I have a little bit of problem . . . it’s a really heavy problem, a problem that takes up a lot of space, especially in a 750-foot farmhouse. See, I love books. There are worse things to love, of course, like popcorn or college football. (I don’t care for either, myself.) But books – oh, the joy.
So today, I bring you my ten favorite books about books. (Notably, these are very western, very American, very white. I am working on that actively.)
1. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – Anything to do with bookmaking and the desire of a community to save a precious text I’m just smitten with. This book, about one community’s massive efforts to save the treasured Sarajevo Haggadah, is beautiful in story and writing.
2. A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes – This one is a slow read, but it’s elaborate and gorgeous. All things bookish. Great for booknerds everywhere.
3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – I feel in love with illuminated manuscripts because of this book. It’s a mystery novel, too, but I loved it more for the great descriptions of the way monks kept stories alive in the written word.
4. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke – When words read are literally magic . . . well, how could I resist? Great storytelling here. A wonderful trilogy for young and old.
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Talk about beautiful and heartbreaking. If ever a book told the power of its kind . . . I read this one while visiting friends in Scotland, and I can still remember laying in their child’s nursery and imagining I was hiding for my life. Read the book before you see the movie!
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – I love epistolary novels because I like the way lives emerge in the margins. So this book won my heart. Great characters. Great setting. Great story. (Read my full review of this one here.)
7. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – Another epistolary book – this time about a customer and her bookseller. Charming. Honest. Absolutely endearing. Great for all of us who love little bookshops and the amazing booksellers who guide us.
8. If on a winter’s night a traveler by italo calvino A book that begins by talking about the writing of a book – this one stole my heart when I read it in college. It’s still one of my favorites – the one I recommend to students who love books and want to become writers.
9. Possession by A. S. Byatt – I find myself at a loss for who to describe the richness of this novel. It’s a love story. A story of book lovers and literary scholars, about people who love words and old paper and ink. Just read it. Really.
10. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – Eccentric, ornery writers and proteges. Mystery. Questions of identity and truth and the way truth and story weave in and past each other. One of my FAVORITE books on books.
Bonus Title – The Archivist by Martha Cooley – I’ve never been able to find another title by Martha Cooley (although I see she did wrote one called Thirty-Three Swoons), but I would so love to do so. This novel – about a young woman trying to find a secret collection of T. S. Eliot’s letters – absolutely captivated me when I read it. I long ago gave away my copy, but it’s one of the few titles I wished I still owned.
So now, your turn? What books on books do you recommend?
Also, in December, I will be starting an online book club for anyone who would like to join. We’ll gather on FB (in a private group) and talk about the book we choose. And once a month, we’ll also have a Twitter chat about the book for anyone who tweets. If you’d like to join us, be sure to stop by my Facebook page and comment on the pinned post about the club. I’ll announce our December title and calendar on FB this coming Monday. (If you’re not on FB, please feel free to join us, too – just email me at andilit-at-gmail.com to let me know you’re on board. I’ll send an email with all our discussion questions once a month.)