Books about books and readers

For book lovers, there’s nothing better than immersing yourself in a story that is centered on books and reading. The following list features fiction and non-fiction titles about books and the people who love them.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – Clay Jannon, an unemployed web designer, takes a job as a night shift clerk at a quite unusual 24-hour bookstore. One of the only rules of the job is that he must not look at any of the books in a special section reserved for preferred customers. Unable to resist the temptation, Clay is thrown into a world where technology and books collide, and nothing is as it seems.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – In 1945 Barcelona, a book dealer’s son comes across a mysterious book titled “The Shadow of the Wind.” When he begins investigating its author, Julian Carax, he unearths a conspiracy to destroy every book the author has written.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – In World War II Germany, Liesel Meminger, a German foster child, learns to read and earns her nickname by stealing books to help herself and her family through turbulent times. Things are complicated when Liesel’s foster parents agree to hide a Jewish man in their basement.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – Vida Winter, an aging and reclusive author, calls upon a young biographer, Margaret Lea, to assist her in telling her final story. As their friendship grows, Margaret slowly unearths a tragic past filled with terror and shattering secrets.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – This short novel follows Guy Montag, a “fireman” in a dystopian society, whose job is to burn books and the homes in which they are hidden. Everything changes when Guy meets a young girl and an aging professor, each of whom give him glimpses of a vastly different past and future.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – This feel-good novella centers on the Queen of England who one day happens upon a bookmobile on the palace grounds. As she begins her relationship with the written word (to the chagrin of her many advisors), her mind opens to life’s new and exciting possibilities.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – A. J. Fikry, the bad-tempered owner of a declining bookstore, has his world turned upside-down when a baby is abandoned on his doorstep. As he develops a relationship with the child, business slowly turns around and A. J. finds himself rediscovering his lust for life.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay – Rosemary, 18 years old and newly arrived from Tasmania, takes a job in New York City’s sprawling Arcade bookstore. She eventually becomes assistant to the store’s owner and finds herself involved in the hunt for a priceless Herman Melville manuscript.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – Michael Berg, a boy growing up in postwar Germany, begins an affair with Hanna, a much older woman. Their strange, emotionally distant relationship involves sessions where Michael reads aloud to Hanna. After Hanna abruptly disappears, Michael finds that she is on trial for war crimes, and their tradition of reading aloud continues even after she is imprisoned.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – In the mid-1990s, Hanna Heath, a book conservator, begins analysis of the invaluable Sarajevo Haggadah, an ancient Jewish text. Her shocking discovery of various artifacts in the 600-year-old tome catapults her into the midst of an international scandal.


My Ideal Bookshelf by Various Authors – Have you ever wondered what books your favorite authors and celebrities love? This fantastic book examines the “ideal bookshelves” of many well-known cultural figures (James Franco, David Sedaris, and Nancy Pearl to name just a few) along with commentaries from each contributor.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi – In 1997 Tehran, a former university professor gathered a group of young women in her basement to discuss forbidden works of Western literature (titles such as “The Great Gatsby” and “Lolita”). Their analysis and interpretation of the books provides a glimpse into the mindset of those living in a revolutionary country.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – Following the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch found herself in the throes of devastation. After a period of rather unproductive grieving, she committed herself to reading a book each day. In this memoir, she chronicles her journey through literature and toward healing.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – In a series of personal anecdotes, Anne Fadiman recounts her lifelong affair with books, from using her father’s Trollope collection as building blocks to the act of merging her library with her husband’s.

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson – In her quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks (which quickly becomes improbable), Sara Nelson ruminates on the intersection of reading and everyday life.

How Reading Changed my Life by Anna Quindlen – Beloved author Anna Quindlen discusses why we enjoy reading and what we get out of it in this exceptionally written essay. Bookworms will definitely relate to Quindlen’s thoughtful approach to the written word.

Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and other Indestructable Writers of the Western World by David Denby – At age 48, film critic David Denby, returns to Columbia University and enrolls in several of the classic literature courses he first took in the 1960s. This work serves as both a journey of personal discovery and a cultural commentary about life and literature in the media age.

One for the Books by Joe Queenan – Raised among books, Joe Queenan fears for their survival in the digital age. In this testament to books and reading, he tackles many questions relating to the modern reader’s place in today’s world.

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES by Phyllis Rose – What would you discover if you read your way through an entirely random shelf of library books? Phyllis Rose does just that in this thoughtful work, choosing fiction books by authors ending in LEQ-LES as her target.

(Flickr photo by Giulio Magnifico available via a Creative Commons license.)

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