Hi and welcome to the second edition of What Books Have Taught Me! I told you a few months ago (ICYMI) that my OH dared question what I had learned from reading fiction. He did not realise what he had started, no sirree 😂
So what have books taught me over the last six month or so? Well, I learned:
- Some new vocabulary: the little white butterfly we call “koolwitje” in Dutch is called “cabbage white” in English, which is pretty much a literal translation, I had no idea (The Whisper Man, Alex North) Another word I’ve noticed is “morass”, I had no idea it existed and could be used as an alternative to bog or marsh, it’s very similar to the Dutch word for bog which is “moeras”.
- The correct spelling of the vest that bikers wear is kutte, not cut (Bad Bastards, Paul Heatley)
- There is such a thing as a slowworm (Last of the Magpies, Mark Edwards) and it’s not at all as slow as its name would have you think. (The Undoing of Arlo Knott, Heather Child)
- Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for arsenic to be used in wallpaper (The Girl in Red, Christina Henry). Speaking of poison, books also taught me that cyanide smells like almonds (The Corset, Laura Purcell) and that there’s cyanide in apple seeds (can’t remember what the book was, but the fact stuck). Very recently, I also learned how cyanide works, namely it stops the body from being able to use oxygen, so heart muscle cells and nerve cells and all the other cells die, and naturally so does the poisoned person. (Here To Stay, Mark Edwards)
- There is a Cornish language. (In Her Wake, Amanda Jennings)
- Icelandic supermarkets are forbidden by law to sell booze (Snare, Lilja Sigurðardóttir)
- Moses Harvey in the 19th century kept a dead giant squid in his bathtub (Death Comes to Dartmoor, Vivian Conroy)
- There are no ants in Iceland (Trap, Lilja Sigurðardóttir)
- The US state of Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012 (Sanctuary, V.V. James)
- I don’t like Sherlock Holmes; I think he’s rather pedantic and prone to mansplaining (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle)
- And a related realization: I don’t like to be told the conclusions of mysteries or thrillers. I prefer to see the mystery unravelling, to be shown the truth, one little kernel at a time. In my opinion, the closing chapter should not be one man explaining the whole novel. (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle)
- Having two different-coloured eyes is called heterochromia. Some cultures (e.g. Native Americans) refer to them as “ghost eyes”, believing they have the ability to look to both heaven and earth or that they’re a witch. (A Killing Fire, Faye Snowden)
- There’s a music style called Zydeco (and I actually quite like it, who even am I) (A Killing Fire, Faye Snowden)
- There are houses called shotgun houses (or double-barrel shotgun if it’s a duplex): there’s a front door, a couple of rooms lined up one after the other, and a back door, all in one straight line. (A Killing Fire, Faye Snowden)
- When the queen ant dies, the rest of her colony dies too. I looked it up, it’s not like they drop dead right away, it’s just that she reproduces, and when she dies there’s no reproduction and so the colony slowly dies. (Noirville: Tales From The Dark Side, Chris McVeigh)
- The collective noun for a group of pandas is “embarrassment”: an embarrassment of pandas. (Animal Instinct, Simon Booker)
- There can be a symbiotic relationship between a honey badger and a bird: honey badgers can’t find honey, birds can find honey but can’t access it, so the bird finds the honey and leads the badger to it, the badger eats its portion and leaves the rest for the bird. (Animal Instinct, Simon Booker)
- Fingerprint technology to unlock a phone doesn’t work when the person is dead because it relies on electrical charge. I looked it up, it’s not quite that black and white. Scientists think it might work if the person died very recently (this is just an assumption, it has not been researched, for obvious reasons). Moreover, some unlock functions rely on other or additional technology, which might work on a dead finger. (Here To Stay, Mark Edwards)
- The term “bucket list” comes from the expression “to kick the bucket”. (The Testaments, Margaret Atwood)
- The month of February is named after the god of the Underworld and purification. Which I find interesting because it’s my birth month. (The Bird Tribunal, Agnes Ravatn)
- Hybristophilia or Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome is being attracted to and turned on by criminals. (Snakes and Ladders, Victoria Selman)
- There is a condition called “ocular migraine”. It causes temporary vision loss or distortion (blind spots, auras, etc.) and it’s usually quite harmless, even painless. ( (All the Wrong Places, Joy Fielding)
I also learned about:
- Wall Street proceedings and investment banking (The Escape Room, Megan Goldin)
- Serial killers and cults (Nothing Important Happened Today, Will Carver)
- Franco’s reign of terror in Spain, not only was it much more atrocious than I thought, but also much longer. (Blood Song, Johanna Gustawsson)
- Folk tales and lore (Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women, Sharon Blackie)
- Pascal’s Wager: the smart thing to do is to (try to) believe in God, because if you believe in God but there is no God, you lose nothing, but if you bet against his existence and you’re wrong, you lose everything, you go to hell. I looked it up and found that this is a philosophical argument presented by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century. Wikipedia says the following: “Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).” (The God Game, Danny Tobey)
Please please please, if someone rolls their eyes at you because they think reading fiction is “only” entertainment, send them my way, ’cause this is A LOT of information that I’ve learned that I would not have known otherwise! Being entertained and learning at the same time, it’s a winning combo in my book!
Do you feel you learn from the books you read? And if you do, do you consider it a nice little extra, or is it an prerequisite, do you read to learn?
Whatever your reasons for reading, I hope you have fun doing it, happy reading xxx
I love learning new things and often find myself looking up things I’ve read in a book. Although, I did become a tad wary of doing that since googling something from Black Summer by Mike Craven. Kind of wish I hadn’t. 😂
Okay, noted, if I have questions when reading Black Summer I’ll just ask you 😂
I love this sort of info! An embarrassment of pandas 😄 how cute! I love learning new things from books too and I tend to rate them higher automatically. The last book that held interesting info was Red Snow about life in The High North. They can’t just bury the dead in the ground you know when it’s so icy, sometimes they have to use heaters to thaw the ground, and sometimes they are not buried for a while. Just a tidbit that stuck with me.
Thanks Inge, me too 😊 As Red Snow is still on my TBR you might find that particular tidbit in part 3 of my What Books Have Taught Me series, although technically I’ve learned it from you 😂
Dunno what a slow worm is (i don’t think i should google it in the office), but it’s prolly something i don’t wanna know anyway. Sounds gross :/
There was an Agatha Christie book as well, can’t remember the title, but Poirot sniffed the dead lady and figured out the poison based on her almond smell 😀
I absolutely love finding out random info while reading books!
Thank you! A slowworm is a kind of lizard but it looks like a snake so it looks very reptilian but not gross (at least not to me 😄) I LIVE for these kinds of random facts 😂
This post is brilliant! You make me want to keep track of little facts next year so I can throw data at people the next time they say they don’t get why I read fiction. I don’t necessarily read to learn, but it’s always nice when a book teaches your something you didn’t know before! I love historical fiction for that reason for example. Also, you totally made me realize I actually have ocular migraines sometimes? It happens to me every now and then but I never actually went to the doctor to ask about it… But I looked it up and it sounds exactly like what I have. So even your blog post about learning things through fiction taught me something! Throw that at people the next time they complain. 😉 xD
Oh wow Yvo that’s brilliant, I love that!!
I love it when books teach me things, and actually, most of them do. Whether about something specific, or about human relationships. I love this post! x
Thanks so much Meggy! There so much to learn from books, about the world and about yourself and making these posts always makes me happy 😊