B-Side Books: Essays on Forgotten Favorites as edited by John Plotz

Here is a healthy diet of books that you should have digested by now if you are an adult. B-Side Books: Essays on Forgotten Favorites as edited by John Plotz. The collection of essays consists of books that are less popular but as significant as other major works. Just think of them as b-sides on records, good enough but not quite. With b-sides sometimes you will get a rare gem that outshines the a-side. It’s a hit!

There are the acknowledged classics of world literature: the canonical works assigned in schools, topping every must-read list . . . and then there are the B-Sides. These are the books that slipped through the cracks, went unread, missed their rightful appointment with posterity. They were ahead of their times or behind their times or on a whole different schedule than the rest of the universe.

What do you do when a book that you love has been neglected or dismissed by everyone else? In B-Side Books, leading writers, critics, and scholars show why their favorite forgotten books deserve a new audience. From dusty westerns and far-out science fiction to obscure Czech novelists and romance-novel precursors, the contributors advocate for the unsung virtues of overlooked books. They write about unheralded novels, poetry collections, memoirs, and more with understanding, respect, passion, and love.

In these thoughtful, often personal essays, contributors—including Stephanie Burt, Caleb Crain, Merve Emre, Ursula K. Le Guin, Carlo Rotella, and Namwali Serpell—read books by writers such as Helen DeWitt, Shirley Jackson, Stanislaw Lem, Dambudzo Marechera, Paule Marshall, and Charles Portis.

John Plotz is also the editor of the B-Sides series on Public Books and the cohost of the podcast Recall This Book.

Below is a of each chapter and books covered.

Childhood, Through a Glass Darkly
1. A Girl of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton-Porter), by Rebecca Zorach
2. The Young Visiters (Daisy Ashford), by Caleb Crain
3. The Diary of “Helena Morley” (Elizabeth Bishop, trans.), by Elizabeth Ferry
4. Brown Girl, Brownstones (Paule Marshall), by Adrienne Brown
5. An American Childhood (Annie Dillard), by Salvatore Scibona
6. The Last Samurai (Helen DeWitt), by Toril Moi
Other Worlds
7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by Seeta Chaganti
8. The House on the Borderland (William Hope Hodgson), by Namwali Serpell
9. Lolly Willowes (Sylvia Townsend Warner), by Ivan Kreilkamp
10. Mythology (Edith Hamilton), by Kathryn Lofton
11. Other Leopards (Denis Williams), by Emily Hyde
12. Solaris (Stanislaw Lem), by Kate Marshall
13. Riddley Walker (Russell Hoban), by Paul Saint-Amour
Comedy
14. The Beggar’s Opera (John Gay), by Yoon Sun Lee
15. Lady Into Fox (David Garnett), by Maud Ellmann
16. Prater Violet (Christopher Isherwood), by Stephen McCauley
17. “Rogue’s Gallery” (Mary McCarthy), by Sean McCann
18. Gringos (Charles Portis), by Carlo Rotella
Battle and Strife
19. The Road to Calvary (Alexei Tolstoy), by Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee
20. The Forbidden Zone (Mary Borden), by Steven Biel and Lauren Kaminsky
21. Nikola the Outlaw (Ivan Olbracht), by Jonathan Bolton
22. The House of Hunger (Dambudzo Marechera), by Isabel Hofmeyr
23. The Short-Timers (Gustav Hasford), by Steven Biel
24. A Flag at Sunrise (Robert Stone), by Ben Fountain
25. The Vehement Passions (Philip Fisher), by Lorraine Daston
Home Fires
26. Annals of the Parish (John Galt), by Ursula K. Le Guin
27. The Dry Heart (Natalie Ginzburg), by Merve Emre
28. Life Among the Savages; Raising Demons (Shirley Jackson), by Sharon Marcus
29. My Uncle Napoleon (Iraj Pezeshkzad), by Pardis Dabashi
30. We Think the World of You (A. J. Ackerley), by Kevin Brazil
31. All Aunt Hagar’s Children (Edward P. Jones), by Elizabeth Graver
Mysteries and Trials
32. The Diaries of Lady Anne Clifford, by Ramie Targoff
33. The Riddle of the Sands (Erskine Childers), by Margaret Cohen
34. Stamboul Train (Graham Greene), by Penny Fielding
35. The Hours Before the Dawn (Celia Fremlin), by Leah Price
Journeys of the Spirit
36. A Life of One’s Own (Marion Millner), by Vanessa Smith
37. Butcher’s Crossing (John Williams), by John Plotz
38. Journey in Search of the Way (Satomi Myōdō), by Theo Davis
39. I Remember (Joe Brainard), by Andrew H. Miller
40. Transformatrix (Patience Agbabi), by Stephanie Burt

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Fun Fact:

‘Bibliosmia‘ is the enjoyment of the smell of old books. ‘There is no future for e-books, because they are not books. E-books smell like burned fuel.’ -Ray Bradbury