R. B. Russell

Fifty Forgotten Books

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, publisher of Tartarus Press, 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.


Designed by Holly Ovenden and art-directed by Tom Etherington, this first edition of Fifty Forgotten Books is a jacketed paperback which hides a gem under the dust jacket’s elegant typographic design, namely her illustration on the book’s card cover, which evokes the fin de siècle period from which some of the fifty forgotten books come.

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EBook: £11.99

About the Book

More Info

Watch R. B. Russell talking about the story behind Fifty Forgotten Books.

You can find out more about R.B Russell on his website.

Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback with dust jacket
Publication date: 13 September 2022
ISBN: 9781913505509
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505516
Number of pages: 256


Stuart Maconie

‘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.’

Michael Dirda

‘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.’

Andrew Michael Hurley

‘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.’

Publishers Weekly

'Lovers of obscure authors and literature will welcome this eclectic collection . . . from British editor Russell. His easy, accessible style is a delight to read.'

David Tibet

‘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!’

Edward Parnell

‘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.’

Jeremy Dyson

‘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.’

Mark Valentine

‘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.’