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Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  622 ratings  ·  151 reviews
A glorious, full-illustrated collection that delves deep into the inception, influences, and literary and historical underpinnings of nearly 100 of our most beloved fictional realms.

Literary Wonderlands is a thoroughly researched, wonderfully written, and beautifully produced book that spans two thousand years of creative endeavor. From Spenser's The Fairie Queene to Wells
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Black Dog Leventhal
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Nov 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE. NO ONE EVER.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book that made me this angry.

I probably shouldn’t be quite so mad. As a whole, this is a fluff-piece, clearly not meant seriously; as amply demonstrated by the shallow blurb-like summaries of each ‘literary wonderland’. Few of the ‘essays’ even quote from the material, and when they do, it’s only once; none of the ones I read (in the spirit of honesty, I should tell you that I only made it halfway through the book before wishing I had a paperback copy to s
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly beautiful book, with gorgeous color illustrations on almost every page 2-page spread, so reading it, even flipping through it, is a delight. The first thing I did was check to see which of my favorite literary worlds had been included (Strange/Norrell! Thursday Next! And many others!), and I read those entries feeling great pleasure and satisfaction to see the texts I love treated with such respectful and thought-provoking attention.

But discovering new-to-you authors is the bigg
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Also known as 'The Big Book of Spoilers.' ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
People have been immersing themselves in stories for thousands of years, originally these were passed from person to person before someone had the genius idea of writing them down. What stories though are the defining example of a type? Literary Wonderlands tries to do this by picking around 100 books and series that they think have redefined the literary landscape when they were published.

There are five sections of books, beginning with Ancient Myth & Legend and then Science and Romanticism it
Suanne Laqueur
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what I expected this to be but as I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This isn't what I expected it to be." I know that makes no sense. It's still a beautiful book and I enjoyed every page. ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Fills a gap we didn't know existed, and still aren't sure. A supposed catalog of the lands of fantasy and science fiction through the ages. Is more like a survey of those fantasy and fiction works through the ages which created worlds or universes.
Over a hundred entries, so the coverage is shallow.
Nice illustrations.
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Literary Wonderlands is a true gem for any real book lover. Filled with beautiful illustrations and brief, yet incisive write-ups on everything from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Salman Rushdie's Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days, it highlights literature both famous and overlooked. Each book has a well-researched, concise abstract detailing not just the story itself but also information on the author and the book's place in the literary world. Reading it made me remember countless childho ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's not that there's anything wrong with this book but I didn't find it to be a useful reference work.[1] The entries are short and superficial. And scattershot. I'm not sure what the guiding principle for including an author was.

A much better reference (and one that manages to pack a lot of useful info into short entries) is John Clute's The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

[1] I did extract two titles of interest, so the effort wasn't entirely in vain.
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

I fell in love with this in the bookshop.  I have a great weakness for books about books and leafing through the pages of beautiful illustrations and biographies of fantasy worlds that I had loved over the years, I felt that this was a book that I really needed to have for my own.  Fortunately, it was just before Christmas and Santa Claus (in the guise of my parents) was very obliging.  Tracking back from early mythology all the way thr
Jesse Richards
Mar 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't understand what the point of this book is. It is very different than I expected. It is just a list of summaries of 100 books. ...more
Lynn DiFerdinando
First of all, "worlds" is a misnomer. Many of the entries picked were closer to magical realism, or just simply invented cities or places. At some point, "world" has to mean something different, or any invented town in any drama fiction novel would count. For example... Pale Fire by Nabokov? That's hardly a world, now is it? One Hundred Years of Solitude? Several of these only work in the context of our world at all. yes, Hundred Years has magic in it (or does it? symbolic imagery exists, author ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Trivia buffs, book afficionados
This was an interesting read, and I learned a lot of good trivia behind many of the worlds presented. It also served as a good preview for several books I haven't read. My to-read list is now a little longer (as if it wasn't long enough already), although I now also know of a few books I'll most likely never want to touch.
Overall, this is a nice overview of the evolution of fictional worlds. That being said, a few of the choices confused me. Why was Asimov's I, Robot featured but not his Foundat
Peter Tillman
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: SF/F fans
Off to a very good start. Slanted toward SF/F (proto in the early days, e.g Beowulf., Orlando Furioso, Metamorphoses), nice little story capsules and great ART!. Works mentioned extend from Gilgamesh (1750 BC) to 2015. Your interest in this book will depend on your interest in the fantastic in literature. And the book capsules range from excellent to pretty murky

Here's the NYT review, which you should read first:

TOC is at Google, with some samples: ttps:/
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Literary Wonderlands was an impulse buy which turned out to be most enjoyable reading. It is, as implied by the full title Literary Wonderlands, a Journey through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created, a brief exploration of notable fictional worlds, beginning with the ancient world and concluding in the computer age. Its five sections are:

Ancient Myth and Legend
Science and Romanticism
Golden Age of Fantasy
New World Order
The Computer Age.

Ancient Myths and Legends includes th
Of all the powerful spells that fiction casts upon us - absorbing plots, believable characters, vivid language - one of the least celebrated is its ability to make us feel transported to another time and place. — Laura Miller

How to review this book?
This is a book that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. With so many contributors it was going to take a serious effort to keep the book consistent. It appears to me like the range of contributors were just asked to write about the world of the b

Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Literary Wonderlands takes you on 100 adventures to fictional worlds you may be familiar with already or places you have yet to discover.

This beautifully illustrated hardback book is perfect for book-lovers. It will take you from the time of ancient myth and legend, through the golden age of fantasy, right up to the contemporary computer age. As you journey through the ages, these literary wonderlands will also transport you throughout the world. Some of the locations are real such as the Spain
Lance Eaton
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Miller's book is what has become increasingly one of my favorite and most frustrating types of books: a book about other books. In this book, Miller and a host of fantastic contributors share (very) short essays on the power of worlds that are crafted fro imagination in fiction.  Starting as far back as the Epic of Gilgamesh and traveling up through the 2000s, they identify some of the richest worlds every created with an eye towards fictional worlds that have been influential, culturally rich ( ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am not gonna lie, I did not read this entire thing. But I am considering it read since it has grown my to-read list by around 25 books.

I read the sections for books that I have already read. I was so glad to see some of my favorite series added to this collection. The rest I skimmed just enough to see if it where something I might like and then promptly added it to my list if it was.

The sections themselves are very interesting. It gives you a little information about the author, some mytholog
Meredith Johnson
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Literary Wonderlands by Laura Miller is an amazing journey through some of the most beloved, authentic, and fantastic literary works from ancient history to today. I picked up this book and read it with a writer's eye, meaning I looked for inspiration for my own book and my journey in world building. I am amazed at the ease with which it seems these incredible author's built their worlds and how they used them to elevate their stories. This book also introduced me to many stories I did not know, ...more
Linda Hill
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Literary Wonderlands explores the settings and creation of books spanning 4,000 years.

If you’ve ever read a book of any kind and enjoyed it then Literary Wonderlands is the book for you. It is a stunning book to have. I absolutely love it.

One of the great pleasures of ‘real’ books for me is the presentation. It might sound ridiculous, but Literary Wonderlands appeals to almost all my senses. The quality of the materials here is so lovely to touch with smooth, crisp pages that make the spine give
Adrienne Dillard
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
A great look at some of the most imaginative literary worlds. I wish there had been more information on some places I was interested in, but all in all it was a light and pleasant diversion.
Suzy Dominey
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
absolute fascinating to see all these different wonderlands
Quinn Rollins
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Narnia. Middle Earth. Oz. Wonderland. The worlds of fantasy and science fiction are part of what draws us to them. Among the longest-lasting are the ones that create their world so fully that you can picture where things are on the map--and indeed, many of our favorites have actual maps in their end pages. How many times have you flipped back to Mirkwood, to Cair Paravel, to the Emerald City to get oriented as your follow the heroes through their adventures? These are some of my favorite books, ...more
**✿❀ Maki ❀✿**
This isn't a terrible collection of "literary wonderlands" just isn't a very comprehensive one. It's basically a subjective "Best Of" list in book form, which skews heavily towards science fiction. There are a LOT of dystopians on the list.

Each book is briefly described in a 2 - 3 page essay, with pictures.

Still, I managed to use it to find more books to read. I've got a handful of books from it that I didn't know existed, but liked the sound of. (And I'm supposed to be cleaning OUT my to r
Nathan Albright
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
Leftists ruin everything, even an enjoyment of the imaginative locations of speculative fiction.  That is not to say that this book is worthless.  On the contrary, it is at points quite interesting, even where I seriously and violently disagree with the author about the worth of particular novels and fictional worlds and the fixations of the authors.  If the reader is not aware of the connection between fictional writers and their worlds before reading this book, they should certainly be aware o ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's beauty to Literary Wonderlands: First, in the physical object. The paper quality is excellent and combined with the ink the artwork and photographs look fantastic on each page. It's also satisfyingly hefty.

Second, in how it's organized. The works are divided by era, starting with 'Ancient Myth & Legend' and concluding with 'The Computer Age.' These larger frameworks create neat divisions of thought, and help contextualize the history.

Third, the writing is rather good for the first three
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
"Literary Wonderlands" is a well-led tour through the history (broken into five time frames - beginning with "up through 1700," and concluding with "1981 to present" that highlight genres and ideas from that age) of the most well-read (and loved) fictional worlds brought to life by some of the most intriguing writers one could imagine. I found myself further researching authors I was not as familiar with and the availability of their work. It was also enjoyable to browse familiar authors and the ...more
Patrick Meehan
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: High School and College Level Composition Classes
Recommended to Patrick by: Gift
Use this book as a menu to new reading dishes. It offered to me a variety of books which appear tantalizing and also some which I had previously dismissed but now am willing to taste.


However, this book has a structural and fundamental identity problem which makes it almost unreadably didactic and incongruent.

It reads like a bunch of high school book reviews flogging a common thesis to varying degrees of bloody torture. Some entries merely sting like a rubberband thwack. Some
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
This travelogue of fictional worlds was fascinating, entertaining and educational. The book was divided up into different topics, each with a certain year range, and the entire book was in chronological order. Beginning with Ancient Myth and Legend, with the first entry being The Epic of Gilgamesh from 1750 BC, through to The Computer Age with Salmon Rushdie's Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights, the literary lands discusses span centuries and the globe.

Each book, and world, that is
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: includes-review, 2018
3.5 stars

Literary Wonderlands showcases some of the best-known and most noteworthy fantasy / speculative fiction in Western Literature. It works well as a coffee-table book - it is lavishly illustrated, interesting, and, lends itself well to casual browsing. The books - from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to H.G. Wells to William Gibson, are arranged chronologically and also around four distinct themes. The writers bring their considerable knowledge of literature and history to shed light
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Laura Miller is a journalist and critic. She is currently books and culture columnist at She was a cofounder of, where she worked for 20 years, and is the editor of The Readers Guide to Contemporary Authors. A regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Time, and other publications. She l ...more

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