About the book
An entirely new kind of biography, Oscar's Books explores the personality of Oscar Wilde through his reading. It argues that reading exercised a formative influence on Wilde's character and was the inspiration for his own writings.
Oscar's Books tells the story of Wilde's 'long and lovely' life in a way that is fresh and engaging, from his childhood in Dublin, where he was nurtured on Celtic myth, Romantic poetry and Irish folklore; through his undergraduate years, in which he built his intellect out of books; to prison, where his friends supplied him with literature which saved his sanity; to his final years in Paris where he consoled himself with old favourites such as Flaubert and Balzac.
For Wilde, as for many people, reading could be as powerful and transformative an experience as falling in love. He referred to the volumes that radically altered his vision of the world as his 'golden books'; he gave books as gifts - often as part of his seduction campaigns of young men; and sometimes he literally ate books, tearing off corners of paper and chewing them as he read. Wilde's beloved book collection was sold at the time of his trials to pay creditors and legal costs. Thomas Wright, in the course of his intensive researches, has hunted down many of the missing volumes which contain revealing markings and personal annotations, never previously examined.
An unfamiliar Wilde emerges from this book, which draws on unpublished and little known material, yet wears its scholarship lightly. Readers of the 21st century will be enchanted by Oscar's Books.