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13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition Hardcover – October 5, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (October 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568583060
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568583068
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 4.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fast-moving and entertaining." -- Kirkus Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Love it or hate it, everybody has an opinion about unlucky 13 . . .

"Thirteen is a lucky number." --Oscar Wilde

"Most hotels very sensibly do not have 13th floors. . . . When I am reading, I will not stop on page 94, page 193, page 382, et al. -- the digits of these numbers add up to 13." --Stephen King

"Thirteen is a lucky number for me. . . . There are thirteen letters in my name, and in my thirteenth year at Princeton University I became its thirteenth president. Thirteen has been my lucky number right along." --Woodrow Wilson

"Friday the 13th may not be exactly unlucky, but it hasn’t done us a whole lot of good." --Will Rogers

"Silly superstition that about thirteen." --James Joyce, Ulysses

"An unlucky day, that was . . . Friday, and the 13th -- what could you expect?" --Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Mr. Quin

"Thirteen! Ah, that is indeed a lucky number." --L. Frank Baum, The Patchwork Girl of Oz


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We live in a scientifically advanced world, but every time Friday the thirteenth comes around, people notice it. They may shrug it off as silly, but they continue to think that the day has some special portent, and most people think that the tradition goes back centuries. One of the many surprises in _13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition_ (Thunder's Mouth Press) by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer is that although the superstition that the number 13 is unlucky has a substantial history, superstition attached specifically to Friday the thirteenth is no older than the twentieth century. Lachenmeyer's book is an enjoyable tour looking at the different 13 superstitions (there are many of them), trying to make historic sense of why people have adopted this number as some sort of portentous sign. Lachenmeyer came to the subject by chance, reading an article in an old scrapbook about the Thirteen Club, but has never had any particular feeling toward the number: "To me, 13 has always been just a number. I have never believed that 13 is unlucky or been tempted to thumb my nose at fate and make it my lucky number (I don't have one)." He is not a triskaidekaphobe (13 fearer) or triskaidekaphile (13 lover), but there are plenty of both, especially the former, in these pages. In some ways, they have formed parts of the world as we now know it.

Friday the thirteenth is just the most popular, and modern, manifestation of superstitions connected to thirteen, but there is no evidence that thirteen was considered unlucky before the seventeenth century. It first was written about in 1695, in a story involving a dinner at which thirteen were seated around the table. The superstition that one of the thirteen diners would die within the year became strongest during the nineteenth century.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kovacs on December 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unlucky 13 is a superstition that has been with us for a long, long time. So why has it taken a long, long time for our writers to finally ask the question: where did Unlucky 13 come from? Fortunately Nathaniel Lachenmeyer not only dares to ask the question but also shrewdly proceeds to answer it and explain the myth's development from a variety of alternate perspectives: religious, psychologial, educational, social, etc. You can tell this is a guy who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty--he willingly digs through old newspaper clippings and obscure books that are centuries old, in search of historical clues that pinpoint the legend of unlucky 13. One of the most redeeming qualities of this book is the amount of work the writer has obviously put into the delivery of a quality product. I had no idea (before reading 13) that one origin of the superstition was The Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 disciples) or that a popular social club in the early 20th century was created for the sole purpose of debunking the myth of Unlucky 13 at a dinner table (the details of which I shall leave to your reading.) Mr. Lachenmeyer also reveals a gift for recognizing nuance. "Friday, the 13th" as listed in an early 20th century edition of the New York Times eventually becomes a few years later "Friday the 13th" (without a comma!) revealing a subtle but very real hint of how popular perception of that day changed in a short time. You can do worse with your time than put yourself in Mr. Lachenmeyer's talented hands. His attention to detail, his perceptive intelligence and reverberating eagerness to reseach the heck out of "13" and get to the bottom of this popular superstition help create a reading experience that will leave you satisified, entertained and in possession of a great topic for your next dinner-time conversation. Well done!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nancy S. Hemmes on October 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is chock full of surprising historical and contemporary information on people's beliefs and feelings about the number 13. One of the first surprises is that, in addition to people who are afraid of 13, there are people who have equally strong positive reactions. Mr. Lachenmeyer gives us a charming history of Thirteen Clubs whose members, many of them influential, met over dinner specifically to flout superstitions, including those about the number 13. Fear of 13 is often associated with the history of Christianity, and the book describes the role of 13 in the Last Supper and in the story of the Knights Templar. A section dealing with contemporary beliefs about the Templars will be of interest to devotees of Dan Brown.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Halevi Bloom on October 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Mr Lachenmeyer has written a very interesting and fascinating book about the number 13, and it will be read widely around the world, especially in countries and cultures which do not understand why the Western world is so afraid of the number. In my own family, we were taught by our father to see 13 as a positive number rather than an unlucky number, because Pops was born on August 13, 1915, and he taught all us kids to perceive 13 as a good number. So we did. Brainwashing works. I still find the number 13 to be a charming, loving warm number, and thanks to Mr Lachenmeyer (whose name has almost 13 letters, but not quite!) for turning his fixation into a great book for the entire world to enjoy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C M Magee on March 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are probably scads and scads of books like 13. I've seen them in libraries and used book stores. They are books that take on one topic and mine it for endless anecdotes and historical curios, but they don't claim that by looking through the prism of the topic at hand, a reader can discern the entire arc of human history. The books are about what they are about, and all you need to do as a reader is sit back and be entertained and informed. John McPhee, who is very good at this sort of thing, once wrote a book entirely about Oranges, for example. Nathaniel Lachenmeyer does this sort of thing well, too. His book is an impeccably researched look at an old superstition. With every turn of the page the reader is presented with another odd relic that Lachenmeyer has dug up for our perusal: the existence of popular superstition-defying "13 clubs" at the beginning of the 20th century, for example. And onward the book moves through Friday the 13th, the missing 13th floor, and all the rest. Taken as a whole, the book is a nifty piece of well-researched reportage bringing to light the many murky progenitors of this now commonplace superstition.
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