Musings From A Bookmammal

The Tuesday Ten–Wonderful Books About Books!

54 Comments

It’s no secret that I love to read–and my very favorite thing to read is books about books! I have a section on one of my bookshelves that’s devoted to books on this topic. Here are my top ten titles  from that shelf–in no particular order. (These are all nonfiction titles. Fictional books about books is a whole separate category–and maybe a separate Tuesday Ten list for another day!)

untitled1. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek

This is my go-to gift for friends who are booklovers. It’s filled with photos of objects found in used books—photos, notes, clippings, postcards, receipts, old letters, and more—it’s fascinating to imagine who these books and objects originally belonged to, and how they all ended up in the author’s used book store. Each object is paired with a photo of the book where that particular item was found. This would be a great book to use for short story prompts!

Used and Rare2. Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

I simply LOVE this couple’s writing style! Written in the years before the internet made locating  a particular book something you could do at home in your pajamas, this is an account of Larry and Nancy’s initial adventures in rare book collecting. They explore used and rare bookstores up and down the east coast, meeting a variety of interesting and eccentric fellow book collectors along the way, and finding a number of treasures as well as being introduced to new authors and genres. They’ve since written two sequels to this book, but I think that this first one is by far the best. If you’ve ever searched for—and found!– a well-loved, long lost title in a used book shop, you’ll love this book!

84 CHaring Cross ROad3. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I love books made up of correspondence almost as much as I love books about books—so this small book is the best of both worlds for me! Made up of a series of real letters written during WWII between Helene, a freelance writer in New York City, and the staff of a used-book dealer in London, these letters are filled with humor and a shared love of books. Originally published in 1970, this book was also made into a movie starring Anne Bancroft, but I’ve never seen it—I’m too afraid that it will ruin the movie that I’ve got inside my head! If you haven’t discovered this little book yet, please do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s a quick read, but the characters will stick with you.

so many books so little time4. So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson set a goal: To read 52 books in 52 weeks,  and to document the experience—including how a person’s reading life mixes with marriage, parenting, and the rest of “real life”. This is her story of that year. She covers the pros and cons of lending books to friends, the books you’ve pretended that you’ve read but really haven’t, the hidden stress of recommending books to others, and how books tend to choose you at just the right time. When I read this book for the first time, I kept stopping to write down titles that I wanted to read—and some of my favorite books have come from titles that I learned about in this book.

My Bookstore5. My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop edited by Ronald Rice

If you’re a book lover, odds are you have a favorite bookshop. This book is a collection of essays (written especially for this book!) by 84 contemporary authors about the independently owned bookstores that hold a special place in their hearts.  From the bookstores of childhood, to bookshops that helped to launch careers, and everything in between, the essays in this book are true love letters to the brick and mortar stores that are becoming increasingly rare in the online age. A special bonus to me was that one of the bookstores featured in this book is located in my home town!

Shelf Life6. Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures From a Year in a Bookstore  by Suzanne Strempek Shea

I can’t emphasize this enough: I love this book! The author (who is also a novelist) began volunteering at a local independent bookstore in order to get out of the house and to help her recover after a serious illness. That volunteer job turned into a year of living and breathing books as she took part in all aspects of the bookstore business. I spent seven wonderful years working in a bookstore, and found that this book matched up with my experiences  perfectly. If you’ve ever shopped in a bookstore, worked in a bookstore, dreamed of owning a bookstore, or anything in between, this book is  for you!

exlibris7. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

This collection of thoughtful essays covers the author’s lifelong love affair with books and language.  She grew up in a family who placed a high value on education, reading, and the physical books themselves. She writes about her love of long words, the joys of proofreading, favorite book inscriptions, and more. My favorite is the essay covering the process of “marrying” her personal library with her husband’s books.  This is another book that I regularly buy for friends who are fellow booklovers.

An ALphabetical Life8. An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books by Wendy Werris

Wendy Werris begins with a temporary job in a well-known Hollywood bookstore  that starts her on  a 35-year adventure in the book business. The majority of her career was spent as a publisher’s sales rep in what was originally a male-dominated industry. As a former bookseller, I found her stories of selling books to bookstore owners a real eye-opener. A plus is her account of doing what was then thought of as a man’s job in the 1970s-80s. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors in the book business, you’ll enjoy this book.

Reading Promise9. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

When the author of this book was in the 4th grade, she and her father made a pact to read out loud together for 100 straight nights. When they reached that goal (they called it “The Streak”) they kept on going—until the day she entered college eight years later! This book not only traces their reading journey, but also tracks the growth of the relationship between father and daughter. It’s a great testimony to the power of books and the joys of raising a reader. It also includes a partial list of the titles they read together over the years, and I’ve gotten many good ideas for my own TBR list from those titles.

Sorted Books10. Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

The author is a conceptual artist who sorts and stacks books to create short poems, sentences, and phrases from the titles on their spines. This book compiles a selection of her work. This is another great gift book for the the book lover who has everything. Browse the photos on these pages and be prepared to look at the books on your shelves in a whole new way!

What about you? Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite book about books that isn’t on my list? Please feel free to share!

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Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

54 thoughts on “The Tuesday Ten–Wonderful Books About Books!

  1. What a lovely and eclectic collection ! I hope I get to read some of these.

  2. I love the content of all of your above listed books…..hope to read them sometime soon. I am way behind as far as my TBR is concerned. :/

  3. My vow not to buy new books is crumbling fast – what a fantastic selection of books Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek and 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson all really appeal. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  4. I pressed enter too soon – The Bookstore by Deborah Meyer is a great fiction book set in a bookstore – I loved it.

  5. I really need to read 84 Charing Cross Road and I bet Forgotten Bookmarks does make a cool gift.

    • There’s also a sequel to 84 called –I think–The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. That one may be out of print–I found one at a used book store. If you like 84, you’ll want to see what happens next!

  6. This is a wonderful list! I’m definitely going to be adding a few of these to my shelves. One I like is The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to Get More Books in Your Life and More Life from Your Books by Steve Leveen. It has lots of tips for making the most of your reading life, including things you may think are common sense, but which went over my head for years (like if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t *have* to finish it!). Great post.

    • The Steve Leveen book is new to me–I’ll have to take a look for that one. I got over the “I have to finish every book I start” phase awhile ago–I realized that if I’m not reading a book for a class, it’s my choice whether or not to finish. What a difference that idea made!

  7. I also liked The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee.

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  9. Forgotten Bookmarks is a great place to hang out. Always find a good read there. This is a great list. I am putting some of these on my virtual bookshelf to read later! Hopping over from Tina’s. Thanks for sharing.
    -Reshama @Stackingbooks.com

  10. I enjoy reading books about books too! So far, I have read three of the ones on your list.

    You might add The Little Bookstore of Book Stone Gap, which is a true story about novice book owners. Here’s my reaction to it: http://allisonsbookbag.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/musings-meme-current-reads-11/

    If you’re open to fiction, I’d also recommend Booked to Die which features a cop who likes books and who investigates the death of a book scout. The author, John Dunning, draws on his own knowledge, having opened a store specializing in second-hand and rare books. Here’s my reaction to it:
    http://allisonsbookbag.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/musings-meme-current-reads-10/

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  12. I can’t think of a single book I’ve ever read that was non-fiction about books. Thanks for this list to get me started. 🙂 Sorry I’m so late to pop over! Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday last week! Looking forward to seeing what you have to share with us this week!
    Tina

  13. Hey there! Came here from Dreamz and Clouds’ blog.

    Loved this post of yours. Being an avid reader and passionate lover of books myself, it greatly appealed to me. 🙂 Out of your list, I have read only 84, Charing Cross Road. I simply loved it! Hope to get my hands on the other books from your list, too – they all sound lovely!

    Some other fiction and non-fiction titles about books that I have read and enjoyed:

    1. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff (sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road)
    2. Q’s Legacy – Helene Hanff
    3. Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs (Also published as Time Was Soft There) – Jeremy Mercer (it is a memoir of the author’s stay in the famous Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company)
    4. Matilda – Roald Dahl
    5. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
    6. The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
    7. Will you have some bread with that book? – Veena Venugopal
    8. Night train to Lisbon – Pascal Mercier

    Apart from these, I just got a copy of Masha Hamilton’s The Camel Bookmobile, and am looking forward to read it soon!

  14. Came back to add a couple more to the list. Can’t resist talking about books on books. 🙂

    9. Parnassus On Wheels – Christopher Morley
    10. The Ingredients Of Love – Nicholas Barreau

    • Oh my goodness–what wonderful additions to this list! The only one from your list that I’ve read is Duchess of Bloomsbury Street–I found it by chance at a used bookstore and was thrilled–I had no idea there was a sequel to 84. And–I had no idea until now that she’d written another book. Thank you for all of these great suggestions–my TBR list just keeps growing and growing!

  15. Great post, I’ve been doing book reviews too so this is of special interest to me. Charing Cross Road is one of my favorite books and movies.

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  17. I love books about books as well. Forgotten Bookmarks is one I should buy immediately!

  18. Great list, thanks for sharing! I love books about books. I’ve read 84 Charing Cross Road (so charming), The Reading Promise, and Ex Libris, but not many of the others. They look so great.

  19. What a great collection of books! I love when books are referenced in fiction but have read hardly any non-fiction about books and none of the ones on your list. I’d like to read all of them though! 🙂

  20. Funny, I like books about books too, but I’ve read very few on your list. I guess when I think about it I like books about writers, a little different I suppose. Thanks for putting this list together!

  21. Books about books = the best. 84, Charing Cross Road has been on my TBR for so long. I can’t believe that I haven’t read it yet. It just sounds so good.

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  23. I’ve read 84, Charing Cross Road and The Reading Promise and I enjoyed them both. I’m reading a book about books right now: The Novel Cure:751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud, Susan Elderkin. They prescribe novels to help one through conditions like anxiety, etc. It is a fun read so far.

  24. Terrific list! Books about books sound fun, but apparently I haven’t been exposed to very many of them because I’ve only read one of these.

  25. Oh, Ex Libris! I loved that book. Forgotten Bookmarks sounds very cool. My husband works in a used book store and they are always finding interesting things inside of books. One time one of his co-workers found a baggie of crystal meth…YIKES.

  26. I’ve read fictional books about books, but non-fictional books about books is definitely a new area for me. So Many Books, So Little Time sounds like a fun book! And The Reading Promise has such an interesting and touching premise. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  31. Great list, I’ve read a few of these books, but I think I’ll need to add a lot more to my wishlist.

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