If you’d like to read more literary interestingness, this blog is also a book – or rather, two books. One’s a quirky literary history and the other is a curious literary guidebook…
Oliver Tearle, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History.
‘If Oliver Tearle’s book is half as interesting as his website Interesting Literature, his Twitter feed and his Huffpost blog, it’s going to be very interesting indeed’ (John Lloyd CBE, creator of the BBC TV series QI)
‘A fascinating and engagingly genial stroll through several hundred years of literary anecdote and insight. Tearle is wonderfully good company as of course are the protagonists themselves’ (Simon Evans, comedian)
‘If you love books, you’ll need this one’ (Marcus Berkmann, Daily Mail)
This is our own book, written by the founder-editor of Interesting Literature. It’s a whistle-stop tour of 3,000 years of Western history that brings to light forgotten classics and rare gems among the world of books: everything from the first English travel book written by an eccentric explorer (and compulsive walker) to the role Lord Byron played in the writing of the first vampire novel.
Along the way the book also takes in Edgar Allan Poe’s surprising bestseller on snails, what really happened at the Chatterley trial, and how an ancient Syrian joker invented the genre of science fiction. This wonderful animated video by Gemma Green-Hope gives a taste of what else can be found in the book. You can also get a flavour of the book from our Secret Library column here on this blog. In another post, we’ve discussed some of the treasures to be found within the book – you can read that post, on surprising literary firsts, here.
Oliver Tearle, Britain by the Book: A Curious Tour of Our Literary Landscape.
‘… full of … inconsequential but delightful facts’ (Nick Rennison, Daily Mail)
This is Tearle’s follow-up to The Secret Library, and rather than being a historical tour it’s a geographical one. It explores why the West Country has just as much of a claim to being the birthplace of English Romanticism as the Lake District, how King Arthur’s court was originally at Celliwig rather than Camelot, and how there was a Nando’s in London in 1696, among much else.
The book also reveals how the first thesaurus was compiled by a Manchester-based librarian as a means of coping with depression, why it took three attempts to get the date of Burns Night right, what connects the ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ nursery rhyme to a Chinese takeaway in Devon, and how one man buying an old fire station in 1962, and naming his horse as Prime Minister in 1977, helped to transform Hay-on-Wye into the second-hand bookshop capital of the world.
More information about Britain by the Book can be found here. You can read a review of the book here.