Did You Know . . . ?

River Road Recipes

Self-publishing is not new, it’s just much easier now.  Here are a few examples of books that were self-published years ago, and have done quite well – even being picked up by major publishers in some cases.

A cookbook that is a standard here in Louisiana is River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine which was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1959.  Over 1.3 million copies have been sold.   Talk About Good is a cookbook published by the Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana, and it is also very popular.  Both groups have published additional cookbooks which are also highly recommended, but be aware that south Louisiana cooking is spicy compared to food of some other areas.

William Strunk, Jr. originally self-published The Elements of Style for the use of the students in his English classes at Cornell University.  One of his former students, author E. B. White, would later work with Strunk on revisions of the book.  The Elements of Style, now published by Longman, has sold over 10 million copies since its creation in 1918.

The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was originally published in 1931 by the First Unitarian Women’s Alliance in St. Louis.  It was eventually picked up by Scribners, and still sells about 100,000 copies each year.

What Color Is Your Parachute, a self-help book that has sold millions of copies, was originally self-published by Episcopal priest Richard Nelson.

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The prolific writer Isaac Asimov felt that the play R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by the Czech writer Karel Ĉapek was second-rate except for the fact that in it Ĉapek used the word robot for the first time.  Regardless of his disdain for the play, Asimov used the new word and coined the word robotics for use in his own science fiction writings.  In his 1942 short story “Runaround” he introduced The Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

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Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham was written by Dr. Seuss after his editor challenged him to write a book using no more than 50 different words.  The 50 words are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, and you.

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The first film studies degree was offered by the University of Southern California beginning in 1932.

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I have been reading books about the history of mankind recently, and have read in two different books about the fact that humans (like all other mammals) naturally stop drinking milk when they stop breast feeding.  At that point our bodies normally cease production of the enzyme lactase that is essential to the digestion of lactose from any source.  So, it is abnormal for us to drink milk throughout our lives.  Cows were not originally kept for their milk, but as a source of meat, and possibly to perform tasks like pulling heavy objects.

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The Man Who Mistook

In 1985 the noted neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks penned a book titled The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It is about people with very unusual neurological problems.  In 1986 the chapter that provided the book’s title was made into a one act chamber opera by Michael Nyman and Christopher Rawlence.  CBS Masterworks released a recording of the opera in 1988.

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Poet Ogden Nash is probably best known to most people for his delightful limericks, but he also wrote the lyrics for two Broadway Musicals: One Touch of Venus (1943) with music by Kurt Weill and Two’s Company (1952) with music by Vernon Duke.  “Speak Low,” one of the songs in One Touch of Venus, is still a standard in popular American music.  It was sung in the original production by Mary Martin and Kenny Baker – two very popular singers of the time.

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Many an auto mechanic has avidly studied the pages of the auto repair manuals published by the Chilton Publishing Company (and left their greasy fingerprints on their pages to prove it).  It was also the publishing company that took a chance on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune after it had been rejected by 20 other publishers.

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Schindler's List

Australian writer Thomas Keneally originally intended to become a priest, but after spending seven years in studying for the priesthood decided that was not the life for him.  He has written a number of books, but his reputation is mostly based on one book, Schindler’s Ark (1982), which was the basis for the 1993 hit movie Schindler’s List.

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Roald Dahl, best known as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the film version was titled Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), was buried with a number of interesting objects that included some upscale chocolate, some excellent burgundy, some HB pencils, and a power saw.

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If you go to Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Key West, Florida you will find that there are many cats on the property that are descendants of cats that he kept as pets.  You will also find that many of them have six toes.  Such cats are commonly referred to as “Hemingway cats.”

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