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John Sutherland
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Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  25 reviews
No previous author has attempted a book such as this: a complete history of novels written in the English language, from the genre's seventeenth-century origins to the present day. In the spirit of Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, acclaimed critic and scholar John Sutherland selects 294 writers whose works illustrate the best of every kind of fiction—from gothic, penny dr ...more
Published (first published March 27th 2007)
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Wouldn’t it be nice to be as famous as Martin Amis, to be out for a lark with Muriel Spark, to be sailing a boatsy with JM Coatzee, or down on the Bowery with Malcolm Lowry and measuring the size of Theodore Dreiser, or arguing (damn it!) with Dashiel Hammett, chatting up dames with Henry James, bridging the gulf between me and Mrs Woolf, or watching The Full Monty with Emily Bronte….

I began this one at the same time that I was reading All These Years – Tune In. That volume takes 870 pages to te
Phillip Kay
I've just finished reading an enormous work over 1,000 pages, Lives of the Novelists: a history of fiction in 294 lives, short biographies of novelists writing in English by John Sutherland (Profile Books London 2011). It presents a novel idea (excuse the pun), embodying both literary and social history in English from John Bunyan in 1660 to Rana Dasgupta in 2010. It charts literary fashions, examines the best sellers and the classics of past and present years and gives an idea of how the novel ...more
Sue Russell
These short bios are so deft, insightful, and funny, with well-chosen quotes from interesting and unexpected parties (like T.S. Eliot on Flannery O'Connor). It's like the best lecture from a favorite college professor.
Sutherland give us a snapshot of the lives of 294 writers that chronicles the history of the novel and is illustrative of how much or how little the author appears in his or her work.

A must for those who love books about books and books about authors.
This took me nearly six months to finish, dipping in and out, reading one or two of the little biographies in a sitting. The book is over 800 pages in a big format without much white space on the page. I grew a little tired of lugging it around. Sutherland's selection of subjects is more than a little esoteric, including plenty of writers that aren't much known, particularly to American audiences. That doesn't mean that most of the major figures aren't there, although most of the international w ...more
The author makes no bones that these are his personal selections, but with 294 lives, each summarized in a 2-5 page mini-bio, pretty much everyone is here if you sat down and made a list of the top 100 you would expect to see. All the classic British and American authors are here, and some outstanding international authors - Chinua Achebe, for example. Recent works focus on folks from the British Isles, especially Booker Prize winners: Amis Jr and Senior, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Each bio begi ...more
Kate Beeden
Lives of the Novelists, subtitled 'A history of fiction in 294 lives' is a collection of short biographies covering influential authors over five centuries. At over 800 pages long, this great tome of a book is obviously the result of an incredible amount of research from Sutherland.

Most of the biographies are around three pages long, which is enough to give a flavour of the life the author led. Sutherland references both the most highly regarded and the overlooked, so even the widely read will
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
The title makes this book unapproachable. At 818 pages, its length makes this book unapproachable.

Don’t let these things stop you from reading this book. It has to be the most readable book about authors I’ve ever read. You are certain to find some of your favorites. (Caution: Don’t be surprised if you don’t find all your favorites, and if you see lots of authors included that aren’t familiar to you, though.) A worthy read.
A very enjoyable guided tour through novelists writing in English starting with John Bunyan and ending with Rana Dasgupta, by way of all sorts of literary highways and byways. This massive tome (800 pages plus) kept me very entertained for about 6 months. What I found particularly enjoyable was the breadth of coverage - Sutherland includes both 'classic'/literary and 'popular'/genre authors: so Dickens, Hardy, Forster, Julian Barnes and John Updike rub shoulders with Georgette Heyer, Zane Grey, ...more
Deeply unsatisfying. Sutherland includes too many non-novelists (Poe, Saki, Samuel Johnson, O Henry, Ambrose Bierce) and too many obscure novelists (who the heck are Susanna Haswell and Charles Brocken Brown and John Polispri and Fanny Fern and Sylannus Cobb Jr.) and too minor genre writers (Zane Gray, Earl Stanley Gardener, Issac Asimov) which would be OK if he was aiming for completeness... But he leaves out major figures like Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Pynchon, Colm Toibin, Edmund White, Hollingh ...more
I read this straight through until I came to the 20th century. From there, I began skimming more and more as I got closer to the present. Reading it straight through creates an interesting narrative of the progression of the novel and modern medicine. There is a span when nearly every entry either dies of tuberculosis or their loved ones die. I felt like when it came into the 20th century, perhaps because there wasn’t as much distance, the narrative of time became less compelling. Also I was su ...more
Joan Colby
Sutherland’s intent in this lengthy volume modeled on Lives of the Poets, is to include a variety of fiction from “penny dreadfuls to high literature.” And yet some of his choices are baffling. If one is selecting according to books that reflect a certain period, why include Edna Ferber and not Sinclair Lewis? Why James Cain and not Simone De Beauvoir? Why Catherine Cookson and not Doris Lessing. Why, for heaven’s sakes, Thomas Hardy and not Leo Tolstoy? I could go on. Of course, an anthology is ...more
Newtown Review of Books
John Sutherland, an academic himself, seems to have set out to annoy his colleagues. Not for him an analysis of the text with the assumption that the author is dead, or nice distinctions between literature and other kinds of fiction. Quite the contrary; Sutherland thinks writers’ lives bear directly on what they write and that writers’ works can be directly influenced and affected by other writers, and that this is worth pointing out and examining.

Read full review here: http://newtownreviewofboo
Admittedly I haven't read every page of this very long book, but what I have read I absolutely love! Sutherland's brief bios of well-known as well as obscure authors had me downloading their works right and left off of Amazon. Covering four centuries and 294 lives makes for a massive tome and one you would think would be dry and boring, but this is anything but!
This is extremely readable and entertaining, and I plan on buying my own copy of this book so I can peruse it at my leisure, and highli
informativno i zabavno
This book is so much fun. Written by an academic and published by Yale university Press, Lives is not what I'd expected. It's dishy and gossipy, filled with fun facts that you probably didn't know about your favorite authors. This 818 page door stop dishes on well known authors from the 17th century to the 20th century. Pick this one up at your local library. Entries are typically 4-5 pages long, so you can read them between books or whenever you want a read but don't have a lot of time. I highl ...more
Wonderful, so many witty information about so many authors and some of them are among my favorites. I think I'd buy a printed copy as soon as I find it. This is a book to read and reread all over again!

Bellissimo, così tante nuove e particolari informazioni su tanti autori, tra cui alcuni dei miei favoriti. Appena la trovo mi compro anche una copia cartacea che questo è un libro da leggere e rileggere in continuazione!

Vince Vawter
LIVES OF THE NOVELIST by John Sutherland.
This is unlike any other novelist compilation book I have ever read. The short sketches of the writers always told me something I did not know about the authors, and Sutherland was brutally frank in his assessments. My only complaint was trying to understand why he chose some of his subjects. Some of the writers were mere hacks and a few were momentously forgettable.
This is a lively, gossipy book about writers' lives. Half the fun is the author's witty style. It was probably not meant to be read in one go, the way I did. And other readers' comments are valid: There is a certain capriciousness to the choices, and the contemporary writers seem to be less interesting. But I recommend to anyone who a lover of literature.
I won this book from Goodreads - THANKS! This is my 'go to' book for learning about the lives of the authors I read. Excellent overview of the most important novelists. John Sutherland has done an excellent job condensing important information.
Ellen Swan
Very good reading, but I question some of his choices. No Anne Rice? No Lionel Shriver? No Amy Tan? Needs more women.
Not at all a book to read in one sitting, but nice to page through. 3.5 stars.
Jan 07, 2012 Helen is currently reading it
Shelves: biography
Really enjoying the tone of this - but it's a dip in and out tome.
Bill Kidd
highly entertaining ang good fun
Jan 03, 2012 Cat is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Utter joy!
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John Andrew Sutherland is an English lecturer, emeritus professor, newspaper columnist and author.

Now Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, John Sutherland began his academic career after graduating from the University of Leicester as an assistant lecturer in Edinburgh in 1964. He specialises in Victorian fiction, 20th century literature, an
More about John Sutherland...
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