The sub-title for “The Book of Lost Books” is “an incomplete history of all the great books you’ll never read” which is a pretty good description of the kind of book Stuart Kelly has created. Each chapter is a short story about how a book or books may have been lost and some facts about the authors and their loss. I found something interesting in each chapter.

For example, in the chapter about the ancient Greek playwright Menander, Kelly writes about the time Menander was late in producing a play for a festival. Pressed by the actors, musicians and set designers for a completion date, the playwright replied: “The play is done. All that remains is to write the dialogue.”

Then there is story of Ernest Hemingway’s early manuscripts. The year was 1922 and Hemingway’s wife was travelling with a case that contained all that he had written. Then the unthinkable happened: the case was stolen! Hemingway never recovered the case. He was around 23 years old at the time and it would be another 4 years before his first novel would be published. Perhaps that was the incident that led Hemingway to adopt the motto: “one must (above all) endure”.

So if you like books, and books about books, I would recommend “The Book of Lost Books”.

Title: The Book of Lost Books
Sub-Title: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read
Author: Stuart Kelly
Publisher: Polygon
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 978-184697-1235
Website: http://www.birlinn.co.uk/Polygon.html

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