FIFTY FORGOTTEN BOOKS
And Other Stories, 2022
Fifty Forgotten Books is a very special sort of book about books, by a great bibliophile and for book-lovers of all ages and levels of experience. Not quite literary criticism, not quite an autobiography, it is at once a guided tour through the dusty backrooms of long vanished used bookstores, a love letter to bookshops and bookselling, and a browser’s dream wish list of often overlooked and unloved novels, short story collections, poetry collections and works of nonfiction.
In these pages, R. B. Russell, doesn’t only discuss the books of his life, but explains what they have meant to him over time, charting his progress as a writer and publisher for over thirty years, and a bibliophile for many more. Here is living proof of how literature, books, and book collecting can be an intrinsic part of one’s personal, professional and imaginative life, and as not only a solitary act, but a social one, resulting in treasured friendships, experiences, and loves one might never, otherwise, have enjoyed.
Filled with a lively nostalgia for the era when finding strange new books meant pounding the pavement and not just searching booksellers’ websites, Fifty Forgotten Books is for anyone who wishes they could still browse the dusty bookshelves of their youth, and who can’t wait to get back out into the world in quest of the next text liable to change their life.
‘Filled with quirky observations and personal asides, this is just right for book lovers.’ Publishers Weekly
‘Russell informs us that a recent survey found that, contrary to popular belief, there are "more second-hand bookshops now than there have ever been", and this engaging, idiosyncratic volume should send readers scurrying to them in pursuit of the curious and recherché works that it champions.’ The Spectator
‘An original take on the joys of second-hand books. . . . I hope this little gem will be discovered on dusty shelves by future generations of bibliophiles.’ Andrew Gallix, The Irish Times
‘Brilliant. . . an account of a personal reading journey into the half-lit corridors and haunted wings of literature in search of pure linguistic gold.’ Ian McMillan, The Yorkshire Post
‘The two best qualities of Ray Russell’s memoir are the eclectic nature of his list of titles and the delight a reader has in walking around in his library as the collector pulls volumes from shelves to tell stories of books, and of the booksellers, friends, and authors summoned in memory in the telling.’ Henry Wessells, The Endless Bookshelf
‘Fifty Forgotten Books ... offers more than enough otherwise for any book-lover -- because, also, it is so clearly written by one --, and is certainly an appealing little read.’ M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
‘A groovy and delicious and intimate jigsaw of memories and passions and books, and schisms and oddities and books – Ray Russell is a bibliomaniac that it is a delight to spend time with. Falling in love with books voraciously, whilst growing up ferociously, has never been so beautifully described – a memoir that is as accurate and enthralling as it is dreamlike – just like the books about which he writes with such love!’
‘R. B. Russell’s beautifully told part-memoir gives us the story of a life lived alongside books, and the joyous way in which those dusty first editions often reverberate throughout our lives.’
‘A compelling celebration of reading, writing, publishing and the unexpected treasures to be found in second hand bookshops. Ray Russell writes so eloquently about his deep love of books as things in themselves but also his joy of discovering the new, the strange – those books that act as life’s waymarkers.’
Andrew Michael Hurley
‘This is a book to send you scurrying to the dusty mote-filled light of the secondhand book shop, to the chilliness of the jumble sale, to late nights at the blue screen of the laptop, seeking out the books you don’t know and can’t wait to know, and to renew old acquaintances. A memoir and commonplace book as delicate, suggestive and enchanting as the books themselves.’
'Absolutely wonderful. A unique and enchanting memoir like no other. A book lover’s paean to the volumes that made him, which also opens a window on his soul. Charming, vivid and singularly evocative.’
‘Decadents, bohemians, cult musicians, the odd (very odd) spy, shady publishers, backstreet booksellers, writers of the weird and wayward, they’re all here. R. B. Russell’s memoir gives us literature on the edge, in all its wonderful strangeness.’
‘Mixing personal reminiscence with literary recommendation, Fifty Forgotten Books sweeps the enchanted reader along as Ray Russell celebrates the fiction and nonfiction that have shaped him as a collector, writer and publisher. I say "enchanted" because few readers will find it easy to tear themselves away from these captivating mini-essays. I certainly couldn't even when I knew they should be parceled out slowly, if only to savor each more fully. Whether Russell is remembering his discovery of Arthur Machen, chronicling his sometimes comic negotiations with the crafty bookdealer George Locke, or reflecting on his own personal library of tatty paperbacks, signed firsts and rare association copies, he makes clear that a bookish life can be an enviably rewarding one, replete with the quiet satisfactions of the study, the rowdy pleasures of the literary conference, and warm friendships with the learned, the widely read and, not least, the winningly eccentric.’