The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-six

Jonathon Keats

Random House, 2009

Agent: Elise Capron

Marvelous and mystical stories of the thirty-six anonymous saints whose decency sustains the world–reimagined from Jewish folklore. 

A liar, a cheat, a degenerate, and a whore. These are the last people one might expect to be virtuous. But a legendary Kabbalist has discovered the truth: they are just some of the thirty-six hidden ones, the righteous individuals who ultimately make the world a better place. In these captivating stories, we meet twelve of the secret benefactors, including a timekeeper's son who shows a sleepless village the beauty of dreams; a gambler who teaches a king ruled by the tyranny of the past to roll the dice; a thief who realizes that his job is to keep his fellow townsfolk honest; and a golem, a woman made of mud, who teaches kings and peasants the real nature of humanity.

With boundless imagination and a delightful sense of humor, acclaimed writer and artist Jonathon Keats has turned the traditional folktale on its head, creating heroes from the unlikeliest of characters, and enchanting readers with these stunningly original fables.


Recipient of the 2010 Sophie Brody Award for Excellence in Jewish Literature


“Echoes of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholom Aleichem and S.Y. Agnon sound throughout this high-concept collection’s engaging stories….Unusual and charming stories that successfully revive a nearly forgotten form of storytelling. One hopes we will hear more of these Lamedh-Vov and their all-too-human struggles and triumphs.” 
Kirkus Reviews

“These charming stories, told with authority–yet oddly delicate and wholly delightful–are enchanting. To read them is to become transfixed with that long-forgotten childhood wonder. One feels in the hands of a masterful and magical storyteller.”
Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge

“Keats’ world is a fun one. His allegorical world resembles some hybrid of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest and Shrek’s moss-covered environs.”

“Keats seizes upon the idea of the 36 righteous ones who preserve the world from destruction by their goodness [and] brilliantly turns the concept on its head …Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred)