Last week, I participated in my first Top Ten Tuesday and had so much fun, I’ve decided to come back for me! Today’s topic is the very meta topic of books about books.
I adore books about books and bookstores. I find them charming. They’re usually easy, light reads. Not always, but often. I love the ways books are used as plot devices. Seriously. I adore books about books and bookstores.
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
One thing starting a book blog has taught me is how to assess my reading habits. And something I’ve noticed is just how much I love historical fiction, especially anything set during WWII and The Great Depression. The Book Thief definitely checks that box for me. This story was a brilliant work of fiction. Liesel is such a strong character. The story was captivating. And what is often revered for its brilliance is the way Zusak casts Death, itself, to narrate the novel. It’s a beautiful commentary on mortality and loss and eternity.
Matilda is an often-overlooked book about books. But seriously. Books are kind of the only thing Matilda has to look forward to. Matilda’s obsession with books and reading made me connect with her very easily at a young age. Add to that Mara Wilson’s excellent performance in the movie and the fact that I will never hear “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root without thinking about Matilda, and you’ve got my favorite childhood movie/book combo. (Which makes me think. Maybe I’ll do a Top Ten Books-turned-into-movies one day.) Great villains you love to hate. (And Mrs. Honey made my second-grade heart pitter-patter when I saw the movie the first, second, and tenth times.)
Also, it should be noted that Roald Dahl did an amazing job at explaining very complicated concepts to children through his books. He kind of deserves a special place on every top ten list, ever.
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Marianne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Guernsey was a delightful book. I loved every page of it. And I didn’t expect to. I opened it and saw it was an epistle and was immediately turned off. But Anne Bogel recommended it very highly on her podcast, What Should I Read Next, so I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did. The characters were charming. The letters were precious. The story was interesting and deeper than I expected it to be. Despite the letters aspect of it all, I still adored this book. Seriously, though, who can hate a book about a writer writing books?
7. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
This book jumped out at me a couple of summers ago. I spent nearly every afternoon at Barnes & Noble, sitting in the cafe and working on my first novel. (Anyone want to publish it? Bueller…. Bueller…?) It was on the table in my line of sight all summer. And it’s hard to miss. It’s bright blue. It sticks out.
I didn’t actually buy it that summer, but it went on sale on the Kindle shop pretty soon after, and that’s when I picked it up. It was an easy read about Sara, a woman who travels to Broken Wheel to meet her long-time pen pal, Amy. But when she arrives, the finds that Amy has died. Something about Broken Wheel charms Sara and she decides to stay, and against better judgment, open a little bookstore. It’s charming and lovely, and speaks to the book lover in all of us.
6. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This book was also recommended on the What Should I Read Next? podcast, but by a guest and not the host. This family talked about the fun, quirky world of the Thursday Next novels and they sounded so fun, I had to try it. Something about this book reminded me of that old cartoon, Animaniacs. This is a world where dodos have been resurrected and you can get sucked into a book, quite literally. Thursday Next is a detective who is used to these kinds of zany adventures. But she’s not prepared when literary characters turn up missing.
It’s nutty and well-written and fast-paced and a quick read. It’s great for a rainy afternoon on the couch with your dog and a blanket. (Seriously I just need a nap, it’s been a long day.)
This is another book that was made into a movie, this time featuring the incomparable Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren. Inkheart tells the story of Meggie, a young girl whose father has an interesting gift. When he reads from books, he has the ability to bring book characters into our world. The problem is, the book takes three things from our world in exchange. When Meggie was two, her father read a book, called Inkheart (it’s a little inceptiony, right?) and from within the pages, he called three characters. After a confrontation with the characters, he returned to his family to discover that his wife and the family’s two cats were pulled into the book to replace the characters brought into our world.
Inkheart is the first in a really exciting trilogy for young readers. It’s captivating and action-packed and the right kinds of fantasy for me. (I’m not a huge fantasy reader.) It’s a great family read for anybody looking to read with kids. And great for classroom libraries. (I’m teaching English next year, what can I say?)
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Anyone who wants to tell me this isn’t a book about books can fight me. There. I’ve said it. Sectumsempra
I wrote about Fangirl here and I stand by it. I’ll also note that I linked the hardback book this time because the hardback is just so beautiful. I usually prefer hardback, but in this case, I’m choosing to pretend it’s the only edition that exists.
2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
We read this book with my book club, the one where I met my magical librarian. (Shout out to Kathy who apparently read the post about her.) I would have never picked this book for myself. I mean, the Amazon blurb sounds so boring:
When his most prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, is stolen, bookstore owner A. J. Fikry begins isolating himself from his friends, family and associates before receiving a mysterious package that compels him to remake his life.
Luckily, I gave it a chance. And I’m so glad I did. I’m so, so glad I did. A.J. Fikry tells such a charming story of a man whose life is changed and who experiences great love again, after a great loss. It’s a redemptive tale. It’s a tale about family and how family is who you love more than anything else. It’s a story about learning to belong after feeling like you don’t fit in.
1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Mr. Penumbra is one of those books that appeared at exactly the right moment. I read it when I needed something less intense than I normally read. It’s not one that I felt viscerally. It’s not one that made me cry or ponder my existence or wonder about the great mysteries of the universe. It was just a really good story about a bookstore. There was a mystery and nobody died. There’s a nerdy love story. There are larger-than-life characters. There are goofy roommates. It’s really a charming book with just enough action to keep the book moving, but nothing to keep you up at night.
Something about how laid back this book is, especially when I read it, following a really heavy read, made it stick in my head as the pinnacle of leisure reading. It was perfect. It was a happy little book tied up in a perfect little package with a little bow. It’s a definite must read.
Tell me your favorite books about books or bookstores. Apparently I’m not along in my love for them; share yours!
The Plucky Reader
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