This might be just a tad meta, but I am a book-lover who really loves books about books. You know what I’m talking about: the novels that tell stories about elbow patch-wearing librarians or sassy neighborhood book clubs, the memoirs filled with anecdotes about how reading really can transform and save your life, the nonfiction books that dive into the history of classic novels or the evolution of language. I’ve even been known (OK, just the one time) to read an entire book about paper — yes, paper. That’s how much I love books (and the material they’re written on.) Basically, it doesn’t get more delightfully book nerdy than these must-read books about books that book lovers will love. They’re kind of like those chocolate brownies that have chocolate chips baked into the batter — which, come to think of it, go really well alongside a good book.
If you’re ready to take your love of the written word to a whole new level, then check out these 11 books about books that book-lovers will love — all about books and the folks who care about them the most. You’ll love reading even more than you did before, guaranteed. (Even if you didn’t think it was possible.)
1. 'Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks' by Annie Spence
Annie Spence, I'm fairly certain, is my soul mate. In Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, Spence writes: “Basically, if you’ve spoken to me in the presence of a bookshelf in the past decade, I wasn’t paying attention.” If you can relate (can’t we all?) then this book is definitely for you. Scheduled for publication in late-September (so add it to your TBR list now) Dear Fahrenheit 451 is a collection of one public librarian and book lover’s snarky, relatable, and hilarious, (like really, really, laugh-out-loud hilarious) letters to the books she has loved (and hated, and passed on) throughout her life.
2. 'The Lost Book of the Grail' by Charlie Lovett
There actually may not be words for how much I love The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett — and for a book-lover, that’s saying something. Lovett’s latest novel is a literary mystery that will transport you to the fictional English cathedral city of Barchester, where the elbow-patchy and decidedly tech-un-savvy Arthur Prescott is in the midst of a lifelong journey to find a legendary item that has captivated the world for thousands of years: the Holy Grail. When young millennial Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester, fresh from America and ready to update every antiquated item Arthur holds dear, his entire life — and his search for the grail — are upended in the very best ways. This is a novel that lovers of old books, ancient languages, cloth bindings, and ink quills will completely geek out over, guaranteed.
3. 'When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II' by Molly Guptill Manning
Perfect for the history buff and book lover alike, When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning, tells the true story of the joint effort of the United States War Department and the American publishing industry to send millions (120 million, to be precise) of copies of literary classics like The Great Gatsby and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to soldiers, who carried the slim, paperback volumes with them through World War II. But more than an effort to entertain the troops, these books were a direct rebellion against the book burning that had taken place across Europe, which destroyed at least 100 million books and, at the time, silenced both readers and writers.
4. 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Though a novel, the characters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are so lovable and relatable, you’re start to feel like you know them in real life — and if you’re a book lover, you probably know similar folks anyway. All about the power of literature to change lives, this novel is told through letters, largely those of writer Juliet Ashton, who wrote lighthearted and amusing newspaper columns during World War II, but is far more interested in pursuing a career in “serious journalism”. This leads her to Guernsey, and an amazing community of readers whose lives were literally saved by books.
5. 'The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books' by Azar Nafisi
From the author and educator who wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi’s journey in The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books continues where Reading Lolita left off. In this memoir-through-books, Nafisi describes the personal and political journeys that brought her to the United States, and how she got to know America through fiction like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as through the writings of America’s founding fathers — a landscape of literature that Nafisi calls “the republic of imagination."
6. 'The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo' by Paula Huntley
Another nonfiction title that demonstrates the transformative power of the written word, Paula Huntley's The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo takes readers back to 2001, just over a year after almost a million Kosovo-Albanian refugees fled the torture, rape, and massacre taking place in their homeland. A writer and teacher, Huntley traveled to the region to teach English, inviting her students to join an “American-style” book club. That book club, which became the Hemingway Book Club of Kosoco, began with The Old Man and the Sea. Taken directly from Huntley's personal journals, this memoir/testimony describes a group of students and refugees to whom literature became integral to survival.
7. 'The Jane Austen Book Club' by Karen Joy Fowler
Another novel all about the love of reading novels, Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club introduces readers to the members of one small Jane Austen book club, who spend their monthly gatherings doing what you’d probably do in your own Jane Austen book club: discussing life and work of Jane Austen. Naturally, each of the six members have their favorite Austen title. For example, Jocelyn, the founder of the book club who loves Emma best. Revel in your own love of Austen alongside these fictional readers, who each share their personal connections to the woman who wrote women so well.
8. 'The Book of Speculation' by Erika Swyler
Erika Swyler’s novel, The Book of Speculation, is all about the secrets that old books hold. Introducing readers to a young, Long Island Sound librarian named Simon Watson — orphaned, with a younger sister who followed in the tradition of his mother by running away to work for a traveling carnival. But when an antiquarian bookseller appears with an old volume that seems to hold the secrets of the women in Simon’s family: circus and carnival performers who all met untimely deaths, Simon finds himself pulled into an old family mystery that might be the key to saving his sister.
9. 'The Bookseller of Kabul' by Åsne Seierstad
Åsne Seierstad’s memoir, The Bookseller of Kabul, introduces readers to Sultan Khan, an anti-censorship bookseller in Taliban-ruled (and later, post-Taliban) Kabul, Afghanistan. Throughout the over-20 years that Khan sold books to the people of Kabul, he was interrogated, arrested and jailed for concealing his stock and rebelling against the country’s censorship laws. Though readers might expect a man with such liberal literary views to be progressive in other areas of his life, in terms of faith and family, Khan was much more traditional. As a European woman, Seierstad was free to move between the private lives of the Khan family women, and the public lives of Afghan men, giving her a unique perspective into the life, politics, and customs of one very complex husband, father, business man, and book lover.
10. 'Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail' by Cheryl Strayed
I know what you’re thinking: this is a book about hiking, not a book about books. But who could forget Strayed’s internal conflict over her mother’s chosen favorite author — James Michener, or the determination of a young girl to cram books into her already over-stuffed hiking backpack (totally relate), or her dismay at the suggestion to burn the pages she’d already read as she hiked along? Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail isn’t just a book about hiking. It’s also a memoir about a burgeoning writer and lover of reading who herself has said on more than one occasion that books truly saved her life.
11. 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind takes readers to Barcelona, Spain circa 1945, a city still reeling from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son, discovers someone has been mysteriously destroying every copy of the books written by the author Julián Carax, including one called 'The Shadow of the Wind' — and Daniel's own recently-discovered copy of the book may be the last of Carax's books left anywhere in the world. When he sets out to discover why these books are being destroyed, and by whom, Daniel finds himself immersed in one of Spain's darkest hidden secrets.