10 Nonfiction Books About Other Books, Because The History Of Literature Is Fascinating
If you're a true literature-lover, reading books simply isn't enough. You also want to read books about your favorite books and the talented authors who wrote them. Luckily for you, there are plenty of titles that fit the bill.
Book nerds know that the reading fun doesn't stop when the novel ends. In fact, turning the last page is only the beginning. After reading a truly great title, you of course have to tell all of your friends about it, and recommend it to anyone who will listen. Then, once you've convinced someone else to read it, you have to patiently wait until they finish it so you can have a lively debate about that character and those plot twists. Of course, when discussion isn't enough, there are always the inevitable book-to-screen adaptations to turn to (that is, if you're patient enough). And for the truly devoted reader, there is a whole category of books about other books, nonfiction titles that take you behind-the-scenes of the creation of your favorite novel, the true stories that may have inspired them, and the gifted artists who actually wrote them.
Whether you've always been curious about the real-life person who inspired Harper Lee's most famous character, or you've been dying to know how exactly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came up with so many intriguing mysteries for to solve, there is a book about books out there waiting for you. Here are 10 to get you started:
'The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read' by Stuart Kelly
If you've always wanted to know the true stories behind some of literature's greatest mysteries, like whether or not Sylvia Plath's widower, Ted Hughes, purposely kept 130 pages from her second novel (which was about their marriage) hidden from the public, The Lost Book of Lost Books is the perfect read for you. In this lively and enlightening history, author Stuart Kelly investigates everything from Aristophanes' plays and Vladimir Nabokov's memoirs to Jane Austen's unfinished novel and Socrates' destroyed book of fables, revealing that sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction, especially when that truth is about fiction.
'Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder' by Caroline Fraser
Readers already know that Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books were based on her own experiences as a pioneer girl, but in this comprehensive historical biography about the author, they can find out just how much her childhood influenced the beloved series. Drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and even land and financial records, Prairie Fires helps put these iconic American novels in a whole new light.
'My Life in Middlemarch' by Rebecca Mead
If you're one of the many book-lovers who has read and re-read their favorite novel several times, you can relate to Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch, which is part biography, part reporting, part memoir. Mead explores not only how we read books, but how those books can shape our lives.
'The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary' by Simon Winchester
Bookworms don't just love stories, they love words, and chances are, they love the dictionary, too. That's why they'll fall head over heels for The Professor and the Madman, the insane true story behind the making of the beloved Oxford English dictionary. Featuring murder, insanity, and, of course, language, it's a fascinating history of one of our the greatest resources available to writers and readers alike.
'Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters' by Anne Boyd Rioux
In honor of the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, scholar and author Anne Boyd Rioux writes about how Little Women was written, what it took to be published, and why the story still resonates with readers today. A beautiful tribute to a novel that has come to mean so much to generations of girls and women, Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy is love letter to one of literature's most enduring works, and the talented author who created it.
'The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits' by Les Staniford
In this inspiring and spirited literary history, Les Standiford takes readers on a journey to London 1843, where a debt-ridden Charles Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol. Almost immediately after self-publication, the small book that the famous author feared would mean the end of his career became a sensation, reviving not only Dickens's reputation as a writer, but Christmas's reputation as a holiday filled with cheer.
'Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer' by Margalit Fox
In order to understand Sherlock Holmes, readers must first understand his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, who in his life time became a real-life detective on an actual murder case. A little known history few readers know about, this episode in the author's life shaped his literary career and the future of forensics, and you can learn all about it in Margalit Fox's thrilling Conan Doyle for the Defense.
'The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses' by Kevin Birmingham
Did you know that, for over a decade, James Joyce's Ulysses was illegal to own, sell, advertise, or purchase in the majority of the English-speaking world? In literary historian Kevin Birmingham's gripping history of the famous book and it's author, you can learn how one of the most important novels in the English language was banned, and what it took Joyce and some of the most high-powered publishers and writers of his era to win the freedom to share it with readers far and wide.
'How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading too Much' by Samantha Ellis
If you have a thing for literary's leading ladies, you'll fall head over heels for How to Be a Heroine, a tribute to the likes of Lizzy Bennet, Scarlett O'Hara, Jane Eyre, Franny Glass, and more. A captivating exploration of the book world's most iconic female characters, and the women who wrote them into being, this engaging analysis will make you think about the many ways your favorite literary heroines influenced, empowered, and inspired you.
'The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World' by Sarah Weinman (Sept. 11)
Although it is one of the most notorious works of literature, few readers know that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was inspired by a real-life criminal case. In her absorbing new book, writer, editor, and all-around crime lady Sarah Weinman delivers the riveting true tale of 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner, one that brings to life the young girl that, like so many others, history almost forgot about.