books because they were educated. And because the book covers could have been made with leather and actual gold so they would be able to afford it. To be honest, if I ever get a golden book, I think I will still find a way to break the spine (I don’t want to, though)

Well, I have exhausted all of crazy book facts I know from my friend’s deep dive into random facts she researched during International Read a Book Day. She got most of them from this website: https://www.yahoo.com/news/11-random-facts-books-weirdly-192533509.html. Let me know in the comments if you guys know any random book facts that I didn’t mention.

-Saanvi V.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

The War of Kinds had brought destruction upon the human race and prosperity to the Automa. Because of this war, resentment spread across the races, both knowing their loathing for each other but never explicitly stating it to one another. But their beliefs and actions have proved they consider each other enemies.

The Automa sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier, had no idea of this destruction. And she never really had no clear idea until she met Kinok and Ayla. Kinok is her soon-to-be husband who she is forced to marry for the betterment of her kingdom. Her father felt that the only way to subdue Kinok’s influences was to extinguish the threat of power he felt from recent times. But would this action create a difference?

Ayla is a human servant girl who wishes for nothing more than Crier’s immediate death. She believes wholeheartedly in the saying “An eye for an eye” and after the death of her family order by the sovereign himself, she thought to act upon this ideology. But as the book continues, Ayla begins to realize the true nature of Lady Crier and separate some Automa from others. And Lady Crier also begins to realize the true connection between the Automa and humans and how her father isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

From the way this book was written to the path of the plot, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book even when I wasn’t reading it. So many little things in the plot occur in the story that seem to have no meaning until it creates meaning into the story altogether. When reading, one wouldn’t see major plot twists coming until they approach it and read back on all of the clues Nina Varela left for them in obscured areas. The imagery was beautiful, unfolding the story in my eyes with vivid scenes and intense dialogues. And the symbolism wrapped the entire story together and the fates of the characters in the book. The story is also an enemies-to-lovers book so if you like that, you should definitely check it out!

-Saanvi V.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

My Personal Opinions on Books Required I Read in High School

The collection of books I have read because I needed to for English has definitely been different in some ways and similar in other ways. They are seen having connections to each other and reflecting upon the same ideology yet are seen to have their own individual themes and connections. First, I will be describing why or why not this book was interesting to me. Then, I will describe the symbolic sentiment behind the book and will elaborate on whether it is useful for me. Then, I will describe whether someone should read the book in total based on these categories and elaborate why I believed reading this book is worth it or a waste of time.

Cover image for Slouching towards Bethlehem : essays / Joan Didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion: I am going to be starting with this book first because it is the only nonfiction book I was required to read this year. Based on interest level, it was extremely boring in my opinion. The first chapter was very interesting because it spoke about how a wife was on trial for killing her husband and how it was a huge thing in the news but after that chapter, it became very hard to read without the looming threat of sleep within my proximity. However, the content in the book does make up for how boring it was. The book is a series of essays divided into three sections: Life Styles in the Golden Land, Personals, and Seven Places on the Mind. Each of these sections were informative in their own way. The first section described multiple things occurring in California, including events occurring in her own life. The second section talked more about how humans affect others and why we do what we do. The third section talks more about her and other people’s lives and how they struggle. So, as a book required to read for school, I believe that reading it is worth it as it is very enlightening and definitely allows us to reflect on our actions. If you were to read this book for the purpose of entertainment, you should have stopped right after the first chapter and move onto another book.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Cover image for The grapes of wrath / John Steinbeck.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: My teacher went more in depth in this book when we were discussing it in class, which could be why I have the opinion I do. But altogether, I love this book so much. The beginning was very boring to me but as soon as I reached more the time where the family begins their journey to California, I couldn’t wait to read what would happen next. This book basically describes a family in the era of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and how they must venture to California from their dear home in Oklahoma because they cannot make any money where they are. Not only did this book capture my attention but it also opened my eyes to the lives of people who I don’t relate to and who struggle so much to survive in our world. This book describes the greed of those who benefit from the desperation of these struggling families, otherwise known as large corporations. It shows how people could become families with anyone if they help each other through their heartbreaks and painful endeavors. And most importantly, it shows that people together in their anger could make a difference, like bundle of grapes filled with wrath. I would recommend anyone to read this if they can and think this book should be discussed more among people.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald ; edited by James L. W. West III.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This is probably the book that most people know about and have read in high school. I have known about this book since I was 8 but never really knew what it was about until this year. Basically, it is about a man named Gatsby who is neighbors with a guy named Nick Carraway and wants to be loved by Nick’s cousin named Daisy Buchanan (yes, she is married). The plot of this book interested me but the characters ruined it for me. They basically had no personality whatsoever besides being rich and wanting to be loved but finding it in the wrong ways. Tom Buchanan is one of the few characters I believe is unredeemable when it comes to fixing and saying that is definitely extreme but it is true. This book has so many undertones of misogyny from the epigraph of the book: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!'” Of course, we shouldn’t judge a book based on this since it came from another time and era but I believe teachers should definitely and directly tell their students about the more obscured sexism in the book so the students don’t adopt it as a normalcy in our society. There are many symbols and one could definitely make connections on the longing of being better and richer than someone else and competing with time before what you want is gone forever. But personally, I believe that this book doesn’t deserve all of the hype that it gets. It was a waste of time in my opinion and it could be part of the high school curriculum since it does talk a lot about class differences and how the rich use people who are poorer than they are. But I wouldn’t recommend reading until it is required for school.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The scarlet letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: This book differs from the ones I have talked about before because it is more outdated and more seen as a classic. Despite this, I really liked the book. This book is about a woman named Hester forced to wear an “A” on her chest because she has committed adultery with someone she doesn’t wish to confess and gave birth to a child as a result. It is set in a Puritan town where couples are to stay together until they die and even then, they must remain a widow and not try to be in a romantic relationship with anyone else as that would be a betrayal to their dead, former spouse. The author, Hawthorne, wishes to exploit the wrongdoings in Puritan society at the time and how they are seen as hypocrites, essentially, when it comes to someone who sins. This book definitely has some more older terms of symbolism shown through transcendentalist and romantic ideology but I found the plot of this book very interesting. The sentences don’t match the standard of grammar that we have today and the author does enforce his ideologies on the readers but I still enjoyed this book very much. I would recommend this book to people who like the forbidden love trope and like nature as a main symbol in a book.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for A streetcar named desire / Tennessee Williams ; with an introduction by Arthur Miller.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams: The people that have already read this book probably think I am going to say negative things about it and I am, definitely about Stanley Kowalski, but I would first like to highlight the entire book. This book is about a woman named Blanche DuBois who is forced to live with her sister, Stella DuBois, and her abusive husband, Stanley Kowalski, after she loses her childhood home, Bella Reive. This book starts off interesting and I liked the plot. I started to hate the characters and their doings but that means the person writing the book (or play, in this case) is so good at writing that they are evoking an emotion out of me. The characters are definitely bad and good in some ways, which I liked because it added complexity to the story and definitely connected symbols together. For example, Blanche DuBois avoids the light which stands for the truth and we all know her as a notorious liar throughout the story so it connects more. I continue and Stanley is a piece of trash and becomes the one of the other people that I find unredeemable and people who if existed in the real world, I would punch in the face. Then, the ending turns out to be very terrible. Again, one must not judge things in the past but still…I did not like the outcome of this book. I believe the ending should have taken another turn but for the book, it seems reasonable why it would be that way and still, I hate that. Despite my sayings of the book being interesting, I still wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone at all and would never read it a second time. I liked some things about it but the bad things about it outweigh the good things so I wish someone only reads this if they are forced to. However, the ending of the movie is way better and that should have been the ending of the play but alas, it wasn’t.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

I would like to end this article with how these opinions on these books are just that, opinions. You have every right to disagree with whatever I say, especially when it comes to A Streetcar Named Desire and The Great Gatsby. Let me know what you think about a certain book in the comments! Thanks for reading!

-Saanvi V.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Black

TW: Mentions of Rape

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake - Book Trigger Warnings

This story begins with a pair of twins who loved the stars and loved each other so much, they were as intertwined as the constellations themselves. They have been together through everything and Mara always found comfort in her brother’s, Owen’s, presence. However, all of this changes when news spread about her brother potentially raping her friend, Hannah Prior. Mara is forced into this conflict where she must choose between believing the story of her brother or her friend dealing with this situation while she acquires her own conflict between her ex-girlfriend and her brother’s friend who caught her eye recently. Not only that, she also needs to confront a secret she kept buried inside for too long to truly feel free of the burden life has placed on her shoulders.

I am surprised at the contents of this book from the cover of the book but I guess that is why they say to never judge a book by its cover. I thought it would be a happy book dealing with beautiful stars and amazing relationships but I couldn’t have been more wrong. However, I still enjoyed this book very much. Blake did a very good job at writing emotional scenes, kicking me right in the gut, and weaving the symbolism of stars into the story, creating more possibilities and connections to what a star could and should be. There were some scenes that made me cringe a little but if I had the choice to read this book again, I would have accepted it without any hesitation. I recommend everyone to read this book if they can handle the brutality about rape, victim blaming, sexual violence toward girls, anxiety attacks, PTSD, and physical abuse.

-Saanvi V.

The Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Significance behind the Ending of Lady or the Tiger

In 9th grade, I read Frank Stockton’s short story The Lady, or the Tiger? because it was an assignment for English class. The story leaves off with a cliffhanger with two possible outcomes and whatever outcome shows a theme that is inherent in our lives.

From what I remember about the story, the princess was caught being in love with a man who sincerely loves her. However, he has no royal blood, which infuriated her father, the semi-barbaric king. He puts the man through a trial where he would have to choose one of two doors in front of him. One of the doors holds a beautiful lady in which he would have to marry the exact moment he chooses the door, a lady that lives at the palace and the princess hates. The other holds a tiger that has been starved and is looking for a hefty meal. A large audience gathered to witness the man’s fate, the princess forced to watch from her throne above. But she knows exactly what is in which door through bribery. The man she loves turned to her and after some moments of thinking, she flickers her hand to a direction, signalling a door. The man confidently walks up to that door but in the end, it is up to the reader to know which door he actually went into.

But of course the princess told the man to go to the door that held the lady, right? This is the man that she loves and someone she genuinely cared about. The man will be forced to marry this woman she doesn’t like and he won’t love the woman as much as he loves her. But circumstances of that situation would lead to her seeing her lover with another woman at all times. Not only would he be with woman she hates, they would both see each other all the time with the knowledge of the marriage between them. They are in love with each other and there was no doubt about that but they can’t be together because it was forbidden. They are so close to each other, yet so far. Perhaps, he may fall in love with the woman he was tied to be with because all of the private time they have together.

But even with those consequences, she will still rather see her lover everyday than see him eaten alive by a tiger, right? If she signalled for him to be eaten by the tiger, she would be stuck with the knowledge that his death was her doing. The guilt will consume her, she killed the man she loved, and perhaps will turn her into a hollowed version of herself before the trial took place. Though that may be true, the king was said to have semi-barbaric traits. Symbolically, could those traits have passed down to his daughter? Perhaps, she is selfish and she wants all of the man’s love only for her. Perhaps the tiger appealed more to the princess because it ends a cycle of life. Sure, this man is one that she loves but the thought of violence could attract her even more because of her implied barbarism. She has this man’s fate wrapped around his finger and whatever she choose, he will go to confidently because he knows her and trusts her decision, no matter what it is.

There are many themes in this story that could be applied to reality but what I would like to discuss is the theme of fate. The king in his story put this man on trial but even he doesn’t know what is in each door and he doesn’t care what this man gets because in one way or another, it is his punishment. My 9th English teacher called him a symbol of god or the universe in a way, a person who doesn’t care about our meager lives until we have done something that not only affect them but angers them. Ultimately, our fate is decided by them but our will is not. It is decided by ourselves which door we choose to go to, whether we listen to the princess we love on which door to go to or not. The man knows all about his lover’s nature and yet chooses to go into the door she instructs him to go to. He didn’t choose to be on trial but he is going to choose what door he goes into. He is choosing the way he wants the rest of his life to go, though he was put into this predicament that the universe/God/someone else had put him into. We are put into hard situations all the time by someone else but ultimately, it is in our hands the way we decide how we must deal with it. Do we ignore it? Do we push through its obstacles? Do we give up? Whatever occurs next would be our decision, whether we would want to accredit ourselves with this information or not.

(I can’t claim credit for most of the information presented; it came from the knowledge of my 9th English teacher.)

-Saanvi V.

The Most Beautiful Libraries Around the World

  • Biblioteca de Convento de Mafra: This library is located in Mafra, Portugal. It is filled with leather-bound books from the 14th to the 19th centuries. This library had once been a part of the Mafra National Palace and it’s exquisite structure still stands today because of the bats sleeping in the shelves to keep away any pests. You should see it if you are ever nearby!
  • National Library of China: This library is located in Beijing, China. Several shelves consist of archives dating to the Song Dynasty and even some made of tortoise shells and bones from the Qing Dynasty. In the year of 1909, this library had been granted by the Xuantong emperor as an ordinary library but after the Revolution of 1911, it was taken over by the Ministry of Education and eventually led to being the country’s national library. People of all different interests in books find this library absolutely astounding.
  • Abbey Library of St. Gall: This library is located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The paintings on the roof and the fashion of the book shelves leaves people breathless at first sight. This library is attached to the church of Abbey of St. Gall and has archives that date back to 820 CE. In the mid-18th century, the library had been redone in the Renaissance art style and architecture. A must-see that doesn’t allow any photography inside!
  • Starfield Library: This library is located in Seoul, South Korea. A unique characteristic of this library is that it is located in an underground mall! This library seems to be one of the most recent of beautiful libraries as it was built in 2017. Its two-story athenaeum shows the space as glowing and the plush sofas there are very relaxing.
  • Klementinum National Library: This library is located in Prague, Czech Republic. The original library of a Jesuit library became the “Baroque pearl of Prague” national library of the country. The adorn ceiling came from the artwork of Jan Hiebl and a portrait of Emperor Joseph II is placed at the head of the hallway with all of the works done throughout the centuries that had been in libraries that no longer exist anymore.

-Saanvi V.

Diverse Books by POC and LGBTQ Authors

As much as I love the representation presented in Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Lunar Chronicles, and Six of Crows, I have learned while reading these books that they are written by white, heterosexual women. There is nothing wrong with this and should be a common occurrence among white writers but sometimes, these authors tend to overshadow queer authors and authors of color. Their stories are less likely to be heard, though these stories relate to their personal struggles and identities. So here are some that I would like to recommend some books by authors in the POC and LGBTQ communities.

  1. Casey McQuiston: This author has been known for writing Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, two stories with both LGBTQ and POC representation. In Red, White, and Royal Blue, the main character is biracial and bisexual while his love interest is gay. In One Last Stop, the main character is a lesbian as well as her Chinese American love interest. Casey McQuiston themself is bisexual and nonbinary, using all pronouns. They are publishing a book in 2022 called I kissed Shara Wheeler, another book you could check out!
  2. Adiba Jaigirdar: This author has written 2 books called The Henna Wars and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. These books are sapphic and show representation in the Muslim, Afro-Brazilian, Bengali, and Korean community. The author herself is Bangladeshi and lives in Ireland. She identifies as queer. Go check her books out!
  3. Hafsah Faizal: This author is known for writing We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars. Hafsah Faizal grew up in a household where Islam was an important practice in their life. She is of Arabian and Sri Lankan descent. The books stated above portray Arabian terminology that is normal in Arabia. We love to see it!
  4. Angie Thomas: This author has written many books but the ones people mostly recognize her for is The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. These two books are about how racism hinders and traumatizes young black people and how they live in a society that is constantly against them. But, nonetheless, they fight against them with all of the strength they have. Angie Thomas is also one of six authors who wrote Blackout, a collection of love stories between black people during a power outage in their city. Definitely check it out!
  5. Tomi Adeyemi: This author has written the Legacy of OrĂŻsha trilogy: Children of Blood and Bone, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, and another untitled book she is working on. These books are inspired West African elements with Yoruba mythology. Though it is a fantasy book, it show many ideologies in our world (like racism) discreetly.

If you would like to expand the types of authors you read, please check these ones out!

-Saanvi V.

Problematic Tropes in Books

TW: Mentions of Abuse

1. “I am not like other girls”: This trope is particularly targeted against women using harmful stereotypes. These girls could be portrayed as hating makeup or reading a lot or being awkward, which defines how women as a total acts in society. Such stereotypes are used to demean women and the activities they partake in.

2. Limited Diversity: This applies to both members in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community. Authors only write these characters to earn some credit for being “open” and “inclusive.” Most of the time, these characters are used to further the main character’s plotline, have no character development at all, or are killed off. No matter where a story takes place, there will be more than one person of color and the LGBTQ community. People in these categories deserve representation too!

3. Enemies-to-Lovers gone wrong: This is a popular trope among book readers (such as myself) and could be enjoyable if done right. However, sometimes this trope uses abuse and doesn’t address it when the two enemies become lovers. This is a hard thing to do because if both of the people are good, how could they be enemies? Many people struggle with this and often defend the abusers against people who notice dangerous trends with these characters. Relationships should be portrayed as healthy, no matter what the trope is being used!

4. Love Triangle: It is common in this situation that stereotypes would be enforced in a harmful way. First of all, a woman is torn between choosing between two men. This choice becomes the only character development she obtains throughout the entire book, whether she chooses the right guy or not. Usually (not always) the girl chooses the guy who is more manipulative toward her because of the “intense” sexual tension between them (Relationships isn’t solely based around sexual tension but many books make it seem that way). And if it is 2 women desiring one man, they are often pitted against each other as competition, finding ways to demean each other and come out on top.

5. Love at First Sight: In no world could this be realistic. This attraction is caused by physical attraction which doesn’t say anything about someone’s personality. It states that love circulates around whether you find the person attractive and nothing about how they treat others around them. If young readers believe this as a real thing, many could potentially experience abusive relationships in the future. The “magic” that comes with the first glance of a potential love interest can’t make a relationship work out in the long run.

I might have said things that you disagree with (That’s okay. This is my viewpoint on these scenarios; you have every right to any opinion you have). And there must be more problematic book tropes that I didn’t mention above. If you have any you would like to share, comment them below!

-Saanvi V.

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The story begins with an 18-year-old girl named Alessandra who wanted to be seen in the world. Being the younger sister, she is constantly overlooked by her father so she formulated a plan to gain power and thus receive the attention she wanted—by marrying and killing the Shadow King, taking his power all for herself. No one is allowed 5 feet within the king’s reach and the king has always been disinterested in the girls who have always tried to impress him but she didn’t let that stop her goal.

As the story continues, Alessandra finds that she isn’t the only one plotting to kill the king. Trying to save him from the threats on his life, it begins to get harder to convince herself she is protecting him purely because she wants to kill him herself when she becomes queen. And it becomes incredibly difficult to keep her objective clear when the king exposes his kindness to her.

When I started reading this book, I found it hard to put it down. The word dictation is astonishing, the friendships made are wonderful (strengthened very unexpectedly), and all of the personalities of the characters are powerful in their unique ways. The author weaves many villians in the story without overwhelming or confusing the plot. This standalone helped me out of a reading slump and I would like to recommend it to everyone.

-Saanvi V.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

In the vast city of Golvahar resides a princess named Soraya, forced to be hidden away from the public eye. Cursed, she was born with the ability to kill any living being with a mere touch. Her yearning to be a part of her family and society flourishes with the years she stayed concealed in the gardens, watching everyone’s lives from a far distance. But all changes when a demon creature (div) who holds the knowledge to break her curse is captured and being held in the palace dungeon. A beau who perceives her past the poison running through her veins vows to help her but to what extent will she go to get what she desires? And will the choices she makes conform her into the monster she always tried not to become?

This enthralling tale of self-discovery and will power kept me hooked from the very beginning. Melissa Bashardoust takes stories from Persian mythology and makes a fascinating queer fairytale with many elements from Sleeping Beauty. The secrets told in the most unexpected times compels the readers to think deeper into the true meaning of “monster” and what it takes to be a hero. Told in the perspective of Soraya herself, we see the loneliness she had been through firsthand, allowing us to relate to and perhaps find ourselves in her story.

-Saanvi V.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.