Name Your “Lost” Books

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

stack of books

Today’s lead story discusses the phenomenon of the bookseller who is frustrated at not being able to deliver the books that his customer is asking for — some obscure, some rather well-known, but for some reason, unavailable for purchase.

These aren’t necessarily books that haven’t been translated. On the contrary, they are often available in an English translation (and others) and are for sale overseas. Or else they are books in English that for one reason or another haven’t been published in the States.

Every so often a publisher will put out a collection of essays by authors lauding titles that are underappreciated, out-of-print or simply forgotten. (Ironically, those books documenting those “lost books” usually go out-of-print pretty fast as well.) And sometimes you’ll catch a mention of a book that deserves reconsideration — one example is WNYC’s superb summer radio series touting “underappreciated” novels.

Such things are catnip to serious readers seeking out new titles. But they can drive booksellers mad, particularly when readers come in looking for said titles.  Often, this results in a lost sale, as the customer turns to the Web as an alternative. One online bookseller,, even puts out a list of top ten requested out-of-print books.

So, today, to continue trying to bring attention to those books that deserve revival (or, at the very least, better and wider distribution) and in the hope that publishers will take notice, we’re introducing a new series looking at not only “lost” titles and authors, but those authors who are well-known overseas that deserve more widespread publication in the United States and elsewhere. Many are translated; some are not.

What we want to hear from you is what books you’ve gone looking for in bookstores and haven’t been able to find. Don’t limit yourself to titles in the United States. Are you in Germany and can’t find a particular British book? In India and looking for something from Japan?

Name your “lost books” in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppbonus. And, if you know of any online resources of “lost” books, tell us about those, too.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.