‘Books about books’ is my favorite category at the bookstore. It’s often a difficult section to find. Some shops place them in the ‘Collectibles & Antiques’ area. Others in the ‘Essays’ or ‘Reference’ sections. Some of the best book stores will gather all of the books about books under the heading of ‘Literary Non-Fiction’, which seems as appropriate, while the best shops do create a curated “Books About Books” section.
I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the first section every book shop stocks. One can pretty much guarantee that, while not every browsing customer will agree on which hot political book to read or which classic work is the best, every potential customer is someone who appreciates books. Right?
The folks at the LitHub have offered a five-book list The Best Books About Books. I’ve only read Dirda’s Browsings. But I like the sound of Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From, so it’s been added to my TBR list.
In hopes that you too are a kindred bookish type, I’d like to offer five books that I think are at the top of the ‘books about books’ category. These are all books I’ve read and continually recommend to folks. On LibraryThing, I keep a running list of the books about books I’ve read and have-yet-to read. My list includes both fiction and non-fiction. Please let me know if you have read a good one that I’ve missed.
Five Fantastic Books About Books
So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid – This one is only 160 pages and it outlines perfectly many of the challenges that modern publishers and readers face in today’s book world.
Ex Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – If there were to be one book on everyone’s books about books list I imagine this 162-page book honoring all that’s beautiful about words and books would be it.
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee – I can’t quite put my finger on why this book rises so much higher than all the other ‘bookstore memoir’ titles out there, but Buzbee nails just about every feeling and thought I’ve had about bookshops.
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel – By far the heaviest and deepest book on my list, Manguel relates the philosophies, histories and importance of book collecting and reading like no one else.
At Home with Books : How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis – This is a big coffee table book full of the most gorgeous and inspiring images of home libraries running alongside great interviews with the people who own them.