• The 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe is thought to be the first novel written in the English language. Author Daniels Defoe’s name did not appear on the title page of the book’s first edition, leading readers to believe that Crusoe was a real person who was a castaway on a remote island for 28 years. The book begins, “I was born in the year 1632, in the City of York, of a good family,” stating later that Crusoe’s birth name was Robinson Kreutznaer. Defoe was a prolific writer, writing upwards of 300 works on a variety of topics, including religion, marriage, politics, crime, and the supernatural.
• Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 masterpiece War and Peace was originally entitled War, What Is It Good For?” With more than 1,400 pages, the book, which chronicles the French invasion of Russia, has 587,287 words. The average reader, reading about 300 words per minute, could complete the book by reading non-stop for 1 day, 6 hours, and 26 minutes. The opening line of this classic is “Well, my prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than possessions, estates, of the Buonaparte family.”
• Another Tolstoy classic Anna Karenina, is the story of the Russian socialite Anna and her relationship with Russian aristocrat Count Vronsky. The 800+-page novel was published in 1878, and opens with, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
• The Princess Bride is a 1973 fantasy romance by William Goldman. It’s the story of the beautiful farm girl Buttercup during the Renaissance who agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck following the loss of her love, the farmhand Westley. The opening line reads, “This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”
• Before The Hundred and One Dalmatians there was I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith’s first novel, published in 1949. (Dalmatians didn’t come along until 1956.) The family of the main character, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, resides in a decaying castle during the 1930s, living in “genteel poverty” as their former fortune spiraled downward. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink,” writes Cassandra, and goes on to relate the story of her eccentric family.
• The first sentence of George Orwell’s science fiction novel, 1984 is, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” It was Orwell’s ninth and final book, published in 1949, telling the story of a country controlled by an overbearing totalitarian government that manipulates every facet of society. Orwell coined the now popular term “Big Brother,” referring to the government’s mass surveillance of citizens. He also introduced the word “doublethink,” which refers to “the act of simultaneously aaccepting two mutually-contradictory beliefs as correct.”
• Ernest Hemingway started his last major work of fiction with, “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952, was the story of a Cuban fisherman named Santiago and his struggle with a giant marlin. Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for the work.

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