I love books. I’ve loved books ever since I was a little kid, even before I could read them. The fact that you can pick up this block of wood-pulp sheets and find stories, fascinating information, and sweeping emotional arcs just astounded me. The fact that you could stare at these blocks for hours and see the stories in your head blew me away. If you’re reading this post, I can only assume that you feel the same way about books that I do–that you love them and can’t get enough of them. That you enjoy them so much, you actually will read books about books–which is of course, what this post is all about.
I’m combining some fiction and some non-fiction into this list, but the overarching theme is still the same: these are books about books–either explaining or listing different types of books, or presenting series where books play a major role. The best part about books like this is that each will expand your reading list exponentially, as you find more and more titles to check out in the future.
No book list of books about books would be complete without at least a nod of the head to celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl. Nancy is a librarian with a passion for reading (aren’t we all?) who shares her love of books with readers all across the United States. If you’re looking for a good starting point (both for this list and for her own works), then look no further than Book Lust. This book (and its subsequent sequels More Book Lust and Book Lust To Go) acts as a very special tool that every reader needs–list of suggested books for every mood. Want books on Mother-Daughter Relationships? Books on Bicycling? African American stories with a female perspective? Nancy has got you covered! These books are a lot of fun, with substantial book lists that should keep even the most voracious reader busy for a good long while. Think of it as your own personal reader’s advisory platform, but in a convenient book that you can take with you.
I had so much fun reading The Madman’s Library. This was one of those books that you started reading and could not put down. Before becoming a librarian at Westlake Porter, my dream job was to work in special collections with rare books. And I always have a soft spot in my heart for anything having to deal with old, rare, or unusual titles. And boy! Does this book have it all! Within these pages, you’ll learn about books so big they need multiple people to open them, book so small that you can’t breathe on them for fear of blowing them away, books bound in human skin, a book made up of Kraft singles, written in penguin blood instead of ink, and much more. There are books that contain occult alchemic knowledge, ones written in uncrackable codes, and bestiaries full of pages and pages of animals that do not exist. Travel around the world to some of the most unique library collections and see some of the most unique displays of human creativity in history.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post all about Walter Moers, one of my favorite fantasy writers. I encourage you to check him out. In the meantime, however, I wanted to talk about Moers’ book The City of Dreaming Books. Optimus Yarnspinner inherits an unpublished short story by an unknown author. Being a writer himself, Yarnspinner sets out to discover the writer’s identity, travelling to the City of Dreaming Books. The City is like a gigantic bookshop, clouds of dust, ancient leather, and printer’s ink fill the air. You could almost say that the place is a book-lover’s paradise! But, soon Yarnspinner falls into the clutches of the city’s evil genius, Pfistomel Smyke, who poisons the boy and abandons him in the catacombs under the city. There, Yarnspinner must fight for his life against ruthless Bookhunters, ravenous monsters, and even some of the books themselves. Beautifully illustrated by the author, Moers’ books are always worth a read or a re-read, and are impossible to put down.
I’m not going to lie… If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is a tricky sort of book. The premise is simple enough– you go to the bookstore to pick up a book called If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. You take the book home, and read the first chapter. And then, nothing. Blank pages until the end of the book. So, you go back to the bookstore, and are given a new book. You start reading, only to learn that it’s a completely different book by a different author. And this keeps happening. Chapters alternate between you at the bookstore and samples of the books you’re reading, all in an attempt to get your hands on the book you came to store for in the first place. The whole experience is topsy-turvy, confusing, and sometimes frustrating, but it makes for a fascinating read in a really creative and original writing style. I promise you that you’ve probably not read anything like it before. As I said, however, this is not a book for everyone, but in the hands of the right reader, it’s a fascinating and super-engaging title.
Crossings is a strange book in that it can be read in two different ways. Let me explain. The book is the story of a German-Jewish bookseller living on the brink of the Nazi occupation and WWII. A rich patron presents him with a loose collection of papers and asks that it be bound to very specific specifications. The only stipulation is that he is not allowed to read the book, either before or after he binds it. He agrees. But, he soon receives word that the woman has been murdered. And as years pass and no one comes forward to claim the book, he decides to finally read it, only to find that it’s more complicated than he could have imagined. The story changes depending on how it’s read–either following the page order or by following an alternative chapter sequence. Since the book itself is included in the book, the reader is encouraged to read the story both ways to discover all the secrets that this mysterious tome has to offer.