Thursday, August 13, 2020

Challenge: Answer The Internet’s Most-Searched Questions About Books

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I’m a book nerd. Most of my life has revolved around books. Seriously, I’m obsessed. I read 100 of them every year. I’ve been a book reviewer for 7 years. I have a master’s degree in children’s literature and have worked in publishing. Since I don’t have human friends, I spend most of my free time reading book blogs and watching BookTube. I’ve even waded knee-deep into the raging dumpster fire that is book Twitter. If someone has a question about books, you’d think I’d know the answer, right?

Today, I’m going to put my bookish knowledge to the test. I’m attempting to answer the Internet’s most-asked questions about books. How did I find these questions? I went on Google and started typing. They popped up.

Let’s find out how many I can answer. The questions in green are the ones I knew without Google’s help. The questions in red stumped me. I had to Google them.

Challenge: Answer The Internet’s Most-Searched Questions About Books

1. What books should I read?

This is a hard question to answer without knowing you. I suggest checking the lists page on Goodreads. On the right side of the page, you can search for book lists by genre or keyword. Instead of bringing up one book, the search brings up ranked lists of similar books. The Goodreads list page was astonishingly helpful to me during graduate school. I could quickly find giant lists of books about the same subjects.

If you want more book recommendations (+ some shameless self promotion), check out this post about my favorite books of the year. Or this one about the best classics.

2. What books did the Nazis burn?

The Nazis burned any book that did not support their ideology. They especially targeted books with sexual content and books written by authors who were religious (especially Jewish), pacifist, liberal, anarchist, socialist, communist, or not German. For more info on Nazi book burnings, check out the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

More info.

3. What books are in the Torah?

“Torah” is a complicated word to define. It can mean the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Or it can mean the entire Hebrew Bible. Or it can mean the entirety of Jewish teaching, which includes work that is not found in the Hebrew Bible. I guess the answer to this question depends on how you’re defining Torah.

4. Where books are printed?

Book manufacturing companies are located all over the world, but half of the world's books are printed in the US and China.

5. Why books should not be banned?

Books shouldn’t be banned because art is subjective and humans are all different. One person—or group of people—can’t speak for a whole community. A book that upsets one person may have saved another person’s life. It’s better to give people access to a ton of books and let each individual choose what’s right for themselves and their children.

6. Why books are better than movies?

I think books have two major advantages over movies.

First, books are (mostly) only limited by an author’s imagination. Books don’t have special effects budgets, and authors don’t have to cram their whole story into 1-3 hours of cinema time.

Second, it’s easier to “pause” the action in books. An author can explain a character’s thought process or spend pages talking about the history of the world. This gives the characters and fictional worlds a lot of depth. It’s harder to get interior monologue and backstory into movies because movies are more action-focused than books. There always needs to be something happening on the screen.

7. Why books are important?

Books are important because they educate people about the world while simultaneously allowing them to escape from it. Reading is a way to de-stress. Books can entertain, inform, challenge, inspire, and motivate their readers. Books spark creativity. They bring people together (hello, fellow book bloggers!) and promote empathy and communication. I have a feeling (hope?) that reading a ton of books will prevent my brain from collapsing into a lump of cold oatmeal when I’m old.

For some science about the benefits of reading, check out Psychology Today.

8. When books of the Bible were written?

The Christian Bible is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written at different points between approximately 1400 and 165 BC. The New Testament was written in the first century AD.

9. When books were invented?

Nobody knows! It depends on how you define “book.” Are tablets and scrolls books, or do books need to be bound along one edge and have multiple pages? If books require binding and pages, then you can argue that e-books and audiobooks aren’t books. That doesn’t seem fair.

The oldest objects that clearly look like books to me are codices. A codex is bound along one side and has pages and covers made of wood, metal, parchment, papyrus, or whatever else is handy. We don’t know exactly when, where, or why they were invented. They seem to have developed independently in different parts of the world.

The Codex Gigas

Amusingly, we do have an old sales pitch written by a poet who was trying to sell codices in Rome sometime between 84 and 86 AD. So . . . people have been pimping books for a long time.

Here’s the poet’s sales pitch:

You who long for my little books to be with you everywhere and want to have companions for a long journey, buy these ones which parchment confines within small pages: give your scroll-cases to the great authors—one hand can hold me.

Take my money, dude!

10. How books are printed?

Usually with offset lithography printing. Pictures and/or text are carved on thin metal plates with a laser. Between 8 and 48 book pages can fit on each plate. The plates are rolled into cylinders and put into a machine that covers them with water and oil-based ink. Ink sticks to the image areas and water sticks to the non-image areas. The inked area is stamped onto a soft rubber cylinder, which transfers the ink to the rubber. The rubber cylinder then rolls the ink image onto paper.

Book printing is basically a fast-paced version of the stamps and ink pads you played with as a kid. The biggest difference is that the “stamps” (metal plates) are never applied directly to the paper because they would wear out too quickly. Rubber is cheaper and more durable.

More info.

11. How books are published?

Usually, in one of these two ways:

In traditional publishing, an author gives their book to an agent who submits it to publishing companies and negotiates with the companies to get contracts for the author. A publishing company buys the rights to publish the work and pays the author royalties on sales. Editors at the publishing company help the author improve the quality of the work. The publishing company is also responsible for designing, printing, marketing, and distributing the book.

In self-publishing, the author handles the entire publishing process without the help of a publishing company. Some authors do everything themselves. Other authors hire editors, designers, and printers to produce their book. Self-published books are usually sold online or at book fairs and writing conferences.

12. Which books did Paul write?

I assume we’re talking about Paul the Apostle and not some random dude named Paul?

Much of the New Testament is made up of letters that Paul wrote to the leaders of different churches. Scholars believe that Paul wrote 13 or 14 letters: Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians, First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and (possibly) Hebrews.

The authorship of some of the letters is debated. Several of them may have been written by Paul’s followers and not by Paul himself.

13. Which books are the gospels?

The gospels are the first four books of the New Testament, which are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They tell the story of Jesus’s life. There are also a bunch of unofficial gospels.

14. Which books are on Kindle Unlimited?

Millions of them! Kindle Unlimited is an Amazon subscription service that gives users access to free e-books, audiobooks, and magazines. Click here to see the books that are currently available. Or, you can use the search bar on Amazon to look for whatever book you want. Eligible books will have the Kindle Unlimited logo near the prices.

15. Do books go in quotes?

No. According to MLA guidelines for Works Cited pages, titles of books, plays, films, newspapers, databases, and websites are italicized. Titles go in “quotation marks” if the source is part of a larger work. Put quotes around the titles of articles, essays, poems, blog posts, chapters, songs, and speeches.

16. Do books make you smarter?

Possibly? It depends if you believe that tests can actually measure intelligence. Kids who read books know more vocabulary words, which leads to better test scores. Reading is also good for older people because reading is a workout for your brain. Mentally stimulating activities can help slow mental decline as you age.

17. Do books have age ratings?

Not in the same way that movies have age ratings. Books have target audiences that work roughly like this:

Board book: Newborn and up.
Picture book: 3 and up.
Early reader / chapter book: 5 and up.
Middlegrade: 8 and up.
Young adult: 12 and up.

An easy way to find a book’s target audience is to check bookstore websites. Sites like Amazon sometimes list an age range for their books in the product details section.

I got 12/17 correct without Google's help.

How many questions could you answer?


  1. Well, I didn't know it was a test until the end... but I would have done fairly well on the test. That saying, I take note of this question: "DO BOOKS GO IN QUOTES?" While I agree with the answer, there are times I put books in quotes (like replying to a blog) because there is no way to italicize.

  2. 'Since I don’t have human friends, I spend most of my free time reading book blogs and watching BookTube.' - Goddamnit AJ, you weren't supposed to let other people know that bookworms aren't human! Now the secret's out! ;)

  3. This was a fun post! Lots of questions about religious texts, which I definitely wouldn't be able to answer!

  4. Love it! Twelve out of seventeen? Book Expert, I say.

  5. About ten I think! I loved your response to what books Paul wrote. Imagine the size of the post if you'd listed everything that every Paul wrote!

  6. Love it AJ!!! This was a clever post. I am going to safe it for my library post. You should think about making this a book tag, take some of the questions and invite us all to draft our own answers without the help of google. Just the little grey cells....

  7. Book nerds don't have time to human friends. All we need is a book to have hundreds of "wordy" friends. =P This is such a fun post! I don't understand how can someone ask "why books should not be banned." I would probably have answered to the Paul question will Paul Auster's books.

    Happy readings! ;)
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

  8. Okay this is too fun and creative, I am so impressed! I think you probably should have added a few "Random Paul" books haahha. I learned a lot in this post!

  9. I absolutely love this!! However, I reached a point where the word "book" no longer sounded like a word to me! haha

    This was such a fun read, and I actually did learn some cool facts from it. I'd love to see more of this in the future!

  10. What a clever post. I never would have thought about doing this!

  11. Fantastic post. Adding to this weeks Sunday Post Around the Blogosphere :)

  12. This is a great post. It always fascinates me what kind of questions people will actually Google.

  13. This was so much fun to read! You got a lot more than I would've. Great idea