Find your new favourite author you’ve never heard of: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler
The Book of Forgotten Authors is a charming journey through ninety-nine authors who are mostly under-read today though more popular in their time, with sporadic short essays in between the summaries of the authors and their major works and charms. The writers are mostly from the late nineteenth and early half of the twentieth century, though there are some older and slightly more recent ones too, and they span from forgotten women writing mystery and ghost stories to questionable taste comedy that perhaps ought to stay out of print. It is a book that can be read cover to cover or dipped in and out of for a taste of various authors.
Fowler does well to keep the book engaging, with each author’s chapter not spanning more than a few pages and the short essays only a few more. This quick pace makes it easy to enjoy, and it is exciting to come across an author you’ve heard of, never mind ones you’ve read (as a Byron and Shelley fan, it was exciting to find Thomas Love Peacock in there). On the other hand, it is a great way to discover new books to read, especially for fans of crime and mystery.
A few entries are a little uncomfortable as Fowler describes how the writers’ works are clearly problematic or very much a product of their time, but there’s others that are described as seeming ahead of the curve, precursors to more popular later works. He highlights how many of the stories written by the ninety nine authors have been made into more famous films and TV adaptations, another way in which the book can spark off recollections as well as new discoveries, and there are comparisons to popular authors and modern pop culture to help the reader imagine where these ‘forgotten’ authors might fit in.
The Book of Forgotten Authors is a clearly a labour of love and it is a great read for book lovers, particularly as a gift for someone looking for new reading inspiration or interested in lesser known writers. It’s a bit hard to read without pausing to search online for some of the books or trying to work out where you recognise a writer’s name from, but its short sections make it easy to pick up and put down as necessary.