Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: Stories Behind Everyday Things

Three hundred alphabetized articles and special features throughout this handy-dandy volume provide a wealth of information for the aspiring author--who knows something exists but isn't quite sure when it came into being or how it got its name.

The entries are arranged in the table of contents like a dictionary's guidewords. For example:
Acronym - Automobile

If you can't find what you're looking for that way, try the comprehensive index.

Before you begin searching, you might want to spend some time just leafing through the pages to look at the vintage illustrations/photographs. Did you know that the first safety pin originated in the Bronze Age? How about a glimpse into a Duncan Phyfe tool chest circa late 18th-early 19th century? Or the snake-ring bracelet created for actress Sarah Bernhardt?

Each section is filled with special features (in addition to the entries) detailing customs (for example, signals at auctions, blind dates, and kissing), the origin of words and expressions  (bringing home the bacon and busman's holiday),  and people (the chewing gum king and Mr. Broadcasting).

Longer articles on advertising, designs, images, renderings, and technical genius are full of unusual pictures from ads for men's "cool, knee-length underwear" for summer to the invention of an 1868 "corpse preserver" and a musical sewing machine cover--so the kiddies can dance while you make their clothes!

So if you're writing a story set in times gone by, add realism to your tale by researching the origins of some of the things we take for granted today. 

Stories Behind Everyday Things published by The Reader's Digest Association, 1980 (I found my copy for $5.98 at Half-Price Books!)

Disclaimer: I own the book and reviewed it here strictly as a resource for my fellow writers. No remuneration, other than the satisfaction of sharing information, has come my way.


nlindabrit said...

This sounds like another 'must have' for a writer who cares about the accuracy and authenticity of their work.

K9friend said...

You find the most interesting books! This one would be a lot of fun to browse.

Mary Ricksen said...

I need this book!

Mona Risk said...

What a useful book. It must as fun to read as it is useful.

Tory Richards said...

I agree with nlindabrit, a must have resource book for authors. A couple books I also use for reference now and again are: The Romantic Phrase Book, and The Book of Answers.