MDB Cover Art

“The best story that’s told in Mr. Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, however, may be that of the arrival of a significant young nonfiction writer. Mr. Birmingham... appears fully formed in this, his first book. The historian and the writer in him are utterly in sync. He marches through this material with authority and grace, an instinct for detail and smacking quotation and a fair amount of wit. It’s a measured yet bravura performance.”

—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

A great story—how modernism brought down the regime of censorship—told as a great story. Kevin Birmingham's imaginative scholarship brings Joyce and his world to life. There is a fresh detail on nearly every page.

Louis Menand, Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Metaphysical Club

The Most Dangerous Book is riveting narrative nonfiction, populated with enough real larger-than-life characters and twists to make a fiction writer envious. Through Kevin Birmingham's masterful voice and impeccable research, this story of a singular book that changed the world proves in dramatic fashion that the history of literature is not a landscape but a battlefield.”

Matthew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club

   © Pat Coakley

   © Pat Coakley

This brilliant fusion of literary biography and cultural history tells two heroic narratives--Joyce's struggle to write his masterpiece despite poor health and constant economic woes, and the epic legal battle to publish the book in the face of strict obscenity laws. Birmingham is a wonderful writer, able to turn apparently dry subjects into exciting narrative prose.

—Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children


“The story of the sufferings of James Joyce’s Ulysses under government censorship and obscenity laws has never been better told than by Kevin Birmingham in this eloquent, deeply researched book. Birmingham takes readers on a vivid journey through the conditions that shackled and, ultimately, liberated Joyce’s masterpiece. Combining fluent narrative and fresh discovery, this book brings to life a lost world of little magazines, literary patronage, postal and customs laws, vice society raids, and courtroom heroics.

—Robert Spoo, author of Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain


“A superb work of scholarship and recounting that goes far beyond literary assessment, Birmingham's minutely researched investigation also grows into an inspiring diary of courage in the face of oppression. The detail, the vast anguish of a great artist, the defiance that truth can incite, the roguery and the cunning on both sides, the hypocrisy of moral bullies—every page submits an argument for the bravery of those believe in art above all. Dense and exciting, populated with heroes, heroines and villainous government, it's full of warnings as to where we were as a culture—and what we could become again if our vigilance flags. A wonderfully eye-opening read, The Most Dangerous Book stands beside Richard Ellmann's defining biography in the great and moving understandings of James Joyce and his epic life.

Frank Delaney, author of Ireland and Re: Joyce