81 years ago today, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, was first published to wide critical acclaim in London. So successful it was that the publisher requested a sequel, which led to the masterful trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit, set in a time elves and wizards, follows the quest of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, along with 13 dwarves, to win back a stolen treasure guarded by a fierce dragon. Bilbo’s adventure leads him from his light-hearted, rural homeland on a true Hero’s Journey—and back, again. In 2012, the book became a film starring Martin Freeman. (1937)

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus letter was published in the New York Sun answering the question from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon (1897)
  • 68 years ago today, the actor and comedian Bill Murray–a recipient of the Twain Prize for American Humor–was born (1950)
  • Independence Day in Malta, from Britain (1964); Belize, from Britain (1981); and Armenia, from the Soviet Union (1991)
  • America: A Tribute to Heroes was broadcast by over 35 network and cable channels, raising over $200 million for victims of the September 11 attacks (2001)
  • Today is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace and the start of our #DoItForPeace 10-day campaign to get a billion people to each do a single act for peace (you can be counted, and here’s how)

And, on this day in 1866, the prolific British writer and thinker HG Wells was born. An accident in his young life that left him bedridden with a broken leg was the spark that fanned Herbert George’s love of books and stimulated his desire to write.H G Wells

Sometimes called The Father of Science Fiction, he wrote The Time Machine, when he was 29 years old, and also authored The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. But Wells, a trained scientist, wrote in many genres, including novels, history, politics, social commentary, and textbooks, His frequent focus on class inequality made him a worthy successor to Charles Dickens.

Wells, whose religious views were neither monotheistic nor doctrinaire, was disdainful of America for not allowing African-Americans to vote and for the overall treatment they received from society. In his later years he apologized for earlier statements opposing the Jewish state and Zionist movement—partly because it was so antithetical to his vision of a collective socialist solidarity and “one world” political model. A diabetic, Wells co-founded the charity Diabetes UK, before his death from the disease at age 79.

Happy 71st Birthday to author Stephen King, whose 56 bestselling horror, science fiction, and suspense novels include Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, and Misery. Abandoned by his father when he was two, King spent his childhood poring over horror books, comic books, and films.

Photo by pinguino k., CC license

At age 26, before his first novel Carrie became a success, a discouraged King had thrown an early draft of the story into the trash, but his wife retrieved it and encouraged him to finish the manuscript. Currently, the new film, IT, is on track to pass The Exorcist as the highest-grossing horror film of all-time.

King’s books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted for films, including Shawshank Redemption. The prolific award-winning writer penned a memoir in 2000 called On Writing. His wife of 47 years, Tabitha, has written six novels, and both their sons are also published authors. His new book out this week is a collaboration with his son Owen, a story set in a women’s prison, entitled Sleeping Beauties: A Novel. (1947)

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