Quick book picks for October

In this, the spookiest of months, I’ve got some historical gothic and YA horror as well as the next in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and some distinctive short books. As usual, links to longer reviews from the titles.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – A hugely enjoyable YA horror/thriller novel with a biracial protagonist. Perfect for teens and adults wanting to relive Point Horror and similar books.
  • Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn – I have mixed feelings about Aubyn’s Hogarth Shakespeare novel (and about its source text, King Lear), but the darkly comic tone will appeal to some and it is interesting to see which elements have been kept and changed.
  • All The Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler – Raucous and blunt, the Series of Unfortunate Events author takes on the teenage boy’s mind in this short novel.
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott – A character-focused novel about Irish American Catholics in New York, sure to delight fans of that kind of narrative.
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – This historical gothic tale about a widow staying in her husband’s old house is eerie and the titular silent companions will haunt you long after the final page.
  • The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler – A non-fiction treat to dip into, in which Fowler provides snappy short chapters on a range of forgotten authors, including crime, mystery, and more general works.

The Book of Forgotten Authors

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.