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Whether you know absolutely nothing about a subject and are embarking on your first steps, or you are already familiar with the world the Little History describes, these are the most energetic, entertaining and reliable guides you will find.

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A Little History of Literature, by
John Sutherland

Little History of Literature

Published: August 1, 2014

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In A Little History of Literature, Sutherland introduces great classics in his own irresistible way, enlivening his offerings with humour 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. This tour de force tour round the literature of the world separates the wheat from the chaff to distil the highlights of three thousand years of writing.

‘I suspect that an expert like John Sutherland could have written this highly entertaining and informative history without recourse to any research at all, having it pretty much at his fingertips; and it reads extremely well, as though he is simply having a chat with us about literature and why it matters.’  Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday


Professor John Sutherland’s previous books include Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives.

Some reviews

‘As a guidebook, it’s a cracker. What Sutherland has to offer is formidable breadth of reading, a generous spirit and a rebounding enthusiasm for his subject.’  Sam Leith, Spectator

‘Written in prose that is clear and free from the diktat of theory and criticism, A Little History of Literature is an enjoyable account of a lifelong involvement with literature.’  John Vukmirovich, Times Literary Supplement

‘A Little History of Literature, which begins with Beowulf and ends with bestsellers, is primarily a guide for teenagers, and John Sutherland brings to the vast and unruly subject some order, clarity and commonsense.’  Frances Wilson, New Statesman

‘I suspect that an expert like John Sutherland could have written this highly entertaining and informative history without recourse to any research at all, having it pretty much at his fingertips; and it reads extremely well, as though he is simply having a chat with us about literature and why it matters.’  Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

Just some of the remarkable people in this book

About the author

John Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature, University College London. A trenchant critic and columnist, he has taught students at every level.

More about John Sutherland

About the illustrator

Sarah Young is a Printmaker, Painter, Designer, Maker and Illustrator. Her first venture was a travelling puppet theatre which used all of the above skills.

More about Sarah Young