The last year or so I've noticed what I hope is a trend. More novels featuring book lovers, bookstores, libraries, and all things book. These are not incidental to the story. They are the story.
As a hardcore book nerd, this trend was made for me. I love books within books and watching characters peruse used bookstores in search of clues. I love plays on words and considering literary and grammatical conundrums. I love characters who extoll the virtues of reading.
Let's call it the bibliophile genre and let us call it good.
While there have always been nonfiction books about all things bibliophile, fiction brings it to life in a whole new way. Or at least in a more lively way that engages even people who do not identify as book nerds.
Some recent examples:
The first in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair takes us in to the world of literary detectives. Yes, that's right. Literary detectives. Who you gonna call when a character escapes their book or words start rearranging themselves? It's 1985. Great Britain is close to a police state, time traveling is a regular occurrence, and cloning extinct animals happens on the regular. When someone kidnaps Jane Eyre from her own novel, Thursday enters a whole new literary detection playing field. Fforde is impossibly witty and smart. His series is a true bibliophile's dream. (The titles alone: Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten.) My interest waned after First Among Sequels (book 5), as the plots became more convoluted. Perhaps someday I'll finish the series. It was oh so good while it lasted.
Clay starts working at a bookstore and comes to realize this is no ordinary bookstore. Who are these customers and why do they request such obscure work and why on earth must their purchases be written down in a log book? Clay's questions pull him deep in to a mystery and we're along for a most enjoyable ride. It's also an interesting take on the intersection of reading and technology.
After the unexpected death of his wife, AJ Fikry is a man of few friends and many opinions on what qualifies as literature. He runs the bookstore he and his wife began together and is mired in grief when someone steals a rare manuscript from him and everything changes. A strong start that then gave way to predictability. It was enjoyable and hard to put down, while also being a slight letdown.
The Bookman's Tale- Charlie Lovett
After the death of his wife, an antiquarian bookseller moves to a tiny town in England, hoping to experience the pleasure in collecting and restoring books. Once there, he stumbles on to a portrait of his wife hidden in the pages of an old book and yet there's no way it can be his wife. He's drawn into a Shakespearian mystery, one that could forever silence the question of whether Shakespeare really did write his plays. I was enthralled from start to finish and kept wondering how the author came up with the storyline and wove the elements so seamlessly together. (It's clear from his bio he was meant to write this book.) Now who can teach me about the world of antiquarian books...
Lovett's second novel First Impressions is in a similar vein but centers on Jane Austen. It comes out October 16. I can't wait!
For their book-within-a-book plots, I'd almost add The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfield) and The Distant Hours (Morton) to this list. They're two of my favorite novels but I don't think the plots are bibliophile-centered enough, though it is a nifty plot device.
What bibliophile novels would you add to the list?
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