In which a goofy trivia book leads to serious discussion topics

Well it has been a little while since I checked in here. Both the holidays and the flu intervened with my best-laid plans. You’d think by now my family (kids aged 8, 12, 15) would be able to do stuff without me constantly directing traffic <eyeroll>, but it turns out the older they get the more I am needed.

Anyway, while I was sick my husband made one of his massive trips to the library. My dear hubby has (undiagnosed) ADD which means, among other things, that he is quite an impulse shopper. I dread his trips to the grocery store because he always goes over budget and, what’s worse, comes home with all kinds of strange crap that we will never eat. Like powdered gravy mixes. Or weird tropical fruits. However, for the same reason I love it when he goes to the library because he always comes home loaded down with all kinds of strange books that I will happily consume. Books that — like powdered gravy mix — shouldn’t even exist. Ha ha, maybe I should do Library Loot posts about his hauls.

Anyway, one of the books he came home with was this unauthorized book about the New York Times bestseller lists, published in 1994 and now, not surprisingly, out of print. So no indiebound link for this one, alas. However, if your library has it, you can find out fascinating facts like what author had the shortest name (Amy Tan — only six letters total!), or that the only authors with the name Smith were Betty (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and Lillian (Strange Fruit), and they were consecutive #1s in 1944.

When I first flipped open the book I landed on page 154 and learned something that I actually do find fascinating. Are you old enough to remember the book Gnomes? I was in junior high when that book came out and ohhhhhhhh did I love it. Like all the other pre-teen girls I pored over that book, admiring the charming illustrations and straight-faced encyclopedia-style presentation. I didn’t really believe it, but it was so close to believable that it made my heart ache a little.

Anyway, page 154 of this goofy trivia book has something very interesting to say about Gnomes, which hit #1 in December of 1979. It turns out Gnomes didn’t just hit the #1 spot — it hit the #1 spot for nonfiction. That’s right, I said NONFICTION. The book explains:

As Ian Ballantine tells the story, when Gnomes made the list, the Times called him up to ask if it was fiction or nonfiction. He thought they were putting him on, so he said, “If it’s all true, then of course it’s nonfiction. And if it isn’t true, then it’s satire, which is also nonfiction.” The Times agreed, and Gnomes is officially nonfiction.

Is that not absolutely priceless?

So I have two discussion questions.

1. Is it true that satire is considered nonfiction? Should it be?

2. Should reference works about fictional topics be considered nonfiction?

What do you think?

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