Read the unknown unknown bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted by Mark Forsyth Online


Mark Forsyth – author of the Sunday Times Number One bestseller The Etymologicon – reveals in this essay, specially commissioned for Independent Booksellers Week, the most valuable thing about a really good bookshop. Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why oMark Forsyth – author of the Sunday Times Number One bestseller The Etymologicon – reveals in this essay, specially commissioned for Independent Booksellers Week, the most valuable thing about a really good bookshop. Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why only a bookshop can give you that precious thing – what you never knew you were looking for....

Title : the unknown unknown bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 24004008
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 32 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

the unknown unknown bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-01-31 19:16

    I have to read this. It's absolutely what I specialise in. I have only a few bestsellers, but I have all sorts of goodies you wouldn't find unless you were looking for them specifically (see my bookshelves!) It's one of the joys of owning an indie bookshop that I can spend my days looking for the unusual and then when customers come in looking for something quite different (which I will order for them) they leave with books that they'd never even heard of. I can't wait to read it.

  • Rikke
    2019-01-26 13:36

    “The book is still waiting for you, the perfect book, the one that will answer every question you didn't know to ask. It's on the shelf at the top, in the corner, just within reach of your grasping hand. The unknown unknown, waiting like an undiscovered continent, just at the back of the bookshop.”I have a premium account at a Danish online bookstore. I can buy psychical books as well as e-books at an outrageously low price and get them delivered at my front door a few days later. It is convenient, comfortable and quick. Every book I ever wanted is only one click away. So why do I keep going into bookstores?I love bookstores because I love surprises. I love browsing through a selection of books that I never knew existed. I love gasping at beautiful covers I've never seen before and picking up books out of sheer curiosity. I love bookstores because they always surprise me; whether it's with a beautiful edition of my favorite novel or an obscure novel that I haven't heard about before. I love bookstore because I never know which books I'll take with me, when I leave.And that is exactly what this essay is about. I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Forsyth; surprises do not come from a Google search. Surprises occur when you enter a bookstore.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-02-21 13:23

    This is not really a book, just an essay, but the best 99¢ I've spent on Kindle in a while. All about the delights of going into the bookshop and finding something you never knew you wanted. For booklovers everywhere.

  • Wiebke (1book1review)
    2019-01-23 17:22

    This was a lovely little read about my preferred way of choosing books. And he just explains it so well why we should go into bookstores picking up books we have not heard of before.Read it and follow its example.

  • Pat
    2019-02-12 17:16

    This short essay is based around a quote by Donald Rumsfeld. Whaaat?, yea, I know. Anyway, in a nutshell, you don't know what it is that you do not know! Author Mark Forsyth uses this to describe what happens when you walk into a bookshop and pick up a book you never intended to read, and yet, find that book to be exactly what you needed. Similar to how I thought of this essay. Recommend to anyone who has found a book and that book was exactly the right thing at the right time to read.

  • Mary Ronan Drew
    2019-02-12 17:34

    A short pamphlet on the value of independent bookstores. "Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why only a bookshop can give you that precious thing – what you never knew you were looking for."

  • Lou Robinson
    2019-02-21 13:27

    A very amusing and well written essay on why we need bookshops. I agree with it all!

  • Quentin Crisp
    2019-02-05 18:29

    On Tuesday I was talking to someone about unknown unknowns. On Thursday, I popped into the bookshop to buy a copy of In Praise of Shadows by Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, and found this. I was intrigued, and when I'd paid for the Tanizaki said, "Ah, I'm thinking maybe I should have put this on the card, too." "You can have it," I was told, and I accepted it gratefully.It's a small format, and only 23 pages. I read it today in perhaps twenty minutes, interrupted by a phone call at one point.The most recent book I had finished, before this, was Effie Briest, by Theodor Fontane. If I had written a review of that, I was going to say that it was light, in a rococo kind of way, but extremely well observed.However, reading this kind of thing (The Unknown Unknown), by which I mean, popular contemporary non-fiction, after a gap of unmeasured years, makes me realise that there is light and there is altogether frothy. Or, to put it another way, I think I have got into reading habits such that something as light as this piece by Mark Forsyth seems to me a Malteser rather than a meal. It seems, shall we say, gratuitously light. Example sentence:"Testes to Tolstoy, that's what I say; and I say it in full knowledge of his vast reputation and beard."As I said, gratuitously light.And yet, I am forced to deduce that it is this fart-soufflé style of prose that one must cultivate if one is to engage the general reading public.Or to deduce that it is widely supposed among writers and publishers that it is this fart-soufflé style, etc.One of the two.However, I think the central point of the book, that a good bookshop allows you to make serendipitous discoveries that are vastly harder to make online, is both sound and valuable, and, since it only takes about twenty minutes to read, I can't really complain.I might be sending this book on to someone in the post. It's that kind of book, I suppose.

  • John
    2019-01-22 18:43

    The title, a good one, is almost as long as the book itself! It was one of my Christmas stocking fillers and is 23 pages of sheer delight. It summed up beautifully for me the joys of rummaging in bookshops, something I've always been addicted to doing, and acquiring books, many of which I hadn't intended to buy. A kindred spirit here..that's comforting.

  • Chiara Libriamoci
    2019-02-19 20:30

    Un'idea semplice e geniale!Un libricino da due Euro che ci dice la verità più grande ma su cui, forse, nessuno di noi si è mai fermato a riflettere:"Ci sono cose che sappiamo di sapere. Ci sono cose che sappiamo di non sapere. Ma c'è anche l'ignoto ignoto cioè le cose che non sappiamo di non sapere"Legato alle librerie ci vengono forniti tantissimi esempi letterari, geografici, storici e tanti altri, di incontri casuali legati al "non sapere" che hanno cambiato il verso della ruota che gira.Sorprese nascoste con cui ci scontriamo grazie al caso.Consapevolmente sappiamo che ci sono libri che non abbiamo letto, classici con cui non ci siamo mai confrontati, autori che non apprezziamo particolarmente... Mark Forsyth ci aiuta a capire in poco più di 20 pagine l'ignoto dell'ignoto e cioè un libro che ci sta aspettando ma di cui non conosciamo l'esistenza.Pochi Euro ben spesi, una lettura lampo, significato, profondità e realtà tanto semplici quanto ignorate.Devo aggiungere che sono rimasta colpita dalla mia esperienza personale legata a tanti titoli di cui non conoscevo l'esistenza, scoperti grazie all'esperienza di Blogger che, in alcuni casi, hanno toccato corde sensibili del mio essere come tanti libri "noti" non sono riusciti a fare!

  • Lauren Albert
    2019-02-18 18:22

    A short, humorous look at why the loss of bookshops is a real loss. Serendipity (I've always proclaimed) is a lot less likely browsing an internet bookstore. I've found it a lot harder to discover those books that I didn't know I didn't know. Is that why Amazon is opening bookstores? While for many reasons I've turned to digital books (having too many physical books in an apartment being the main one), I do miss bookstores.

  • Y. L
    2019-02-06 20:29

    Its hard to argue. It is true - we don't know what we don't know, and that (at the risk of sounding as cryptic as Donald Rumsfield), it is in what we don't know we don't know that the wonder lies. Forsyth's little essay in a handy palm-sized book justifying why we should embrace the unknown unknown is a little paradoxical seeing that it will leave us knowing what to expect from the unknown unknown.Then again, anyone who has experienced an unknown unknown revealing itself will know that all it takes is a split-second decision to wander in life. For instance, I hardly ever go to a second-hand bookshops in Malaysia now because it always seem like they stock only what they know they can sell. But when I was in Australia, I would make weekend trips to second-hand bookstores in the many little suburbs around Canberra. I never knew what I would find on the shelf because Canberra has universities, young families, a diverse and international community and a quiet history. Granted, most of the books I purchased then had always steered towards nonfiction (I could never convince myself to buy a book I wouldn't be arsed shipping back to my home country as I was already cutting out on lunches to buy books). I did however buy a very rare book on the history of my hometown, and I found my then unrealised obsession with Krishnamurti.Put simply, browsing those bookstores is like unexpectedly walking through the coffee bean aisle at the supermarket and having each brand call out to you - and you take in a deep breath, knowing that you might be taking in the same air of that patron walking right in front of you. And then you happen to buy a few coffee beans. I don't even own a coffee machine.

  • Ian Brydon
    2019-01-30 20:17

    Having had the misfortune to read Mark Forsyth's 'Etymologicon' I formed the opinion that he was rather smug, and steeped in unjustified self-regard, all too eager to demonstrate his alleged wit. He may, of course, actually be a really nice bloke.Having read this latest work, however, I see no reason to change my initial opinion. He manages to take two or three thousand words to say that we don't know what we don't know, and that perhaps we should not judge a book by its cover. I would aver that this book would emerge rather more favourably if judgement were restricted to its cover. All rather trite and self satisfied.

  • Simon
    2019-01-31 18:31

    Fertile subject matter for a longer book, and the central point about the attraction of a good bookshop is sound, although I'd dispute his assertion that serendipity is impossible on the Internet. Still, a fun read for a few minutes (it's only 20 pages long), and of course it makes me want to go browsing in a secondhand bookshop again as soon as possible.

  • Karen
    2019-01-27 17:41

    The only thing I don't agree is: Yes, Mark, you can do bibliomancy on eBooks. You just need a good teacher who knows the in and outs of Kindle!All book lovers should read this short, sweet book about the love for books and book stores!

  • Jon Arnold
    2019-02-05 14:17

    Forsyth takes one of Donald Rumsfeld’s more infamous quotes and turns it into a paean to the physical bookshop; what those emporia offer that online shops and their pesky algorithms don’t. I felt like applauding in places but then saying all this to me is just preaching to the converted.

  • Ally
    2019-02-16 19:32

    A very short book (essay?) that sums up my feelings about bookstores. Even though I love my kindle, I'll never stop buying physical books.

  • Anne Marie
    2019-02-13 12:35

    Forsyth's argument is unbelievably weak. He argues that the internet disallows us from finding "the unknown unknown". In other words, according to Mr. Forsyth, the internet prevents us from finding books or authors we haven't heard about. All that the internet allows for, he says, is to locate works we already know about. Doesn't this argument sound preposterous to you? I've found thousands of titles through Goodreads, online bookstores, and local libraries. Unquestionably it's wonderful to browse through a bookstore now and then, but the fact is that I now find the majority of books I read by searching online. It's phenomenal to me that this crap was even published!

  • Jerry
    2019-02-19 19:38

    It's bad enough that this book takes as titular inspiration the empty evasive bandying of abstractions performed by Donald Rumsfeld during his disastrous stint in the GW Bush administration. ("There are known knowns, there are known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns.") Mark Forsyth then uses this dubious slogan to exhort the necessity of "bookstores" over "the internet". According to Forsyth, "If you know you want some­thing, the in­ter­net can get it for you," but "the unknown un­known must be found oth­er­where." What nonsense! And in case we didn't get it the first time, he repeats himself not very much later: "So the in­ter­net means that, though you get what you al­ready knew you wanted, you’ll never get any­thing more.""I don’t know why I picked up a Philip K. Dick novel one day. The only ex­pla­na­tion is that it was out on a table in a book­shop." And I suppose we are to believe that this is the only way one will ever "pick up" a Philip K. Dick book? Apparently so, if you are Mark Forsyth.Look, I get it; this 23-page essay was specially commissioned for Independent Booksellers Week. So Forsyth needs to sing the praises of independent booksellers. But really, the problems in Forsyth's "argument" are almost too obvious to mention. First of all, everything he says about "bookstores" is also true of "libraries". We can go and browse through libraries and find things we weren't looking for to begin with. We'd like to sing the praises of libraries too, but Forsyth doesn't mention them in this essay because it would undermine his silly argument. And just as I can browse through my physical library, I can also browse through virtual libraries such as Open Library, or Overdrive. For that matter, book collections at "internet" places like AbeBooks, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, and, yes, the "A" word, can also be browsed through, and one can encounter lots of "unknown unknowns" in these places.Independent bookstores: I dearly love them myself, and I support them by visiting them and buying books from them whenever I can. I have genuinely grieved to see so many of my favorite independent bookstores close, one after the other, over the years. Doubtless Mark Forsyth feels similarly. But that doesn't excuse this — I'll say it again — essay premised on utter nonsense, and it actually does independent booksellers a disservice, by lamely proclaiming a "special advantage" of bookshops that they do not really have.

  • Penny
    2019-01-22 20:15

    How can such a small publication be soooo amazingly good? Well, it just IS. 'The Unknown Unknown...' was unknown to me. I was gifted it. And what a treasure it is. I want to buy everyone I know a copy, that is HOW good. Have I got the funds? That would be the known unknown. I know that I don't know. This book celebrates the beauty of book shops - while the internet may give you what you KNOW that you want, the book shop welcomes you to the world of the Unknown Unknown. You see a book that you've never seen before, take a gamble, and oh my, it may be the best book you've ever read and you never knew about it before. Here's a literal quote to prove a point about the beauty of the Unknown Unknown compared to what would happen without it: 'Pride and Prejudice, in the internet age, would run: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must have already posted his details and requirements online and be working through the responses. Reader, I Googled him. THE END.'(page 18).How boring would that version of 'Pride and Prejudice' be to read???Read this wonderful little book, it will inspire you to take a gamble with unknown unknown books, from bricks and mortar bookstores. Perhaps for you to even have a go at Bibliomancy? I did. Here's mine from a book called 'Good Oil' by Laura Buzo: 'So what else do you hate?' he asks, between chews.' Yep, that's pretty accurate for my feelings about internet purchases over bookshop purchases and I guess I'm now looking down the barrel of advancing my age with nagging old lady criticism...Thanks Mark Forsyth - I'm now putting other books of yours on my 'to read' list because I love your writing. Hmmm. Those books are now the Known Unknown...

  • Poppy Jane
    2019-02-03 12:32

    This year I intend to read more non-fiction. A goal that oughtn't be too difficult to complete as previously I believe that I have read all of two non-fiction books. To kick off I chose The Unknown Unknown, a dinky little book comprising of one essay which has been sat on my shelf since I bought it six months ago in the ever so delightful Topping & Co.Why the wait? I do not honestly know. Laziness probably (definitely). I had to stop myself from just quoting the entire thing to mum who I happened to be chatting to whilst reading. Instead I just threw the link to buy it at her. This is a delightfully funny read, incredibly witty and references at least three of my favourite pieces of literature. He also has a point and makes it remarkably well. Read The Unknown Unknown and then run to your nearest indie and take pleasure in discovering what is the unknown unknown.

  • Lorin Elizabeth
    2019-02-13 13:41

    This was such an amazing read about the beauty of experiencing something that you didn't know you wanted. It reminded me of the art experience at the Brooklyn Art Library (if you're in the city and love this essay, you must go there!) where you choose a sketchbook to view (your known unknown) and they give you that one, plus whatever is sitting right next to it on their expansive shelves (your unknown unknown)As a bookseller, reader and lover of bookstores, this essay expressed things I've always believed but never heard said. But it also encouraged me to be more adventurous, open and loving in my general life-living. Ah.

  • Ffiamma
    2019-02-14 18:24

    "il messaggio è che non ci sono solo le "cose note". ci sono cose che sappiamo di sapere. ci sono cose che sappiamo di non sapere. ma c'è anche l'ignoto ignoto, cioè le cose che non sappiamo di non sapere. così, quando facciamo del nostro meglio e cerchiamo di mettere insieme tutte queste informazioni e diciamo qual è la situazione che ci sembra di aver visto, in realtà ci riferiamo solo alle cose che sappiamo di sapere e a quelle che sappiamo di non sapere. e ogni anno scopriamo qualcuna in più di quelle cose che non sappiamo di non sapere. sembra un indovinello ma non lo è. è una cosa molto seria, importante"

  • Armen
    2019-02-07 19:22

    very clever, and good read. Based on this quote by Donald Rumsfeld "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." go figure if yourself!

  • D.L.
    2019-02-06 16:31

    Immediately comes to mind all those self printed books like Mason Williams Reading Matter that we've dug up at the thrift shops over the years. I didn't know I was looking for it. Didn't know it existed. And the internet never would have helped me find it because it only knows what I am looking for not what I don't know to look for.

  • Malvina
    2019-01-29 16:32

    Why we need bookshops. As opposed to simply looking online. It is all about discovering the 'unknown unknown' - as opposed to the 'known unknown'. The former is much more exciting. Quick, concise, spot on.

  • Myriam
    2019-02-17 13:15

    The unknown unknown is a nice essay on what we are not looking for, on bibliomancy, on strange books and above all on ‘the good bookshop’ and the delight of not getting what you wanted. Or getting what you didn’t know you wanted…

  • sanny
    2019-02-08 14:33

    I skimmed through this today in the bookshop and found it intriguing. But the steep price deterred me from actually purchasing this short, albeit delightful, essay. Maybe I'll come back to this when I do.

  • Paul Gallear
    2019-02-05 12:23

    Forsyth is always enjoyable. And I insist this counts towards my Goodreads challenge, despite it brevity.

  • Keiran Thegreat
    2019-02-14 16:36

    An essay about finding books that you want but did not know existed until you saw them. Warm, funny and well constructed. The part about online dating was especially enjoyable to read.