Stranger Than Fiction

Some true stories are so weird, so different, or even so funny that we can hardly believe they aren't made up. Here's a sampling of what we mean.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

By Simon Winchester

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There are two tales in this page-turner. One is how the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was compiled, which is fascinating in itself; and the other is a gripping story of a convicted murderer who spends his life sentence as a major contributor to the OED. This one stays in your mind for a long, long time.

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Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders, an Urban Historical

By Franz Lidz

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“Homer and Langley Collier moved into their handsome brownstone in white, upper-class Harlem in 1909. By 1947, however, when the fire department was forced to lower Homer's dead body by rope out of the house he hadn't left in nearly a decade, the neighborhood had degentrified, and the Collyers' home had become a sealed fortress of junk. Dedicated to preserving the past, the brothers had held on to virtually everything they had ever touched. …The front-page scandal of the discovery of Homer's body and the worldwide search for his brother, Langley, is interwoven with the heartbreaking story of the author's uncle Arthur, whose own tower of 'stuff' topples when he is blindsided by a mysterious and seductive femme fatale.”

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