Book News

A literature-lover's almanac, of sorts, this highly entertaining collection of trivia and detail contains snippets, little-known facts, and stories from the various authors' lives (and deaths) for each day of the year. One may quibble with particular selections--influenced, doubtlessly, by the compilers' personal taste (he holds a doctorate in English, is a former editor at Amazon, and--perhaps more relevantly to the form and style of the book--is an eight-time Jeopardy! winner) but not the breadth of coverage. Birthdays and death dates are included (although, it seems, never for the same author), reading lists for each month, concentrating on books that reference it, or contain it as an integral part of their plots--and, of course, the heart of the book are the fragments themselves--stories, fictional and true, of the events that had happened on the day in question, in literature itself, or of authors' personal experiences. Browsing through the index of names is quite educational in itself--among many famous icons of literature one finds less-known but still excellent authors. In fact, the primary purpose of this book would be to introduce a person to the scale and scope of modern literature (primarily English language) and kindle their interest in it. Annotation ©2014 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Library Journal Reviews

The book seems simple, but what Seattle-based Nissley has done is a true labor of love. Not only has he collected dates that are auspicious for their fictional occurrences (as in Judy Reeves's A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life and Barry Moser's The Book of Fictional Days), but he has combined those with events that the writers experienced in real life. For example, we learn that author J.K. Rowling's birthday is the same as Harry Potter's—she's among many authors who slip their birthdays into their work—and that novelist Helene Hanff wrote her first letter to a London bookseller at Marks & Co. on October 5, 1949—beginning a 20-year correspondence that became her acclaimed memoir, 84, Charing Cross Road—the same date that Sylvia Beach of the London-based bookstore Shakespeare & Co. died in 1962. Delightful details abound, from how writers loved, lived, and celebrated, some to their peril, to publication dates, feuds, and facts about Ernest Hemingway's many injuries, all gleaned from letters, journals, and news accounts. The entries can be read in big chunks or day-by-day as a desk calendar. For each month, there is a short introduction and a page of recommended reading, and each day includes four to six entries. VERDICT A completely addictive compendium of details on favorite writers and books. The title gives away Nissley's real intent: this is also a spectacular reading list, with lovely pen-and-ink illustrations by Neborsky.—Linda White, Maplewood, MN

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

In his eclectic and wide-ranging, if uneven, collection of literary trivia for book lovers, delightfully illustrated by Neborsky, eight-time Jeopardy! champion and former bookseller Nissley offers an amalgam of anecdotes, quotes, reviews, diary entries, and letter excerpts. Each section begins with an introduction to a given month, as well as a list of recommended reading related to, or set during, that time of year. Each day then receives a page of its own, with lists of notable births and deaths, and short entries about events or publications that took place on that date. February 21 alone brings us details about Shakespeare, William James, Marcel Proust, and Alison Bechdel. Entries are by turns fascinating, obscure, and puzzling. A May 6 story about Emily Dickinson turning down a friend's offer to go walking in order to stay with her ill mother will break reader's hearts. Nissley occasionally blurs fact and fiction, with varying levels of success; some events from novels are listed as if real, and he assumes a certain level of familiarity with literature. Scholars should note there are no citations, though the collection will charm nonetheless. 100 illus. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)

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