Eliot’s Book of Bookish Lists – Henry Eliot

Published By: Penguin
Pages: 160
Released On: 06/10/2022

Who had birds called Death, Wigs and Spinach? How do you spell the noise of a door slamming? Whose working title was The Chronic Argonauts?

Henry Eliot – author, editor and insatiable bookworm – has ransacked the libraries and archives of world literature, compiling hundreds of bookish lists. This eclectic gallimaufry showcases his favourites: we witness the tragic ends of the Ancient Greek tragedians, learn the name of George Orwell’s pet cockerel and rummage through Joan Didion’s travelling bag; we consider the history of literary fart jokes, orbit the Shakespearean moons of Uranus and meet several pigs with wings. From the sublime to the ridiculous – and everything in between ­- Eliot’s lists, recommendations and nuggets of trivia will delight, inspire and surprise anyone who loves reading.

Beautifully presented with supplementary maps and illustrations, Henry Eliot’s Book of Bookish Lists is the essential gift for book-lovers.


Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I love books about books and I love a good list so this should have been a winner for me, but there was a lot wrong with it, for me.

Starting with the positives though, it is only 160 pages long so it’s perfect for a quick dip in and out read. It is full of some interesting facts which is good, it makes it slightly more informative.

Unfortunately, the formatting of this e-copy was a bit off which made it quite difficult to read. I’m sure it’ll be fixed for the final copy, but it did make the experience quite hard. One of the biggest selling points for the book was the images and maps it had, but again, due to the formatting of it, those were lost amongst the haphazardness.

The majority of the books chosen are older books, there are a handful of modern ones, and whilst I can’t say that’s a complete negative, it did feel a bit unbalanced because of it.

It’s quite haphazard, not very coherent. The lists don’t seem to link, it simply jumps from one to the next. On the same page you’ll read bad openings, followed directly by bad sex scenes and then poems. It’s a bit all over the place. I also found it a bit dull and monotonous. Now, this could be because I tried to read it all in one sitting as a long piece of prose, and maybe it’s been written that you come and go and therefore you don’t get that chance to be bored.

I agree with other reviewers that say it would be a good gift for a literature story or extreme bibliophile, but for the average reader, it’s not that pleasant or interesting a read.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be lists of books he liked, ones he didn’t, books that contained particular characters or themes etc. but it was all a bit higgledy piggledy and fell flat.

I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to read it but I won’t be rushing to recommend it.

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