There are few things I love quite so much as a book about books. As an avid and ardent bookworm, there’s something deeply satisfying about reading a tome whose main topic is the written word. And from Dianne Seterfield’s gothic The Thirteenth Tale to 84 Charring Cross Road and beyond, books about books are ample in their offering.
Of late, however, bibliomemoirs have been having something of a moment, and I’ve been reading as many as I can get my hands on. From Shaun Bythell’s achingly funny The Diary of a Bookseller, to Lucy Mangan’s heart-warming rendition of childhood reading, read on for five of my favourite books about books.
It was nearing Christmas last year when I read – and swiftly fell in love with – Bookworm by Lucy Mangan. A memoir of childhood reading, it’s a charming account of Lucy’s lifelong love affair with books, and at times felt like I was reading about my own bookish history. Mangan wonderfully recounts the books that have impacted her life; from childhood treasures such as The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark to tales by Enid Blyton to the magical words of C S Lewis and beyond. Bookworm is the best of bookish books; nostalgic and full of charm, witty and well told, it is a collective love letter to books that will resonate with readers far and wide, and reignite the flame for many of this magic thing we call reading.
A pacy and intelligent book about the healing power of literature, The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman is about one woman’s journey to wellness through books. A book about both Freeman’s eating disorder and her love for literature, it is ripe with nostalgia as Freeman looks back on her life from infancy to adulthood and speaks of both the foods and books that shaped her throughout. Her writing is beautiful and bountiful; her descriptions of food are full of flavour and temptation; her journey to wellness an inspiring one. It too, is a wonderful reminder of the power of books and their healing nature; whatever your ailment may be.
As witty as it is wonderful, it’s impossible not to love this wry tale of life as a bookseller in Scotland’s famous book town. One of my all time favourite books about books, The Diary of a Bookseller is a hilarious account of Bythell’s day to day life running The Bookshop in Wigtown. A tale abundant in sharp-wittedness, dry humour and sarcasm, it’s the type of book that one wants to devour; but also that one wants to savour, and a brilliant tale for anyone with an interest in books, or for someone simply after a dry and droll page turner.
I’ve ready both of Susan Hill’s bibliomemoirs, and while I adored Howard’s End is on the Landing, Jacob’s Room is Full of Books was my favourite of the two. A wonderful love letter to literature and one of my favourite books about books. it’s full of book recommendations a-plenty, musings on various writers, and debate over which books to re-read, and which to gift to charity. We, too, are treated to an account of where and when particular books are read, and Hill’s wonderful descriptions of place and weather (my favourite: ‘New year non weather. Wet. Dank. Grey. Chilly but not winter cold.’), from beneath a shady tree in a hot French summer, to the warmth of a kitchen during an English winter, add a wonderfully cozy element to the book.
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell
The world is full of bookstores – each with its own unique story to tell – and through each and every page of The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell, the author takes us on an unforgettable journey through literature. Packed with anecdotes, interviews and stories about our love affair with bookshops the wonderful stories that lie therein, and undoubtedly one of the best books about books, The Bookshop Book is filled with hidden treasures and all manner of wonderful bookish things.
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