Monday, December 29, 2014


J.R.R. Tolkien would be turning 123 years old this week—he was born on January 3, 1892. Were he alive now, he would be oldest human ever, but he would still fall eight years short of Bilbo Baggins’s hobbit record. Maybe you’re a Tolkienphile, and you knew that. Actually, I knew that, too. Tolkien’s books are what inspired me to become a writer. My oldest son’s middle name is “Balin.” I named my dog “Pippin.”

But there are J.R.R. Tolkien fans, and then there is Emil Johansson.

A Swedish chemical engineering student, Johansson first read The Lord of the Rings in 2000. A dozen years later, he published a website that he called the Lord of the Rings Project. He generally shortens it to LotrProject. That’s about all he does halfway.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


The closing lines of My Mantelpiece, the memoirs of civil rights icon Carolyn Goodman (published by Why Not Books in 2014), reflect a woman’s relentless pursuit of social conscience and her realization that the job is never done. In the twilight of her life, as she looked back on life lessons amid tragedy and triumph, Dr. Goodman recalled the following:

I once asked a question of a slightly younger friend: “What do you during the day?”
“Nothing,” she told me, offering a few minor examples that bolstered her statement. “What’s there to do?”
What’s there to do? I would always wonder instead: Is there time to do everything?

Last lines are final impressions. The cherry on top. The words that linger.  What follows are some of the best:

1. "He loved Big Brother." (1984 by George Orwell)

2. "I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before." (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)

3. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. 
I am haunted by waters.” (A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean)

4. “From here on in I rag nobody.” (Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris)

Saturday, December 13, 2014


How much would you pay for a first edition of a classic book? Fifty dollars? Maybe $100? How about several million bucks?  What follows is a list of the 14 highest known prices paid for manuscripts and books.
The first 13 largely represent iconic and ancient texts, although the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers didn’t quite make the list. And there are certainly classics among them, including works by Chaucer and Shakespeare, although original copies of Don Quixote and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland didn’t quite make the cut either. 
But the 14th book? That was auctioned off on December 13, 2007. And it may surprise you: 
1) $30.8 million—Codex Leicester
This collection of largely scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci was named after Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester, who purchased it in 1719. The 72-page original document is considered perhaps the most famous of his 30 journals, covering topics as varied as why fossils can be found in mountains and why the moon is luminous. Bill Gates bought it at Christie’s auction house in 1994. He had its pages scanned into digital image files, some of which were later offered as screen savers.

2) $21.3 million—Magna Carta
In an attempt to limit the King of England’s powers, proclaiming that his will was not arbitrary, the feudal barons of England created this 13th-century document, which got the ball rolling toward the rule of constitutional law. Important stuff. And expensive stuff (in 2007)—especially for what is believed to be a copy of a copy. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Leonard Da Vinci. Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Dr. Seuss. Really, has anyone been more inventive?

Consider the evil Once-ler in The Lorax, who stays in his Lerkim on top of his store, tells his story via a Whisper-Ma-Phone (his whispers coming down through a snergelly hose) and makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof. What exactly is a Lerkim or miff-muffered moff? How does a Whisper-Ma-Phone work? Does it matter?

Or how about little Cat Z from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, who removes his tiny hat to release VOOM, an unexplained bit of clean-up magic.  Or a Zans (good for opening cans, according to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish). Or Oobleck, the green, gummy goo that falls from the sky in the Kingdom of Didd. Or mile after mile of the Lorax’s beautiful Truffula Trees—“The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk. And they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk.” Unfortunately, the soft tufts can be knitted into Thneeds (a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need), which sells for $3.98.

So in the tradition of the good doctor, we at the Why Not 100 have created a store of sorts that sells imagination. We’re stocking it with a collection of 79 creations that can only be found (and named) in the pages of Dr. Seuss—from natural phenomena (Stickle-bush trees) and nutrients (Glunker Stew) to instruments (Three-Nozzled Bloozer) and ammunition (Kick-a-Doo Powder). We’ve even categorized them for you:

1. Whisper-Ma-Phone (The Lorax)
2. Audio Telly O-Tally O-Count (Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book)
3. Star-Off Machine (The Sneetches)