Is there anything better than books about books? For the hardcore bibliophile, I can’t think of much. If there’s one thing bibliophiles love, it’s talking — and reading and learning — about books. It’s what we’re made for. And in these ten novels, books take center stage. We’re talking bookshops, dictionaries, libraries, book tours, and readers galore. These books are full of them. All ten of these books explore the power of literature and reading through a wide variety of styles and genres, from contemporary fiction to fantasy. It’s a reader’s dream come true.
Whether you’re on the lookout for the perfect new book club pick or just searching for a great new read, you can’t go amiss with these books all about books. They’re just that good. But then, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can check them out for yourself. That’s what this list is for, after all. And I can’t think of a more perfect start to a new year of reading than heading down to your local library and checking out any one of these ten books about books for yourself. That’s what a serious bibliophile would do, anyway. *wink*
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get meta and dive on in.
A haunted bookstore, a stolen manuscript, and a woman formerly imprisoned for stealing a dead body take center stage in this incredible new story from Pulitzer Prize–winning author Louise Erdrich. Books and fiction are absolutely central to this novel. They’re what helped Tookie survive prison and what she does for a living now. She’s also believes it’s a book that killed the former bookshop regular now haunting her. Erdrich herself even makes a fictionalized appearance in the book.
Fair warning, this book is set in present times and deals quite heavily with the start (and progression) of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the U.S. as well as the murder of George Floyd and police protests.
The stories of two people working on Swansby’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary more than 100 years apart intertwine through a series of mountweazels, false entries added to dictionaries to protect copyright. At the twilight of the 19th century, a quiet Swansby’s lexicographer with a fake lisp begins writing his own definitions for invented words to combat his boredom and disillusionment. In present day, Mallory, a young publishing intern, begins uncovering these false entries during the process of digitizing the dictionary. She searches for clues about the entries even as increasingly threatening phone calls tell Swansby’s staff — which includes only herself and her boss — to “burn in hell.”
After years of creating dictionaries at Gembu Books, Kohei Araki is ready to retire and find his replacement. Words have always held a special meaning in his life, so the search for his replacement takes on special meaning. It can’t be just anyone who takes over. He finds a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime, a linguist and collector of antique books. Led by his new mentor, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. Alongside an energetic new recruit and an elderly linguistics scholar, Majime sets off on this journey, along the way finding friendship, romance, and the one thing that connects us all: words.
An elderly widower and a teen working at the local library become unexpected friends and reading buddies in this charming novel about the power of books. Ever since his wife passed away, Mukesh divides his time between grocery shopping, going to Temple, and worrying about his quiet granddaughter who spends all her time reading. It’s an overdue library book that finally forces him outside his weekly schedule. After reading the last book his wife had checked out from the library, he wants to discover the joy she found in reading and asks a young librarian to recommend his something new to read. Aleisha isn’t a reader. She’s only working at the library to make some extra money and get out of the house, away from her mother’s every-changing moods. But a mysterious list of books start Aleisha and Mukesh on a journey of friendship and self-discovery no one ever could’ve suspected.
Please take care if mental illness, cancer, or suicide are triggering for you, as this book involves discussions and instances of all three.
Books that go unfinished end up in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell. It’s a neutral area where it’s up to the librarian to repair and organize books as well as track down any restless characters who escape the confines of their unfinished manuscripts. When a Hero escapes, it’s up to the current librarian, Clarie, to track him down before he reaches his author. What should be an easy task goes awry when angelic forces get involved. It’s a bit like Good Omens meets Stranger than Fiction.
The young daughter of a lexicologist working on the first ever Oxford English Dictionary discovers a slip of paper lost on floor in the Scriptorium where her father works. Esme rescues the word — “bondmaid” — and stashes it away for safe keeping. It’s the first word in a long list that she begins collecting, words that have been discarded or neglected by the men tasked with keeping them. Over time, Esme realizes that some words are considered more important than others, and these words she’s collected — words primarily about women and their world — are seen as less-than. These words go unrecorded. As Esme dedicates her own life to the OED just like her father and the Great War looms on the horizon, she begins putting together her own dictionary from these forgotten words: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
In Hell of a Book, we follow three characters: an African American author setting off on a book tour, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on tour. Though the unnamed author has a condition that sometimes makes it difficult to ascertain fiction from reality, one thing is certainly true: the story of a police shooting playing over and over on the news. Who has been killed? And if the author even manages to finish his book tour, what kind of world is he going to leave behind?
High school homebody Rintaro grieves the loss of his grandfather, knowing he will soon have to leave their small used bookstore behind in the wake of his death. But when a tabby cat shows up demanding his help through three labyrinths where books are in need of saving, he’s whisked away on a series of fantastical adventures that slowly pull him out of his shell and remind him just how important books are to him.
In a Beruit apartment full of books, unbeknownst to her family or anyone else, a woman translates one book into Arabic every year. She’s seen as an “unnecessary appendage” by her family and lives a solitary life. An Unnecessary Woman is a character study of this aging woman, Aaliya Sohbi, whose brilliant mind is taken up by thoughts of literature and philosophy and unwanted memories of the Lebanese Civil War. It’s a love letter to literature and the story of a misunderstood and reclusive woman living alone in the Middle East.
A book narrating its own life story — that’s the premise of Hugo Hamilton’s The Pages. From 1930s Germany to present day New York, an old copy of The Revolution by Joseph Roth escapes book burnings, censorship, and oppressions. As its current owner tries to trace its past from a hand-drawn map on its back page, we’re introduced to a dazzling cast of characters and see how history mirrors the present, from banned books to violent regimes.
Even more books about books for serious bibliophiles: