I'm looking for a book that's a collection of encyclopedia-style entries about books that were lost/forgotten/alternate versions/never actually written. These weren't REAL lost books, they were parodies written by the author poking fun at various classics and literary trends, from ancient history to modern times. I wish I could remember some examples, but it's been a good 20 years since I've read it; I do recall some famous sci-fi works were parodied.

The book was in English and probably published in the early 90's. My copy was a paperback a little larger and thinner than a mass market paperback, the cover was light tan and mostly text with either small or no illustration.

  • 5
    It would be so ironic if this book you remember only existed in a dream or was an idea you once had and half forgot, etc. Commented May 22, 2020 at 7:43
  • the premise is reminiscent of "If on a Winter's Night a Traveller", but that's prose, not encyclopedia-style Commented May 22, 2020 at 9:00
  • anything in this article trigger your memory? theparisreview.org/blog/2016/03/24/…
    – mcgyver5
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 11:46
  • Reminds me of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Meaning_of_Liff but it's not about lost books but about words that don't exist. Commented May 22, 2020 at 18:29
  • @JensSchauder The Meaning of Liff is specifically based on British placenames. Although the way things are going I should probably write "English, Welsh and Scottish" there. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


You may be referring to A Perfect Vacuum, originally published in Polish under the title Doskonała próżnia, by Stanisław Lem (1971). According to the Wikipedia article, it consists of seventeen book reviews.

Some of the reviews remind the reader of drafts of his science fiction novels, some read like philosophical pieces across scientific topics, from cosmology to the pervasiveness of computers, finally others satirize and parody everything from the nouveau roman to pornography, Ulysses, authorless writing, and Dostoevsky.

English translations were published between 1979 and 1999 and are listed in the ISFDB cited above.

  • I don't think that's it, although it definitely sounds very similar. The book I am looking for had more entries and I'm pretty sure it had a descriptive title like "The Dictionary of Forgotten Books" or something along those lines.
    – Viergacht
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 5:30
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    In fact Stantislaw Lem did write several of those "false review" books: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 9:09
  • Your question also reminded me of Richard Brautigan's non-SF novel, The Abortion (1971). In this novel, the protagonist maintains a strange library of manuscripts, all of which are the sole copies of unpublished and unpublishable works, some of which are briefly described. The idea inspired the founding of a real Brautigan Library. (Warning: Although much of the book is charming and the description of the library is whimsical and delightful, Brautigan does include a graphic, rather clinical description of an abortion.) Commented May 22, 2020 at 11:45
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    Sounds like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Library_of_Babel The library of Babel. But that is a short story, not a long book.
    – jo1storm
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 13:44
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    @jo1storm More like another Borges: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tl%C3%B6n,_Uqbar,_Orbis_Tertius Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 9:31

I looked up "A Perfect Vacuum" and while it was interesting, it definitely wasn't the book I was looking for. However, searching for similar books did eventually lead me to find it!

"The Catalog of Lost Books" by Tad Tuleja

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It was published in 1989 so I was close with the date, and also with the cover and style of the title. As soon as I saw it, I remembered it. Thanks for your help, folks.

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