I don’t know if you saw it, but recently there was an excellent online New Yorker article on one of my favorite websites of all times: Awful Library Books. If you haven’t seen the blog before, it’s just a sheer delight. All librarians have, at one point or another, weeded (removed from the collection due to lack of use, poor condition, or outdated content) books that should have been removed from our shelves years ago. This book was my own personal favorite, found about 5 months ago in our ELA section:
Publication date? 1990. I kid you not.
For every fifty awful books, there’s a gem. A book that somehow in all the hustle and bustle has gotten lost in the cracks. Here are some older titles I discovered recently and really enjoyed. Maybe you’ll like them as well.
Death by Dickens, edited by Anne Perry
Awww. I probably should have weeded it since it hasn’t gone out in an inordinately long time, but look at it! Anne Perry and a bunch of other mystery writers go out of their way to create original Dickensian murder mysteries. On beyond Drood, as it were. And if you’re able to resist a title like Mr. Pickwick and the Body Snatchers then you’re a stronger man than I. Put your copy on reserve here.
Much Ado About Murder , edited by Anne Perry
Subtract Dickens. Add Shakespeare. Murdery murdery Shakespeare. Contains little short stories with titles like “Ere I killed thee” (too easy), “Exit, pursued”, and “Those are pearls that were his eyes”. Put your copy on reserve here.
The Scoop & Behind the Screen: Two Long-Lost Gems by the Masters of the Art
When you read the premise of this book it’s hard to resist its siren song. It contains two radio plays written by members of Britain’s Detection Club. And, as you can see from the cover, they weren’t exactly two-bit writers. Awfully cool. Awfully obscure. Place your copy on reserve here.
Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian
And if THAT isn’t the most random thing you ever did hear of, I don’t know what is. At the same time, I was so fascinated by the premise that I just couldn’t weed it. For you Janis Ian fans out there (check out her picture book The Tiny Mouse, which is rather surprisingly charming). Put your hold on Stars here.
Visions of Tomorrow: Science Fiction Predictions That Came True
Need I do any more than merely show you the cover? Tell you what. I’ll put the chapters here as well. They are:
Balloon hoax by Edgar Allan Poe
Land ironclads by H.G. Wells
Deadline by Cleve Cartmill
Prize of peril by Robert Sheckley
Directed energy by Jeff Hecht
Matchmaker by Thomas A. Easton
A logic named Joe by Murray Leinster
Scarred man by Gregory Benford
Infodict by James Van Pelt
E-Mage by Rajnar Vajra
How we saved the human race by David Gerrold
Misprint by Vonda N. McIntyre
Excellence by Richard A. Lovett
Mechanic by Hal Clement
Skystalk by Charles Sheffield.
Such a good idea for a book. Place your copy on reserve here.
Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat by Caroline Alexander
Be warned. It really is from the cat’s p.o.v. That said, it’s a true story about how one cat ended up visiting the Arctic. The first of its kind to do so? I suspect not. Cat’s have a way of popping up where they don’t belong all the time, after all. Put your copy on reserve here.
Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston
Here’s the plot: “Critically acclaimed and award-winning, but hardly bestselling, author Georgina Jackson can’t get past the first chapter of her second book. When she receives an urgent email from her agent, she is shockingly offered a commission to complete a newly discovered manuscript by Jane Austen.”
The crazy thing about the premise of this book is that it has already sort of happened. Unfinished manuscripts by Jane have appeared and folks really have tried their hands at finishing them (with limited success/fanfare). Place your copy on reserve here.
Under the Andes by Rex Stout
I’ve saved the best for last. I have not read this book but I’m crazy about it. I put more than one cover up because it just looks like the pulpiest bit of pulp to ever pulpify. If you’re like me then you know Rex Stout primarily for his Nero Wolfe mysteries. Apparently he also dabbled in other genres. If you love Stout, consider your curiosity piqued. Put a copy on reserve here.