100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores

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Derek Attig

Staff Writer

Derek works in graduate student career development and is (believe it or not) one of the world's foremost experts on the history of bookmobiles. Follow Derek on Twitter @bookmobility and on Instagram @bookmobility.

This post is sponsored by The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.

invisible libraryOne thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is an undercover Librarian—a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: retrieve a particularly dangerous book. But by the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

So here’s a not-in-any-particular-order, not-at-all-comprehensive list of books about libraries and bookstores–fiction and non, graphic and all text, old and new–that will give you a chance to do just that while having a damn great time. (And you’ll get some extra-meta cred when you acquire them via library or bookstore. Score!) Stay tuned for library cats, bookmobile romance novels, feminist bookstores, and more:

Books About Libraries

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

cover of running the books by avi steinbergRunning the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg

Improbable Libraries: A Visual Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Libraries by Alex Johnson

Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow by Cheryl Knott

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue & Corinne J. Naden

The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Nancy Runs the Bookmobile by Enid Johnson

With a High Heart by Adele de Leeuw

Books and Beaux by Rosemae Wells Campbell

The Girl on the Bookmobiles by Natalie King

Here Comes the Bookmobile by Dirk Gringhuis

Curious Missie by Virginia Sorensen

cover of the strange library by haruki murakamiThe Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

The Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America by Christine Pawley

The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History by Alice Crawford

Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library by Scott Sherman

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers by Binnie Tate Wilkin

Where Are All the Librarians of Color? by Rebecca Hawkins and Miguel Juarez

Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne Wiegand

cover of dewey by vicki mryonDewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Bookshelf by Lydia Pyne

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

The Library at Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States by Thomas Augst and Kenneth Carpenter

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

Untold Stories: Civil Rights, Libraries & Black Librarianship by John Mark Tucker

The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra

Murder in the Museum by John Rowland

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom

Americus by MK Reed

You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia by Jack Lynch

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Book Lover’s Adventures by Josh Hanagarne

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

By Book or By Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

cover of evil librarian by michelle knudsonEvil Librarian by Michelle Knudson

Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

Quiet, Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas

Unshelved by Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum

In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians by Michael Cart

The Library Book

The Librarian by Larry Beinhart

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

cover of library warsLibrary Wars: Love & War, Vol. 1 by Kiiro Yumi & Hiro Arikawa

The Library by Zoran Živković

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956 by Wayne Wiegand

Questioning Library Neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian by Alison Lewis

So You Want to Be a Librarian by Lauren Pressley

Books About Bookstores

cover of the feminist bookstore movement by kristen hoganReluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller

The Cracked Spine: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery Hardcover – March 29, 2016 by Paige Shelton

The Feminist Bookstore Moment: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability by Kristen Hogan

Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism by Anne Enke

The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control by Ted Striphas

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

cover of mr penumbras 24 hour bookstore by robin sloanMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad

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

cover of the book itch by vaunda michaux nelsonThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Mary Anne and the Haunted Bookstore (The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #34) by Ann M. Martin

Bookstore Cat by Cindy Wheeler

The Bookstore Mouse by Peggy Christian

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé

On the Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore by Greg Farrell

Fug You : An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side by Ed Sanders

cover of the readers of broken wheel recommend by katarina bivaldFeminist Revolution in Literacy: Women’s Bookstores in the United States by Junko Onasaka

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer

A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire by Janice Radway


100 must-read books about libraries and bookstores