Stuart Kelly,
The Book of Lost Books
(Random House, 2005)

In his introduction to The Book of Lost Books, Stuart Kelly admits to being a tad obsessive about things, as well as to making lists of his various interests all his life. When he was introduced to Greek drama, he learned that though he might list them, he could never read all of the Greek dramas that had ever been written because a huge chunk of the subject had been lost. But that wasn't all: throughout history, all kinds of literature has been lost for all kinds of reasons. As Kelly puts it, "The entire history of literature was also the history of the loss of literature."

In The Book of Lost Books, Kelly shares with us his annotated list of literature that has been lost throughout history, beginning with good ol' Anonymous in pre-history and ending with Georges Perec in the 20th century. Along the way, he peeks in on such writers as Hesiod, Shakespeare, Jean Racine, Jane Austen, Emile Zola and Ernest Hemingway. Each author's entry, while mentioning the works that were not lost, goes into detail about the works that either were lost or never written.

Each entry contains a certain amount of humor, and while I can't recommend sitting down and reading straight through the book -- unless encyclopedias are your thing -- The Book of Lost Books is great fun in small doses.

review by
Laurie Thayer

4 July 2009

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