When E.H. Gombrich wrote A Little History of the World in 1935, he hit on the ideal form for introducing readers to large subjects. Reprinted in 2008, that original Little History has inspired similar volumes on science, philosophy, language, and now, A Little History of Literature (Yale Univ., $25). By the eminent professor emeritus John Sutherland, this crisp yet conversational primer on the rich heritage of the written word focuses equally on individual works and writers, from Beowulf and the Bible to Midnight’s Children and the J.K. Rowling phenomenon, and on general subjects related to the production and reception of books. While Sutherland, whose expertise is English literature, gives the bulk of his survey to the British tradition, his overall historical trajectory encompasses the events—wars, revolutions, empires and their falls—that have influenced writing worldwide. Charting the decline as well as the rise of subjects and genres (fan fiction, anyone?), Sutherland is optimistic about the future of literature and its capacity to change as the world it reflects and informs changes. His best advice is simply, “keep reading.”

A Little History of Literature Cover Image
ISBN: 9780300186857
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Yale University Press - November 5th, 2013

A Little History of Literature (Little Histories) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780300205312
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - September 30th, 2014

The product of James W.P. Campbell’s savvy scholarship and the elegant photography of Will Pryce, the sumptuous The Library: A World History (Univ. of Chicago, $75) chronicles the evolution of this icon of civilization from its ancient Mesopotamian roots through myriad classical iterations, from sleek temples to learning and unusual boondoggles to our century’s efficient and highly functional structures. What they all have in common is their reflection of the culture, needs, and often hubris of their creators as well as highlighting the ongoing tussle between the priorities of the librarian and the whims and fanciful notions of library architects and patrons. With the number of physical books printed rising each year, these are likely to be issues we’ll be (gratefully) wrestling with for some time to come.

The Library: A World History Cover Image
By James W. P. Campbell, Will Pryce (By (photographer))
ISBN: 9780226092812
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Chicago Press - October 14th, 2013

S. (Mulholland, $35), a library book (complete with a Dewey decimal number on its spine) with artifacts tucked between its pages and a correspondence filling its margins, is a mysterious and beautiful object. In it, J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst weave a multi-layered story of a notorious and secretive author and the two young strangers on a mission to discover his identity and the truth behind his disappearance. The plot of the novel, The Ship of Theseus, unfolds simultaneously with the dialogue scribbled around its edges, telling the two intertwined stories at once and inviting the reader to put the pieces together and find out what happened. S. is an ingenious puzzle full of wonder and artful detail, a book to be explored and be savored.
S. Cover Image
By J. J. Abrams (Created by), Doug Dorst
ISBN: 9780316201643
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mulholland Books - October 29th, 2013