The Minimum Number of Books in Harvard’s Libraries That Are Bound in Human Flesh (and Other Fun Facts from Harper’s Index)

The following citations are culled from a search of Harper’s Index that used the term “literature.” (If it’s not obvious, the numbers before each datum are the month and year that Harper’s originally published the datum in its Index)–

5/84    Percentage of Americans who say they never read books: 45

Percentage of these who can’t read: 13

12/87  Number of direct-mail solicitations sent to Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond this year: 90

4/87   Copies of Gabriel García Márquez’s new book burned by the Chilean government last November: 15,000

2/88   Exclamation points in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities: 2,343

10/90   Number of years George Bush has been citing Bonfire of the Vanities as an example of his pleasure reading: 2

11/90   Number of Georgia third-graders Representative Newt Gingrich paid $2 for every book they read last summer: 282

3/91   Percentage of American households in which no books were bought last year: 60

12/92   Chances that an attempt to ban or restrict access to school materials or books last’ year was successful: 2 in 5

6/94   Amount Random House lost on the 29 of its books included on the 1993 New York Times Notable Books list: $698,000

11/95   Estimated number of books banned since 1965 in Indonesia: 2,000

3/95   Amount for which a Mississippi man attempted to sue “the Bible” last year, citing it as “oppressive hearsay”: $45,000,000

5/95   Tons of remaindered books destroyed in the United States each year: 250,000

5/95   Number of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays quoted on the Senate floor last year by Robert Byrd: 37

9/95   Percentage of Americans who own at least five Bibles: 27

9/95   Number of California library books of modern American poetry from which pages have been reported stolen this year: 250

1/00   Estimated temperature of Hell, according to two Spanish physicists ‘ interpretation of the Bible: 832° F

Estimated temperature of Heaven: 448°F

3/00  Number of Playboy centerfold models since 1959 whose bios claimed their favorite book was by Ayn Rand: 12

9/00   Ratio of the number of copies of The Great Gatsby sold each month in the U.S. to the number sold in the author’s lifetime: 5:3

9/03   Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner: 300

6/04   Minimum number of the brand names mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses that are still extant: 28

Number of the brand holders that are sponsoring Dublin’s centennial Bloomsday celebration this month: 2

9/06   Minimum number of books in Harvard’s libraries that are bound in human flesh: 2