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This 'little history' takes on a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. John Sutherland is perfectly suited to the task. He has researched, taught, and written on virtually every area of literature, and his infectious passion for books and reading has defined his own life. Now he guid This 'little history' takes on a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. John Sutherland is perfectly suited to the task. He has researched, taught, and written on virtually every area of literature, and his infectious passion for books and reading has defined his own life. Now he guides young readers and the grown-ups in their lives on an entertaining journey 'through the wardrobe' to a greater awareness of how literature from across the world can transport us and help us to make sense of what it means to be human. Sutherland introduces great classics in his own irresistible way, enlivening his offerings with humor as well as learning: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, the Romantics, Dickens, Moby Dick, The Waste Land, Woolf, 1984, and dozens of others. He adds to these a less-expected, personal selection of authors and works, including literature usually considered well below 'serious attention' - from the rude jests of Anglo-Saxon runes to The Da Vinci Code. With masterful digressions into various themes - censorship, narrative tricks, self-publishing, taste, creativity, and madness - Sutherland demonstrates the full depth and intrigue of reading. For younger readers, he offers a proper introduction to literature, promising to interest as much as instruct. For more experienced readers, he promises just the same.


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This 'little history' takes on a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. John Sutherland is perfectly suited to the task. He has researched, taught, and written on virtually every area of literature, and his infectious passion for books and reading has defined his own life. Now he guid This 'little history' takes on a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. John Sutherland is perfectly suited to the task. He has researched, taught, and written on virtually every area of literature, and his infectious passion for books and reading has defined his own life. Now he guides young readers and the grown-ups in their lives on an entertaining journey 'through the wardrobe' to a greater awareness of how literature from across the world can transport us and help us to make sense of what it means to be human. Sutherland introduces great classics in his own irresistible way, enlivening his offerings with humor as well as learning: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, the Romantics, Dickens, Moby Dick, The Waste Land, Woolf, 1984, and dozens of others. He adds to these a less-expected, personal selection of authors and works, including literature usually considered well below 'serious attention' - from the rude jests of Anglo-Saxon runes to The Da Vinci Code. With masterful digressions into various themes - censorship, narrative tricks, self-publishing, taste, creativity, and madness - Sutherland demonstrates the full depth and intrigue of reading. For younger readers, he offers a proper introduction to literature, promising to interest as much as instruct. For more experienced readers, he promises just the same.

30 review for A Little History of Literature

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is an enjoyable history of English Literature which consists of short essays on everything from early myths, through Shakespeare, the very first novels, poetry, Austen, Dickens, literature for (and about) children, the censorship of books and all the way up to today, with bestsellers, book prizes and reading groups being discussed. Although this does not really give you a great deal of depth about any particular topic/author, it is a great introduction and very readable. A good starting poin This is an enjoyable history of English Literature which consists of short essays on everything from early myths, through Shakespeare, the very first novels, poetry, Austen, Dickens, literature for (and about) children, the censorship of books and all the way up to today, with bestsellers, book prizes and reading groups being discussed. Although this does not really give you a great deal of depth about any particular topic/author, it is a great introduction and very readable. A good starting point for anyone wishing to extend their reading, or wanting to read the classics and being unsure of where to start. All the major authors, as well as important movements – from Romanticism to Modernism – are mentioned here. From Woolf to Proust and the Brontes, this is a great overview of classic literature through the ages.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: Read via Netgalley. I’m tempted just to give this a 4.5 rating simply because the line about the English Football team sent me into the zone of can’t stop cracking up. Fortunately, for non-football (you know, the REAL football) fans, this book has several other things going for it. You might have heard of John Sutherland. He wrote those question books about literature, like Henry V War Criminal?. The books confront questions in literature and are well worth reading. This book is not Disclaimer: Read via Netgalley. I’m tempted just to give this a 4.5 rating simply because the line about the English Football team sent me into the zone of can’t stop cracking up. Fortunately, for non-football (you know, the REAL football) fans, this book has several other things going for it. You might have heard of John Sutherland. He wrote those question books about literature, like Henry V War Criminal?. The books confront questions in literature and are well worth reading. This book is not like that. It is what it says it is – a short history of literature – written in a very easy to read almost chatty tone. If this book was a course, it would be the type that has a waiting list. Sutherland starts with the question of what literature is and moves onto to myth. The book ends with a belief look at e-reading, including a very brief look at how fan fiction ties into literature. In many ways, the book is like that sightseeing bus tour that I keep seeing around every single city I go to. Here’s the high points, folks, type of thing. The difference is that while the bus may stop at Ford’s Theater to let people off, Sutherland strongly encourages you to go inside and then points out that you should visit the place across the street, walk a few books to that Chinese restaurant that use to be the boarding house, and plan a trip to Illinois. It is this aspect that makes the book a joy to read even if you are a long time student or reader of literature. He might be telling you things you already know, but there is such joy in it. Not only that, Sutherland will most likely mention one author or book, even in passing that you haven’t read but now that he’s mentioned it you want to pick it up. Part of this seems to come from Sutherland’s love of literature, and part of it seems to come from his look at literature related topics. I’ve read a few histories of English literature and this is the only history I’ve seen that actually addresses copyright, movies, ownership, and the reader among other things in chapters as opposed to asides in chapters about Yeats or whoever. Sutherland’s comments, in particular about the development of the reading public and influence of film on literature (or vice versa) are insightful and bring freshness to the style of book. It is like Fahrenheit 451, which Sutherland mentions as a response to the television. This book brings literary histories into the here and now, moving them out of academic circles. Unlike Bloom, this is done with a sense that the reading public is different than the academic reader. Bloom impresses you with his knowledge and ego. Sutherland just wants you to love literature as much as he does. The book does contain a chapter on race and writing. There is attention to poetry. While feminist writing doesn’t get its own chapter, Sutherland does zero in on the topic not only in the section on Woolf, who gets her own chapter, but also on the Brontes and other women. There is a rather interesting chapter on censorship and another on empire. These make up for the fact that the book is largely English literature centric. At times, it does open up but the writers are pre-dominantly English language writers. At times, short sentences do awhile with a larger story, for example the comment about Wilde and his family. It’s true they were not a large part of his public life, but that wasn’t the only reason why they didn’t join him after his release from jail. Still, Sutherland’s history is a wonderful history. Absolutely wonderful. It has nice pictures too.

  3. 5 out of 5

    TS Chan

    Earlier this year, I was in London for work and had the fortunate pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the huge Waterstones bookstore in Piccadilly. One particular display which caught my eye was a series called "Little History", which encompassed topics such as The World, Philosophy, Science, Economics, Religion and the one which beckoned most to me, Literature. Having spent a significant span of my reading life in the science fiction & fantasy genres, with the occasional venture into thri Earlier this year, I was in London for work and had the fortunate pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the huge Waterstones bookstore in Piccadilly. One particular display which caught my eye was a series called "Little History", which encompassed topics such as The World, Philosophy, Science, Economics, Religion and the one which beckoned most to me, Literature. Having spent a significant span of my reading life in the science fiction & fantasy genres, with the occasional venture into thrillers, biographies and other non-fiction, I felt that it was time for me to explore the wider world of literature. And more importantly, the adult classics; I had more exposure to children's classics but my repertoire was almost solely SFF when I reached my teenage years. As such, I hoped that by reading this book, I was able to better appreciate how classics (some more than others, I'm sure) shaped the history and development of literature, and which are the ones which I should attempt to include into my reading list. What you are holding is, as the title says, a 'little history', but literature is not a little thing. There is hugely more of it than any of us will read in a lifetime. As best what we can put together is an intelligent sample, and the most important decision to make is how to assemble our selection. This little history is not a manual ('Read this!') but advice, along the lines of, 'You may find this valuable, because many others have, but, at the end of the day, you must decide for yourself'. One thing for certain, this is written by an author who really knows his stuff and is passionate about books. There was indubitably a vast amount of research that went behind putting this volume together. That it was so well-written and appropriately arranged by motifs or topics only made the book even more fascinating to read. In 40 chapters, Sutherland wrote not only about the important works that changed the face of literature throughout the ages but also about the historical events that propagated such literary works. He also digressed into other themes such as censorship, book awards, and how progress changed the way literature is consumed. Most notably, the narrative does not preach nor does it instruct - it enlightens. What I got out of the book was not disdain for the vast amount of genre fiction that I have read, but a better understanding of what else I should or could read if I so desire to widen my perspective on literature. I highly recommend this book to readers who wish to understand more about the evolution of literature, and/or further expand their reading horizons. PS: I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate book to wrap up my reading challenge for the year!

  4. 4 out of 5

    candide_in_ohio

    Okay, so first of all- it is by no means a history of Literature, it’s a story of English literature. There are nods to authors from other countries but only insofar as it fits into the Anglo-centric arc. And I’m not being militantly post-colonialist or anything- or, rather, I don’t need to be-even as a french, German or Italian (not to mention Russian, omg) you’d be pretty offended by the idea that this is a history of even Western lit. (A full chapter on Samuel Johnson, half a line on Zola, no Okay, so first of all- it is by no means a history of Literature, it’s a story of English literature. There are nods to authors from other countries but only insofar as it fits into the Anglo-centric arc. And I’m not being militantly post-colonialist or anything- or, rather, I don’t need to be-even as a french, German or Italian (not to mention Russian, omg) you’d be pretty offended by the idea that this is a history of even Western lit. (A full chapter on Samuel Johnson, half a line on Zola, no Goethe or Tolstoi- ‘nough said). Secondly, it is quite puzzling how we somehow are still putting white dudes in charge of writing histories of anything. The result here is unsurprising. That said, if you can hold your nose at the pervasive misogyny (crazy how Jane Austen manages to write good stuff despite her writing about such small womanly subjects/the Brontes were SO provincial and you can so tell they never saw the world when you read their books!/ Virginia Woolf bought her way into authordom, etc.) and the racism (there’s literally one ‘race’ chapter called, I KID YOU NOT, ‘colorful cultures.’ -and this book was published this decade.) (And, he spends a great deal of energy in that chapter calling Toni Morrison ‘angry.’), if, again, you can manage to ignore that, well, then it’s quite pleasant, really! Especially if you’ve been thinking, “Man, I really need to brush up on my John Donne and my Trollope.” It’s possible-I’m not judging!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Lo

    A good intro for anyone who wants to know more about the beginning of literature right to the current status. Chapters are divided into various themes, from Greek myths to graphic novels.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    I read this in small segments over a number of weeks. I think it's a very good basic guide for the non-literature student to use as background for a history of literature in English. It's a bit British-centric, but given the early history of literature in English, that's to be expected. I look forward to picking up another "Little History" sometime. I read this in small segments over a number of weeks. I think it's a very good basic guide for the non-literature student to use as background for a history of literature in English. It's a bit British-centric, but given the early history of literature in English, that's to be expected. I look forward to picking up another "Little History" sometime.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kyriakos Sorokkou

    Δείτε την κριτική στα Ελληνικά στις βιβλιοαλχημείες I'll start by stating the tiny negative of this book. It's NOT A Little History of Literature but A Little History of the English Literature. With a few exceptions like Ancient Greek works like Homer's and Tragedies, and a few nods towards French writers like Camus, Baudelaire, Proust, and Magical Realism writers like Borges, Márquez, and Grass; this book was mostly concerned with literature written in English. This tiny negative was not somethin Δείτε την κριτική στα Ελληνικά στις βιβλιοαλχημείες I'll start by stating the tiny negative of this book. It's NOT A Little History of Literature but A Little History of the English Literature. With a few exceptions like Ancient Greek works like Homer's and Tragedies, and a few nods towards French writers like Camus, Baudelaire, Proust, and Magical Realism writers like Borges, Márquez, and Grass; this book was mostly concerned with literature written in English. This tiny negative was not something that made me dislike or feel bored by the book, but it was a tiny negative that made me think that whatever is written by an English speaker it is certainly going to be Anglocentric. We begin with the great epics of the Ancient World and the tragedies from Ancient Greece (429BC) and then we made a huge jump of 1829 years and arrive in England of the 1400's, the time of Chaucer the father of English Literature, the creator of The Canterbury Tales (left unfinished upon his death in 1400) Then we move on with Elizabethan and Jacobean epic poetry (The Faerie Queene 1590, and Paradise Lost 1667), then we continue with William Shakespeare (1590's-1600's) and the Metaphysical Poets John Donne and George Herbert (1620's) Here is where we make a break from England and English moving to the first early novels of Spain France and Italy (Don Quixote (1612-1620) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532) and The Decameron (1352) respectively) And then we will return to the British Isles to check the first English novels: Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Gulliver's Travels (1726) And from the first novels we reach the Romantic Era (1789-1832) with poets like Lord Byron, William Blake, and novelists like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein 1818). And then we are introduced to the novels of Jane Austen (1810's) and the great giants of the Victorian Era (1837-1901) like Charles Dickens, The Brontë Sisters, and Thomas Hardy; all with a chapter of their own. Then once again we leave Britain for America (Walt Whitman, John Steinbeck) and France (Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Proust) before returning once again during the peak of the British Empire with writers like Rudyard Kipling and modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Of course we have more general chapters about children's literature, book printing, censorship, adaptations, dystopias, and more. Among these only two chapters will depart from the English speaking literature for a last time. These are the chapter about The Absurd (Albert Camus, and Franz Kafka) and the chapter on Magical Realism (Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Günter Grass) So, ignoring the fact that this book is marketed as A Little History of Literature instead of the more correct A Little History of the English Literature it was an interesting educating, nice book. Of course since I studied English Literature I didn't learn a lot MORE from it, but I spent a nice weekend with it. I recommend it to anyone interested in literature especially those who don't have any contact with English literature beyond the Victorians and the Contemporary ones.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    This was fun! Nice short essays on a wide range of literature. They were all good, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on world literature and on literature prizes, both of which I know very little about and Sutherland gave me just the right level of detail. Even in areas where I'm not so ignorant -- the Romantic authors, Shakespeare, Dickens -- Sutherland's comments were interesting and I generally learned something new. This was fun! Nice short essays on a wide range of literature. They were all good, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on world literature and on literature prizes, both of which I know very little about and Sutherland gave me just the right level of detail. Even in areas where I'm not so ignorant -- the Romantic authors, Shakespeare, Dickens -- Sutherland's comments were interesting and I generally learned something new.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Bettie's Books Bettie's Books

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ben Carter

    Reading literature helps us to better understand ourselves and others; providing us with a portal into a realm sensitive to the whole spectrum of human experience. In A Little History of Literature Sutherland introduces us to its mythical beginnings, before weaving us with a deft hand through centuries of its rich tapestry. As you would expect, the book is chronological, but interestingly, Sutherland chooses to divide the book into forty short chapters/ essays, covering literary themes and promin Reading literature helps us to better understand ourselves and others; providing us with a portal into a realm sensitive to the whole spectrum of human experience. In A Little History of Literature Sutherland introduces us to its mythical beginnings, before weaving us with a deft hand through centuries of its rich tapestry. As you would expect, the book is chronological, but interestingly, Sutherland chooses to divide the book into forty short chapters/ essays, covering literary themes and prominent authors; with enticing headings such as ‘Dangerous Books’, ‘Flowers of Decadence’ and ‘Absurd Existences’. This helps to avoid the drier format of periods found in standard history textbooks. The titans get their chapters; Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and Woolf. It’s clear that Sutherland has chosen to focus on writers of the English-language. This will disappoint many readers led on by the expectation of being introduced to a wide breadth of world texts and authors. The Russian greats, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, are given just a few sentences between them—which is surprising, as the former is considered by many critics to be the greatest novelist of all time. By Sutherland’s estimation, Dickens is ‘the finest British novelist ever to have put pen to paper’, and he undoubtedly puts forward a strong case. Writing in a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard, Dickens made ‘children the heroes and heroines of his fiction’. Importantly, he was the first novelist to ‘appreciate how vulnerable and bruised the child is, and how unlike an adult’s is the child’s-eye view of the world’. Sutherland’s account on authors is also helpful in showing us the origins of certain forms, narratives and styles. Virginia Woolf—a prominent writer of the modernist era—became a pioneer of the ‘stream of consciousness’ style, writing gripping and descriptive prose on the mundane and trivial affairs of ordinary life—depicted by thoughts and feelings passing continuously through the mind. It’s a narrative technique also known as free indirect style, further explored and revered in James Woods’ excellent book How Fiction Works. The power of this book lies in Sutherland’s illumination of historical and political context, showing us how literature is often produced in what he describes as ‘transitional moments in history’. Think Beowulf. An Anglo-Saxon poem that rose in the midst of a conflict between Norse Paganism and an emerging Christianity. What we consider to be an ‘epic’ poem is, Sutherland writes, just a ‘long poem with a nation behind it’. The foundational values and ideals found in the poem are still prevalent in Britain and continue to define our civilisation. After all, if Troy hadn’t gone up in flames at the hands of the Greeks, would we not be deprived of Homer’s The Iliad and Odyssey? The cornerstone text of Western literature. It’s in this chapter that one is reminded of Shelley’s sentiment that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. It’s intriguing to learn how the invention of the printing press coincided with an increasingly literate population, eventually, paving the way for the birth of the novel in its current form. The protagonist of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—in what is regarded as the first English novel—aims to make a fortune in newly discovered lands, thus, mirroring the exploits of colonial capitalism carried out by merchants from British trading ports at the time. In the same way, just as America unshackled itself from the colonialism of the British Empire by winning its war of independence, its prevailing poetic ideology went through a liberating revolution of its own, with the development of ‘free verse’. Sutherland can also make us better understand Thomas Hardy’s wheezing pessimism, especially when you consider the context of 19th century Victorian Britain; imagine the smog and harshness of an evolving industrialised landscape replacing the idyllic countryside of rural Wessex. Again, Sutherland is showing us how historical changes produce great literature, but also, how great literature can shape the course of history. It’s a fascinating dialectical process. Indeed, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspired Lincoln in his fight to end slavery and was pivotal in swaying public opinion. Sutherland notes that in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales the Clerk from Oxford is considered to be ‘phenomenally well-read’ despite only having read a dozen books. Today—over six hundred years on from Chaucer—around 2,000 novels are published a week. One can certainly relate to the frustration of Frank Zappa’s quip ‘So many books, so little time’. Thankfully, Sutherland helps to guide us through this saturated market with a clever and considered selection; whilst also giving us some idea of where to go next. By refusing to get drawn into defining high literature, it’s the pleasure and joy of reading that becomes the books central ethos. Equally, by reading literature, we can all reap the rewards of expanding our imagination and enjoy the process of grappling with life’s big questions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yuu Suwapee

    The cover and back cover (in Thai translated version) did not mention that this book is mainly discuss English literature. Unfortunately, I did not have chance to read prologue before I bought it. (It's wrapped) I expected to read world literature as their unclearly cover neglect to specific "English" that significant to me. I would not buy it if I know this book is 'A little History of "English" Literature'. The cover and back cover (in Thai translated version) did not mention that this book is mainly discuss English literature. Unfortunately, I did not have chance to read prologue before I bought it. (It's wrapped) I expected to read world literature as their unclearly cover neglect to specific "English" that significant to me. I would not buy it if I know this book is 'A little History of "English" Literature'.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dominique

    For most thoughtful people, literature will play a big part in their lives. We learn a lot of things at home, at school, from friends, and from the mouths of people wiser and cleverer than ourselves. But many of the most valuable things we know come from the literature we have read. If we read well, we find ourselves in a conversational relationship with the most creative minds of our own time and of the past. Time spent reading literature is always time well spent. Let no one tell you otherwis For most thoughtful people, literature will play a big part in their lives. We learn a lot of things at home, at school, from friends, and from the mouths of people wiser and cleverer than ourselves. But many of the most valuable things we know come from the literature we have read. If we read well, we find ourselves in a conversational relationship with the most creative minds of our own time and of the past. Time spent reading literature is always time well spent. Let no one tell you otherwise. Well said, mister Sutherland.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emilia Barnes

    This book is, for all intents and purposes, absolutely pointless. It has no guiding theme or witty narrative, to walk you through the evolution of literature. It has no spark, no central question, nothing, in short, to move you to keep going and read on. If you know anything about literature, you know 80% of what is in this book, and the remainder is not presented in any way that is worth reading. Throw in some jokes, and a couple of amusing illustrations, and sell it to children--then at least This book is, for all intents and purposes, absolutely pointless. It has no guiding theme or witty narrative, to walk you through the evolution of literature. It has no spark, no central question, nothing, in short, to move you to keep going and read on. If you know anything about literature, you know 80% of what is in this book, and the remainder is not presented in any way that is worth reading. Throw in some jokes, and a couple of amusing illustrations, and sell it to children--then at least someone will get something from this (if not information then at least a laugh). As it stands it is a waste of paper.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joana Medina

    I thoroughly enjoyed this “little” history of literature! There is far too much ground to cover around the topic, thus it covers topics and contexts in a succinct manner, as expected - but I think the information is presented really well. Well-rounded, with short, digestible, and easy to read chapters; an excellent starting point for those interested in the evolving form of literature, or those who feel the need to educate themselves concerning gaps in their own knowledge *raises own hand as hig I thoroughly enjoyed this “little” history of literature! There is far too much ground to cover around the topic, thus it covers topics and contexts in a succinct manner, as expected - but I think the information is presented really well. Well-rounded, with short, digestible, and easy to read chapters; an excellent starting point for those interested in the evolving form of literature, or those who feel the need to educate themselves concerning gaps in their own knowledge *raises own hand as high and as fast as possible*

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rana Erdal

    My head is buzzing with every single literature reference I have read. I have never had a whole history of books in my head all at once. So I am pretty chuffed with reading this history. My knowledge is a lot more enriched now. The power of words and literature is amazing. We started from the myth, all the way to the present day. This book would be great for literature carnivores.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Omar

    It's mostly a greatest hits of English literature, but it does provide some scope over how storytelling has evolved these last 500+ years in a very neat and friendly way. It's mostly a greatest hits of English literature, but it does provide some scope over how storytelling has evolved these last 500+ years in a very neat and friendly way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabi Leoncini

    A great introduction to (mostly) English canonical literature!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Ng

    Love love love this book for how eloquent yet easy to comprehend it is. A journey to understanding the many literary periods

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hanne

    For a while now I’ve been on the hunt for a book to refresh and feed my knowledge on the history of literature. I’ve been taught this obviously in school, but that’s a long time ago. So far, nothing quite delivered. Either it was too vague and superficial to teach me anything new, or it was way too detailed and felt like something I would actually have to study. This book balances very nicely in between the two: I felt it gave me all the information I wanted to, without leaving me exhausted or w For a while now I’ve been on the hunt for a book to refresh and feed my knowledge on the history of literature. I’ve been taught this obviously in school, but that’s a long time ago. So far, nothing quite delivered. Either it was too vague and superficial to teach me anything new, or it was way too detailed and felt like something I would actually have to study. This book balances very nicely in between the two: I felt it gave me all the information I wanted to, without leaving me exhausted or with a head-ache. The scope of the book is quite good: it takes you from ancient myths and dramas, to medieval tales, all the way to current literature. In general, it is rather focused on Anglo-Saxon literature, but still covers the great French Fin de Siècle authors like Baudelaire and Proust, and the Latin-American magical realists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The passion and knowledge of the author on this topic is very obvious. As a child, I had a music teacher who at the end of every ‘official’ course, talked about one of the great composers, a titbit of their life and how it impacted their work. That’s how this book reads: like the last part of the lecture, done spontaneously and effortlessly and I bet all the students are on the edge of their seat. He shares the important context of the book, like the time it was written or some background on the author and how that influenced the book itself. The chapter on the Brönte sisters for instance was absolutely terrific. You feel that pinch of sadness that they hardly sold a book in their lifetime (not to mention everything else that happened in that family), but you also learn why Anne Brönte was able to describe the effects of alcoholism so accurately. You wouldn’t believe the amount of notes I took while reading this book: I wrote down authors, titles, background, interesting things to consider when reading something else next time. Books I have to re-read now that I’ve gained a glance from behind the curtain. This is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to brush up on their knowledge of literature. Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Boyce

    http://bookreviewsbyme2.wordpress.com... This book is exactly what the title says – a little history of literature. The author touches on a little bit of everything involving literature and I found that I enjoyed the overviews that the author provides immensely. The author does a fantastic time of mentioning everything involving literature, while avoiding spending too much time on one specific topic. This book is the perfect overview that gives the reader a lot of information yet allows the reader http://bookreviewsbyme2.wordpress.com... This book is exactly what the title says – a little history of literature. The author touches on a little bit of everything involving literature and I found that I enjoyed the overviews that the author provides immensely. The author does a fantastic time of mentioning everything involving literature, while avoiding spending too much time on one specific topic. This book is the perfect overview that gives the reader a lot of information yet allows the reader to look up things that interest them at a later date. I highlighted numerous authors and written works that caught my attention and I wanted to remember to look up later. The writing itself is quite nice. The text is easily approachable and light to read, while still conveying adequate information. It seemed as if the author was conveying a very positive message through the text, one that recognizes the love of literature that many people share. The author’s writing style also shines through as academic yet easily understandable, perfect for any audience to read and enjoy. I was also really impressed with the author’s use of direct quotes. When the author was referring to a specific section of work, he would usually quote the passage, yet the quotes all flowed smoothly into the story. The passages were long enough to give the reader a taste of the passage without bogging down the flow of the story. Overall, I really enjoyed this book (and not just because I’m a sucker for books about books). The author presents a lot of information in an academic yet easy to understand manner that conveys the love of literature exquisitely. I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    A pleasant read. This book reads like a series of reviews you could find on Goodreads, by someone who seems to know (and love) what he's talking about. It's the author's scholarly opinion on the author's selection of classics (he never strays too far away from those, which is understandable given the title) interspersed with tidbits of writer biographies and historical context. The fact that he sometimes spoils endings and plots of books maybe should have been expected, but came as an unpleasant A pleasant read. This book reads like a series of reviews you could find on Goodreads, by someone who seems to know (and love) what he's talking about. It's the author's scholarly opinion on the author's selection of classics (he never strays too far away from those, which is understandable given the title) interspersed with tidbits of writer biographies and historical context. The fact that he sometimes spoils endings and plots of books maybe should have been expected, but came as an unpleasant surprise nonetheless (happens five or six times). The selection of books and authors he discusses, the time he chooses to spend on some (the man clearly loves Dickens and Austen), and his interpretation of certain works is quite personal. Maybe too personal given the vibe of objectivity the book cover radiates, and the book description on this very page. An introductory disclaimer in this regard would have been welcome. Sutherland has failed miserably in two instances: he did not mention Goodreads as a factor in the modern day reading experience, and he called Sir Thomas More's Utopia boring. Two transgressions I can forgive (though not easily), so let me conclude the same way I started: all in all, a pleasant read (but not everything it claims to be).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    While far from comprehensive, I found this book to be a perfect refresher/overview of literary history. Superficial in some respects, but should be required reading at the high school level. It's like a 266-page Wiki; nice "chewable" chapters--I found myself looking forward to spending about 10 minutes a day with it. And I plan to reread or at least skim it once a year. Sutherland deals in broad fundamentals--but that's the point. Yes, there are gaps--but it's better than nothing and still prett While far from comprehensive, I found this book to be a perfect refresher/overview of literary history. Superficial in some respects, but should be required reading at the high school level. It's like a 266-page Wiki; nice "chewable" chapters--I found myself looking forward to spending about 10 minutes a day with it. And I plan to reread or at least skim it once a year. Sutherland deals in broad fundamentals--but that's the point. Yes, there are gaps--but it's better than nothing and still pretty darn informative. You won't find a better primer on prose and poetry.

  23. 4 out of 5

    yağmur

    The title should have specified that it is a little history of English literature and not even all Anglophone countries at that. It is a rather comprehensive introduction to English (that is from England) and American literatures, but what about the rest? Reading about Hugo or Dostoevsky in a paragraph or two in a book about the history of Literature is ludicrous at best. Besides that, there were some factual mistakes regarding the lives of the Romantics and the Brontës, maybe there were regar The title should have specified that it is a little history of English literature and not even all Anglophone countries at that. It is a rather comprehensive introduction to English (that is from England) and American literatures, but what about the rest? Reading about Hugo or Dostoevsky in a paragraph or two in a book about the history of Literature is ludicrous at best. Besides that, there were some factual mistakes regarding the lives of the Romantics and the Brontës, maybe there were regarding other authors as well but I couldn't notice them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This book reminded me of all the things I love about studying literature. Very well written, totally engaging and funny. Mostly focused on England's literary canon, with a few nods to other literary traditions. It rekindled my fire for reading all of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or Wallace Stegner. I guess should "and" instead of "or". Lifetime goals. I've got some time. I hope. I would like to take a class from John Sutherland. This book reminded me of all the things I love about studying literature. Very well written, totally engaging and funny. Mostly focused on England's literary canon, with a few nods to other literary traditions. It rekindled my fire for reading all of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or Wallace Stegner. I guess should "and" instead of "or". Lifetime goals. I've got some time. I hope. I would like to take a class from John Sutherland.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fox

    I rather enjoyed the ARC I got of A Little of the United States, so I was curious about how A Little History of Literature might be. Happily, this book proved to be just as good, interesting, and informative as the earlier one. This seems to be every bit the series that I hoped it would be - full of fascinating tidbits while still offering a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject the book focuses on. They are indeed Little Histories, and offer a glimpse into the subject focused upon that I rather enjoyed the ARC I got of A Little of the United States, so I was curious about how A Little History of Literature might be. Happily, this book proved to be just as good, interesting, and informative as the earlier one. This seems to be every bit the series that I hoped it would be - full of fascinating tidbits while still offering a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject the book focuses on. They are indeed Little Histories, and offer a glimpse into the subject focused upon that gives the reader an opportunity to dig deeper whenever they wish. Very cool. This history of literature focuses not only on the greats and trends within literature, but also on why literature is important, the way literature has evolved over time, important authors within genres, and those overlooked. There is a section entirely focused upon the topic of race and how various others have tackled it, on woman writers and literature for women, and even upon the recent creation of fanfiction and how that impacts literature, copyright, and whether or not it is a positive evolution of literature itself. I enjoyed the fact that this book didn't tone the bell for the death of physical books. Physical books aren't dying, and I don't believe they ever will. Instead, it focused upon how the way we interact with books has changed over time, and how it will continue to do so. Nevertheless, the very physicality of books tends to be a draw, and the book recognized that. This book was an interesting one to read so soon after The Library Book. I think they complemented each other rather nicely, and have helped round out my year as a pleasant readerly one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beryl

    I've found John Sutherland so far pretentious to the core, misogynistic, close-minded, and above all clearly not as well-read on literature itself as he should. This is the kind of book one would read when one can't find anything else at the doctor's office or the airport newsstand. There are no deep literary themes, canons, or movements he properly develops. When he focuses on writers it's with disdain to some of them (don't get me started on his treatment of Wilde here!), and with an attention I've found John Sutherland so far pretentious to the core, misogynistic, close-minded, and above all clearly not as well-read on literature itself as he should. This is the kind of book one would read when one can't find anything else at the doctor's office or the airport newsstand. There are no deep literary themes, canons, or movements he properly develops. When he focuses on writers it's with disdain to some of them (don't get me started on his treatment of Wilde here!), and with an attention to their lives 'gossip' for some others. But where's the value of an author in all this? What does it really add to their literature? Or rather, does their life sustain enough words for a writer to forget the topic of ACTUAL literature and not The Daily Mail of Literature?! Also, where are the non-English/Irish writers of the 'history' of literature? Brief mentions to other writers are placed here or there, but no real analysis is provided... Neither some other writers are thought of (what about the Russian for ffs?! And the German authors? Not even those ones in the States or Canada?). Again, a great 'story' of literature for dummies. Not real analytical work... if that's what you're looking for RUN AWAY FROM THIS ONE... AND FAST!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Agatha St. Claire

    A witty conversational recounting of literary history...easy to read, and made for a perfect "big picture" grasp of the canon. Sutherland did seem more passionate about ancient and Victorian literature and poetry; his tone felt almost caustic when it came to Plath and the other poets of the breakdown, but maybe I'm just reading in extra meaning. His optomism about the futute of literature did feel hollow...I can haedly agree that Beyoncé is "poetry." At the same time, I am now quite interested i A witty conversational recounting of literary history...easy to read, and made for a perfect "big picture" grasp of the canon. Sutherland did seem more passionate about ancient and Victorian literature and poetry; his tone felt almost caustic when it came to Plath and the other poets of the breakdown, but maybe I'm just reading in extra meaning. His optomism about the futute of literature did feel hollow...I can haedly agree that Beyoncé is "poetry." At the same time, I am now quite interested in looking into some of the Romantic and Victorian poets, thanks to the heartful passion Sutherland clearly has for Keats and the like.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Finn Mannerings

    Fascinating for any lover of literature, adding contextual depth to all key periods. Does get a bit repetitive but it all comes from a deep adoration of literature and stories and gives great recommendations.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This was pretty good. It covers a huge amount of ground so does what it says on the tin. There was lots in here that I already knew, but lots that I didn't as well. This was pretty good. It covers a huge amount of ground so does what it says on the tin. There was lots in here that I already knew, but lots that I didn't as well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna Bijas

    Solid 4 stars. A primer so to speak on so many aspects of the printed word. Bottom line was this quote which embodies everything I read: “literature is something communal, a dialogue with greater minds than our own, a debate about our world, where is it going and where should it go.” Really enjoyed this one. What a great surprise.

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