The Book of Lost Books: Book summary and reviews of The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly

The Book of Lost Books

An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read

by Stuart Kelly

The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2006
    368 pages
    Genre: Short Stories & Essays

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Book Summary

In an age when deleted scenes from Adam Sandler movies are saved, it’s sobering to realize that some of the world’s greatest prose and poetry has gone missing. This witty, wry, and unique new book rectifies that wrong. Part detective story, part history lesson, part exposé, The Book of Lost Books is the first guide to literature’s what-ifs and never-weres. In compulsively readable fashion, Stuart Kelly reveals details about tantalizing vanished works by the famous, the acclaimed, and the influential, from the time of cave drawings to the late twentieth century.

Whether destroyed (Socrates’ versions of Aesop’s Fables), misplaced (Malcolm Lowry’s Ultramarine was pinched from his publisher’s car), interrupted by the author’s death (Robert Louis Stevenson’s Weir of Hermiston), or simply never begun (Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, America, a second volume of his memoirs), these missing links create a history of literature for a parallel world. Civilized and satirical, erudite yet accessible, The Book of Lost Books is itself a find.

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Media Reviews

"Never let it be said that there are too many books in the world when so many great ones got away – all those books we don’t have because they were variously left on trains, burned, lost, neglected, abandoned, unstarted, or cruelly cut short by the author’s demise. After reading Stuart Kelly’s clever and enjoyable book, you will feel positively grateful that any survived at all." –Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

"Inevitably, the thesis is more charming than the lengthy execution, and one suspects this would have been much more effective in condensed form as a whimsical article in Harper's or the Atlantic." - PW.

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PW's comment about this book perhaps being better as a 'whimsical article' hit a nerve with me, as I first read about The Book of Lost Books in a newspaper article about 6 months ago (I believe it was an article in an Australian newspaper). As such I can certainly vouch for the fact that it does make an interesting article, but I can also see that it's quite possible that the content, when spread out in book form, may wear a little thin.

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