The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges is a compendium of mythological creatures that is not meant to be read all in one go. I’ve been dipping in and out of it for a couple months now, enjoying the absurdist illustrations and the baroque descriptions of each creature.
The book is a little haphazard. Some of Borges’s humor is a bit off, and he can make Orientalist comments that are a bit off-putting. I wish he’d been a bit more creative with how he added his own distinctive voice of mystery to the descriptions and stories of the creatures, but the way he gathered the information was interesting as well. Many of the creatures are classical, Greek, Roman, Egyptian. There were a couple entries I really enjoyed—the phoenix and the Chinese phoenix entries were fascinating, as was the entry on the unicorn. There were a couple creatures I’d never heard of, particularly ones from the travels of Marco Polo, that I loved. One or two of the creatures were descriptions or mini tales by Kafka or C.S. Lewis, and I adored those entries. Overall, it’s a fun addition to any shelf, and a must for collections of Jorge Luis Borges, fictional compendiums, or collections of folklore or mythological creatures, as long as you keep in mind that Borges’s collection is selective according to his own interests.