Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Forgotten Books

A couple of weeks ago I received an email telling me about Forgotten Books, an online library which has literally got over 480,000 ebooks in it's virtual stacks (I'm not kidding). My initial reaction was something along the lines of 'holy shizzle there is a book website thingy that I don't know about and should therefore explore immediately'. So off I trotted to have a cursory examination of the site and delve into the wonders of a virtual library. Safe to say, I got lost in there for a while. 

Can you imagine what a 480,000 books looks like? I really can't, but I'm thinking it would not be a suitable library for a London flat. Enter Forgotten Books. As the title suggests, many of the books on here are completely obscure and generally unknown. I came across some pretty interesting sounding books, such as these under the self-help category: 'How To Be Happy Though Married', 'Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion', and 'Self-Help With Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance'. I mean, come on, those sound awesome. It isn't all archaic entertainment, however. Other categories include fiction, poetry, drama and philosophy. A huge number of the books on my Classics Club list are on the site and I've been able to have a sneaky read of a couple of pages to help me decide which classic to go for next (I'm tempted to go with The Scarlet Letter, if you're interested). 

Perhaps the most interesting/useful/entertaining element of the website is the search function. This would be a brilliant resource for study and one I wish I knew about when writing my dissertation. The search function allows you to look for keywords in books, titles, authors, pages, and images. There is also a fascinating word data feature which uses graphs to show the usage of every word in the English language throughout publishing history. I had hours of fun with this. Predictable as ever, I searched for 'suffragette' within books and discovered that the word is most commonly used in fiction whereas 'suffrage' is used most commonly in non-fiction. As a lover of visuals, I enjoyed getting a little nerdy over the accompanying graphs which plot how frequently the word appears. Unsurprisingly, 'suffragette' was used with increasing frequency from 1900.

I also did a cheeky image search for Wilkie Collins. Just look at him - what a babe. And yes, there are a number of Wilkie's on there which I am more than tempted to read (I Say No caught my eye).

Forgotten Books is a membership based website. A vast amount of the books can be read online for free (with a page or two omitted, as on Google Books). With a membership there is a 'Book of the Day' feature sent by email and you can have access to the entire downloadable library. The books are fully formatted to be downloaded as kindle ebooks or as pdf documents. Very handy. It's definitely worth checking it out, if only to have a play with the search features and have a giggle at some ancient self-help titles...


Does the idea of a virtual library appeal to you?



  1. Sounds like a nerd's dream (the search function). Also look at Wilkie *aww* Checking it out now :)

    1. It is definitely that! I could look at book stats and graphs for ages :)

  2. There's a funny story about How To Be Happy Though Married... My brothers were best men at my wedding last year and we also run www.forgottenbooks.org. They decided the best thing would be to present my wife with a copy of that book, as well as a couple of other beautiful bits of Victorian guidance for young women. I can't remember the title but the theme of one was how to best comport yourself on your wedding night. Lovely.

    This year I get to be a best man, so now I need to find some equally cringeworthy book to return the favour...

    1. Haha that's brilliant! I can only imagine how they would advise is best to comport yourself on your wedding night. Cringeworthy indeed. Good look finding something equally so!

  3. I can't believe I've never seen that website before - it's fabulous!

    I've been meaning to load my Kindle with loads of books my Classics Club list for a while so that if I get caught waiting for something unexpectedly or making a particularly long public transport journey, they're there waiting!

    Incidentally, in an utterly unrelated comment, I'm reading a book that I'm almost certain you'll like at the moment - 'Wake' by Anna Hope? It's set just after WWI and is currently following three different women as they try to cope with the aftermath. I sense that there will be blubbing but I haven't got that far yet...

    1. It really is so good. I love having backup classics on my kindle for exactly those moments. That's pretty much why I love my kindle so much.

      I'm going to tweet you about Wake because OHMYGOD. There will be blubbing (there was for me) because it is so darn beautiful.

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