I am great at getting lost in a library or a bookshop–It’s the fist place I look for when I move to a new town. My library card is a badge of honor, a mark of citizenship (For how much I love throwing things away, I still have my Fort Collins Library card in my wallet).
My favorite types of books are books about books. They are an inside joke, a wink to the bibliophile. They speak to the heart of the book lover, and the books always smell the best–probably because the author sniffs the books too. When you spend time lost in libraries and bookshops, books become your friends, where you find your comfort and calm. They are portals to another world, fantasy or contemporary, another profession or reality. They allow you to practice different perspectives and relationships, grow friendships and confront enemies all within a span of a chapter. Through the power of story, we are taught the hero’s journey; our journey.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Books have changed my life. I have best friends in books (looking at you, Trio), I have made friends because of books (literally everyone who likes Harry Potter–see photos below from Wizardly World of Kent). I went to college and minored in English just so I could read books.
And reading books about books pays homage to that.
In these stories, you can tell the author is passionate about reading, loves to write, and spends their time browsing and touching, fanning pages, and sniffing the air of bookshops around the world. It’s just how they do. They can’t help it.
You have characters that spend hours programming software just to track customer trends in a failing bookstore, and authors that sneak in a theft of their previous work into their writing (my favorite kind of Easter egg). There’s love letters to classics, and modern-day re-enactment theme parks of Jane Austen’s works, not to mention literally every movie imaginable made from a book. And just like people in real life, characters in the books get connected to the community and to each other through reading, meeting for book clubs, trading favorites, or rallying to save a library or local bookshop. Or Potterfest.
It’s books imitating life imitating books. And that’s my kind of reading. Bonus points if they toss in a Harry Potter reference.
Here are my recommendations for books about books. (Basically if it features a bookstore or books on the cover, I’m in. ) I know I am missing a ton, so add your suggestions to the comments.
- Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, Katarina Bivals
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
- Paris By the Book, Liam Callanan
- Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, Annie Spence
- Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
- Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan
- Austenland, Shannon Hale
- The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde*
I picked up the Eyre Affair to read on the plane, haven’t started it yet, so no spoilers!
Happy book sniffing.
Here are some photos from the Wizardly World of Kent, which happened last weekend and was freaking amazing.