Book Review: The Secret Library, by Oliver Tearle

Publisher:  Michael O’Mara

Publication date:  29th September 2016



This fascinating little journal navigates its way through a compilation of interesting bookish facts, starting with a Trojan Horse in The Classical World and ending with a T-Rex in Jurassic Park in The Modern World.

Nine easy to read ‘chapters’ are segmented into literary works of note to make up chronological periods of history. Each is punctuated with memorable witticisms from the author, who is the perfect tour guide to the curiosities found between the pages of some of both the more remarkable and lesser known titles.

I’d never have attributed the origin of certain words and phrases we’re all familiar with as being coined by writers for the first time in their own novels. The influence they’ve had on our most technological advancements to date gave way to a few “wow, I didn’t know that!” moments.

It’s pretty comprehensive considering it’s just over 250 pages long and there’s an index in the back enabling you to look up a particular author on a whim. During every spare moment I’ve dipped in and out of The Secret Library – I didn’t know that ‘book evolution’ could be quite so addictive!

I’m not generally a huge fan of non-fiction but this entertaining, inquisitive and frankly rather gorgeous hardback is a perfect addition to any bookshelf. And I am utterly in love with this cover. It even has a cut-out in the sleeve in the shape of a keyhole, allowing you spy the hardcover beneath which is printed with bookshelves – need I say more?!!

Rating:      4/5

Source: My own purchased copy. I. Could. Not. Resist. 

Here’s the ‘naked’ book after I’ve coaxed its jacket off:



(Courtesy of Amazon)

As well as leafing through the well-known titles that have helped shape the world in which we live, Oliver Tearle also dusts off some of the more neglected items to be found hidden among the bookshelves of the past.

You’ll learn about the forgotten Victorian novelist who outsold Dickens, the woman who became the first published poet in America and the eccentric traveller who introduced the table-fork to England. Through exploring a variety of books – novels, plays, travel books, science books, cookbooks, joke books and sports almanacs – The Secret Library highlights some of the most fascinating aspects of our history. It also reveals the surprising connections between various works and historical figures. What links Homer’s Iliad to Aesop’s Fables? Or Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac to the creator of Sherlock Holmes?

The Secret Library brings these little-known stories to light, exploring the intersections between books of all kinds and the history of the Western world over 3,000 years.



(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Oliver Tearle is Lecturer in English at Loughborough University, UK. His academic books include ‘Bewilderments of Vision’ (2013) and ‘T. E. Hulme and Modernism’ (2013). He also runs the site Interesting Literature: A Library of Literary Interestingness and writes a literature blog for the Huffington Post. A book aimed at the general reader, ‘The Secret Library’, will be published in September 2016.



22 thoughts on “Book Review: The Secret Library, by Oliver Tearle

    • Excellent news! This little hardback was such good value too 🙂 And just changing the subject for a sec… I don’t think your posts are showing up in my WP feed so I will unfollow and refollow later and see if that kick starts things!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s