Friday, 28 March 2014

Lit Nerd Recommends: Books About Books

I challenge you to point me in the direction of an individual of a particularly bookish persuasion who does not like (read: love) books about books. Bit tricky that, isn't it? I for one, go week at the knees at the thought of reading books about books and it all started with Susan Hill. One particularly long day at uni I took a trip to Plymouth's Waterstones on my break (as I was frequently wont to do) and partook in some bibliotherapy in the form of Howards End is on the Landing. I'd always kind of liked the idea about reading about reading but never actually gone for it. Had I known I was in for such a treat, I would have gone for it sooner. Since then, I've not really looked back and I have read some brilliant books about books, both fiction and non-fiction. I'm going to share a few of my favourites with you to start off my new 'Lit Nerd Recommends' series.

1. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

2. How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

3. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

4. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

5. The Library Book by Various

6. The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud

7. The Woman Reader by Belinda Jack

1. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

7. The Reader by Bernard Schlink

Have you read any of these? Can you recommend any books about books for me to try? Pile in!



  1. I have The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen in my TBR pile.

    I'll try to think of any books about books that I have tucked away somewhere....

  2. I absolutely love books about books -- Howard's End is on the Landing is at the very top of my list of books on this topic I'd like to read next. Reading Lolita in Tehran is up there too since I've just read Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis -- I am interested in reading more books about that time period in Iran. And you've made some wonderful other suggestions :)

    1. Howard's End is on the Landing should be at the top of everyone's pile, it is so good. I've never thought about Reading Lolita in Tehran relating to Persepolis even though the latter has been on my radar for a while. I must get to it.

  3. So many excellent books! I adore Howards End is on the Landing, The Eyre Affair, and, of course, Northanger Abbey. I'd recommend Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris and all of Alberto Manguel's books about reading.

  4. Hi! Wow, this is a very interesting blog post, and a mouth-watering list you've just come up with here! Howard's End is on the Landing and "How to be a Heroine have appealed to me the most.

    And I'd recommend David Lodge's The Art of Fiction, which offers a clever yet approachable insight into some great classics :-D.

  5. The Eyre Affair is fantastic (and the rest of the Thursday Next series). I've read Northanger Abbey too, and it's my favourite Austen to date. How to be a Heroine is on my TBR pile.

    In terms of recommendations? The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is a lovely little book, for fiction, or Nick Hornby's The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is very good for non-fiction (although it does greatly increase your wishlist!)

    1. Gah, I forgot The Uncommon Reader! AND THE COMPLETE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE! I read The Uncommon Reader every Christmas holidays for a few years as well, it was a perfect 'mince pie and hot coffee' little read on a cold day. :)

  6. I own The Reader but I've heard that it's not-so-great and so I've been avoiding it- but it's ok? Hmmm...

    AND I know I have to read Howards End is on the Landing. And Reading Lolita in Tehran. I've read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair which wasn't quite as much about books as I was hoping, aaand... I feel like I should have read more books about books but maybe I haven't. Ooh, wait, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss! That's a good one.

  7. From you non-fiction recommendations, I only know Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I thought was very good. But I've read and enjoyed all of your fiction recommendations. The Eyre Affair and the rest of the Tuesday Next series is hilarious (well, at least until Book 5). I actually read War and Peace because of it. :)

  8. I've read one non-fiction book about books, I think, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. But I want to read several of what you mention (esp. Howards End on the Landing, but I want to read Howard's End before that). I also want to read The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, although it may be a bit of a difficult book.

    Fiction - Thursday Next books! Coincidentally I'm reading the fourth book now (Something Rotten). And next month I'm planning to read The Shadow of the Wind. And I've got copies of Northanger Abbey and The Guernesy... and The Thirteenth Tale. Such good recommendations, Ellie!

  9. Oh man, I am a SUCKER for books about books. They often stick around on my shelves for rereading, and they inspire me to read more when I need a bit of a boost!

    Five more for your list: 'Biblioholism' by Tom Raabe, which is a funny and easy-to-read look at book addiction. I really liked the quiz to find out if you're a bibliophile - needless to say, I scored highly, especially on the questions about compulsive and secretive book buying binges. :)

    'Judging a Book by its Lover' by Lauren Leto is a fairly new book, with all kinds of chapters about authors and books and bookish behaviour. Some of them reminded me of BookRiot articles, some of them were longer and more about different authors or books and what they say about you as a reader. Quite good fun!

    'Ex Libris' by Anne Fadiman is a compilation of about 12 essays on different aspects of books and reading, including the art of a beautiful flyleaf dedication, reading books in the places they describe and melding two libraries together when you move in with a new partner. I like some of the essays more than others, but I've read the whole book twice and some of the essays a few more times than that!

    'A Book Addict's Treasury' by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy (and its companion volume 'Buried in Books') is a collection of extracts and quotes ABOUT books, FROM books and articles and other writing. It's separated into chapters by category, so there's one about buying and acquiring books, one about bookish behaviour, one about people who hate books... That's how I found Ex Libris actually, because they used several excerpts from it.

    Aaaand finally, my all time number 1, which I never shut up about and am currently rereading for the third time: 'Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs' by Jeremy Mercer. Basically it's about the literary dreamworld that is Shakespeare and Company bookshop, by the Seine in Paris, which allows writers to stay in the beds scattered amongst the shelves in return for a little help around the shop. They write and read and eat and drink and talk in this little literary haven, it's just amazing. I've never made it there yet, but I tried to use some of what I loved about the magical atmosphere Mercer describes when Mum and I were setting to work planning our own bookshop. Every time I read it reminds me what I love about books and bookish people, I love it. LOVE IT, ELLIE. :D

    I've got my eye on the 'The Library of Unrequited Love' by Sophie Divry as my next 'books about books' acquisition. I saw it in Waterstones the other day and pondered over it a bit, so it's only a matter of time. :D

    1. OMFG, how long is this comment?! I'M SORRY IT LOOKED SMALLER IN THE LITTLE BOX. :)

  10. Some great recommendations here! I loved Howard's End is on the Landing and so want to pick up How to be a Heroine.

    I couldn't get into Reading Lolita in Tehran though....I'll have to give it another try one day.

  11. I do love books about books! The first books I think of in the category are usually non-fiction, so I especially like your fiction recommendations.

  12. Howards End is on the Landing has been on my TBR for so long! Also, I've read all but on of the fiction books you listed, so obviously I need to get my hands on that final book!


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