Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Joe Gould's Teeth” as Want to Read:
Joe Gould's Teeth
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Joe Gould's Teeth

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  979 ratings  ·  202 reviews
From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”

Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers a
Hardcover, 235 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Knopf
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Joe Gould's Teeth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Joe Gould's Teeth

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  979 ratings  ·  202 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Joe Gould's Teeth
Feb 25, 2016 rated it liked it
New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell wrote highly popular pieces about New York City oddballs and eccentrics. Joe Gould was the subject of two profiles, one in 1942 and another in 1964. What made Gould interesting to Mitchell was his "The Oral History of Our Time," a mammoth project allegedly nine million words long. When Mitchell returned to Gould in the 60's, he ruled that the Oral History had never existed, and by that time Gould was dead and could not argue otherwise. After the story came out p ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Joe Gould's Teeth is a fascinating little novella-sized project from Harvard professor and New Yorker staffer Jill Lepore, which started life because of an earlier article from that same magazine -- an article in 1942, in fact, a character profile of an eccentric bohemian named Joe Gould who had been known
Book Riot Community
The story of Joe Gould is wildly interesting. He was an eccentric man, friends with famous artists, including Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. He believed himself to be the most brilliant historian of his time, and he claimed to write down everything that was ever said to him, and boasted of having written a nine million word manuscript. Reporter Joseph Mitchell later claimed in a New Yorker article that the manuscript to be a figment of a madman’s imagination. Joe Gould’s Teeth is a fasc ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking that this story would be better served as an article in The New Yorker. It fits naturally as follow-up to the first New Yorker articles that profiled Joe Gould's effort to write “The Oral History of Our Time.”So I wasn't surprised when I later learned that a version of this story was published in the July 27th, 2015 issue of The New Yorker. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough substance here to justify a book. The most frustrating aspect ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Feb 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Okay, but hardly at all about the search for the manuscript and more a straight bio of Gould. Was hoping for more of the former and less of the latter.
James Murphy
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Gould is famous as a New York City bohemian and eccentric of the mid-20th century. Sometimes he was homeless and sometimes he was hospitalized for various mental issues. But he was known for constantly writing a book--he considered himself a historian--written in hundreds of school composition books, some carried around with him, others stored in locations he kept to himself. Some parts he lost and apparently wrote over and over again. He called this the longest book ever written, An Oral Hi ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I started this book with great anticipation. I had read "Joe Gould's Secret" by Mitchell and had become fascinated by the story of this self-proclaimed "oral historian", who claimed to be writing a complete history of everything anybody had ever said. This type of grandiose undertaking is usually associated with psychopathology, and there were indeed plenty of indications in Mitchell's two New Yorker stories about Joe Gould that would indicate this was not your run-of-the-mill Greenwich Village ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
didnt know what to expect. total cover borrow (library). a moderately interesting person from the past. the myth and the truth as far as jill could find it. really enjoyed it. will be reading more of her writing for sure.
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Reminds me of Janet Malcolm. Bizarre true life mystery w/ archives & libraries-- what more do you need?
Morgan bookaddicts.ahoy
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
1. Joe Mitchell was not a good person.
2. Joe Gould made me both love and hate him.
3. I'm very curious about what Gould would be diagnosed with today.
-Overall, so interesting.
Simon Robs
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Skreeek! So goes the lore'd legend "Professor Seagull" Joe Gould as he struts his stuff around the pages of The New Yorker's mag/writer Joseph Mitchell's pieces on this wackier-than-life figure of the first half 20th century and, now too in JL's re-opening account of tracking down the facts, little though they be, yet sufficient to close the file for posterity of "The Oral History of Our Time."

Joe Gould was on to something, maybe a lot of little somethings accrued to his time before widespread
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Harvard historian and contributor to the New Yorker magazine Jill Lepore has written a dark and somewhat disturbing investigation into recent American cultural history. A major punchline of this investigation is that one should not always take what one reads in the New Yorker, especially about pop culture "icons", at face value. Making sense of this dilemma is what makes "Joe Gould's Teeth" such an interesting book.

Joe Gould was a street historian of sorts which lived in Greenwich Village from t
Angus McKeogh
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
The premise sounded so interesting yet the book was extremely boring. Ostensibly it's about some prolific writer that was supposedly recording an Oral History of the World (which was actually more his personal interactions with other people) that had run out to hundreds of thousands of pages. However, upon reading the book, it's about a certified insane individual that claims he's doing all this writing (and apparently hardly writes at all) who happens to somehow be friendly with some literary c ...more
Edward Sullivan
A fascinating investigation into the life and work of a mentally unhinged historian likely afflicted with hypergraphia whose unrealized goal was to do for history what Whitman did for poetry.
Jim Yarin
I plowed through this, and because end notes are a pain in the butt to read while reading the main text, I later skimmed the notes to see what further information I could glean from them. This book is not just a sensational story about an oddball character-- I think you will find those reviews elsewhere without a problem--it is also a study of the historian's quest. Let me expand on that. Lepore makes a point to share with the reader the unusually rich supply of source materials she was able to ...more
I picked this up somewhat randomly at a random bookstore in Oregon during a recent visit. The cover captured my attention, and I recognized Lepore's name, as she wrote a book about Wonder Woman that I purchased as a gift a few years ago (I've always meant to read that one but have never gotten around to it). The jacket copy made it seem compelling -- here was this bizarre Modern-literature-adjacent figure I had never heard of, though I'm pretty familiar with that period in English literature. An ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Jill Lepore’s Joe Gould’s Teeth is that beautiful brand of history that reads less like a scholarly article and more like a detective report. Following the man better known as Professor Seagull, Lepore sets out to answer a question that has eluded the public since the notion of Gould’s “longest book in the world” arose. An eccentric Harvard alumnus and vagabond, Gould in the early 20th century claimed to have written the longest book on earth, an oral history attempting to capture ordinary life. ...more
Chance Lee
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-story
Joe Gould was a man obsessed. In the 1930s and 40s, he wanted to record everything ever said in a collection called "The Oral History of Our Time." "Joe Gould's Teeth" by Jill Lepore begins as Lepore's attempt to find the hundreds of notebooks rumored to contain the History. The History was never confirmed to have existed. "Shouldn't someone check?" Lepore asks.

Gould was made famous when New Yorker writer Joe Mitchell profiled Gould in the magazine in 1942. The Joe Gould paradox reminds me of a
Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
If you view history as social forces, random encounters, unexpected outcomes and an account of human experience as a combination of behavior, what we tell ourselves about our behavior and why we do what we think we are doing--this book's for you. If you buy the idea history is the result of decisions made by great men, this book will present an opposing view. Good but not great. By the way, not until the epilogue is the book title explained. ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this to be an interesting book about a character that I had never heard of.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Two separate thoughts:
1) I’ve heard about Joe Gould for a long time now so it was good to finally get some backstory and explanation here.
2) I wish I could write the way a New Yorker writer writes. Jill Lepore is great.
Vincent DiGirolamo
Sad. Make smee tink of the Jg's in my own life: Messrs. Quam and Appollo. A twisted brilliance gone to seed. Kindness required. Exasperation guaranteed. Yet why bother wit delusions if they cant be grand? JL wandered into a cul-de-sac, really, but got a good book out of it nonetheless. A sparkling sanity she has, which really comes down to finishing what you start. Plus there's the cutest pix on the inside flap, which is worth half a star at least. Tink I'll apply for a Guggie like Prof. Seagull ...more
Mark Feltskog
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, but none I can explain, Joe Gould has endured as an interest of mine. This book relieves me of that burden, for which I am grateful to Professor Lepore.
Scott Diamond
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: f-literature
Not sure what all the interest is in Joe Gould. Found the book somewhat interesting for first half but then mostly lost interest.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Review Title: Long history short

Well, one thing can be said for certain about Joe Gould's teeth--Lepore tells his biography in a few short and small pages. I read the whole thing--150 small format pages plus footnotes--in a couple of hours. The history is longer than the biography.

The History in this case is Gould's "Oral History of the World", which was much written about, well documented in rumor, long awaited--but never published and possibly (probably?) never existed at all! Gould was a knoc
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lepore tackles a difficult subject in this book: a thoroughly unlikeable man - racist, abusive, anti-Semitic, harasser of women - and his unfindable manuscript, simultaneously hailed as potentially one of the greatest works of history and dismissed as being unevenly written, where it was written at all. The book is being marketed as Lepore's search for the manuscript, but it's more about her can't-look-away curiosity for the man. She does an excellent job, I think, of treating Gould like a human ...more
Sue Smith
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Joe Gould’s Teeth is really just a research paper that’s been published into book form. It’s essentially thoughts and the tedious digging that you have to do in order to try and get information about an obscure personage or event that has dissolved into the historical fabric of time.

So who is Joe Gould?

The main interest behind Joe Gould is that he was developing an Oral History - writing down all the things seen and said by the commoners or people that weren’t historically significant but never
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really weird story very well written with some interesting facts about the Harlem Renaissance artists, publishers, E E Cummings and Ezra Piund during the 30s and 40s.
Rob Neyer
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
So this book, a much-expanded version of Lepore's New Yorker article, is right in my sweet spot. And I think it benefits from its brevity; I thought Lepore's book about Wonder Woman (for example) just couldn't bear the weight of its length. But this is a great and quick read, and I enjoyed literally every page.

There is one little thing that bothers me, though ... SPOILER ALERT ... It's not really the book I thought I was getting. It's really a short biography of Joe Gould, with goodly bits of J
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, outcasts
I'm surprised I had never heard of Joe Gould - friend/pest to ee cummings, Ezra Pound, WC Williams... and the subject of 2 famous profiles by Joseph Mitchell in the New Yorker.

In life, Gould was a genius, a madman, a bohemian, a stalker, harmless, aggressive, racist, free thinking, a lech, generous. He was involved in Eugenics research. He walked across most of Canada.

As an adult, he was almost always poor and always focused on his life's work: An Oral History of Our Time. This work was suppose
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Joe Gould's Secret
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution
  • The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World
  • Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
  • Rosmersholm
  • Morality Play
  • The Master Builder
  • The Lady from the Sea
  • More Better Deals
  • We Want Our Bodies Back: Poems
  • Odds Against Tomorrow
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
  • The Book of Lamps and Banners (Cass Neary, #4)
  • Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
  • Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin
  • In Search of Adam: The Story of Man's Quest for the Truth about His Earliest Ancestors
  • The Development Of Creole Society, 1770—1820
  • The Southern Question
See similar books…
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, Harvard College Professor, and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best non-fiction book on race, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Name of War (Knopf, 1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson P

Related Articles

Tech pioneer, cofounder of Microsoft, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and author Bill Gates is an avid reader who has...
187 likes · 106 comments