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100 Must-Read Books About Books

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Margret Aldrich

Staff Writer

Margret Aldrich is a writer and recovering book editor who has worked with authors from American Indian activist Winona LaDuke to punk-rock guitar legend Cheetah Chrome. (They were equally intense and equally fantastic.) She is also a former editor, blogger, and librarian at Utne Reader, a magazine celebrating the best of the alternative press. Based in Minneapolis, Margret is a devoted Little Free Library owner who wonders what to do when a Sarah Palin biography shows up in one's LFL. Her book about Little Free Libraries—and how they spark community, literacy, and creativity around the world—came out from Coffee House Press in April. Twitter: mmaldrich

readers of broken wheel recommend

This installment of 100 Must-Read is sponsored by The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

Broken Wheel, Iowa has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor—not much else to do in a small town that’s almost beyond repair.  They just never imagined that she’d start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together—and change everything.


When I worked in publishing, my colleagues and I had a weird ritual when new books arrived from the printer. We would all gather around the big shipping boxes and cut them open, then we’d each reach in for a copy, open it up, and put our noses to the pages.

“Ahhh, the smell of fresh books,” someone would always say, breathing in the inky scent.

When you’re a true-blue “book person,” you love everything about books: The way they smell. The way the pages feel. The weight they add to your bag. The way they look on your shelf. (Do I sound like a book stalker? Guilty.)

It’s only natural, then, that bibliophiles love reading books about books. Whether it’s cheering on the rebel readers in Fahrenheit 451 or following the true story of an infamous book thief in The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, novels and nonfiction that give books a starring role have an undeniable appeal for book lovers.

In How Reading Changed My Life Anna Quindlen writes, “There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books.” If you’re nodding your head in agreement, this list of one hundred bookish books is for you:


Book of Speculation book cover

1. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

2. The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith

3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

4. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

6. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

7. The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

8. Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway #1) by John Dunning

9. The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

10. The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library Mysteries #1) by Ian Sansom

11. The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt

12. The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

13. The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) by Jasper Fforde

14. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

15. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16. First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

17. The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

18. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

19. The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

20. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

21. Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

22. Inkheart (Inkworld #1) by Cornelia Funke

23. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

24. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

25. Matilda by Roald Dahl

26. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

27. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

28. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

29. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

30. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

31. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé

32. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

33. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

34. Possession by A. S. Byatt

35. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

36. S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

37. The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

38. The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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

40. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

41. The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganuk

42. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

43. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

44. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

45. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

46. Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

47. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

53. Book Crush: For Kids and Teens – Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Interest by Nancy Pearl

54. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl

55. The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read by Stuart Kelly

56. The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski

57. Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry

58. The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

59. Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda

60. Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda

61. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

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

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

64. A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes

65. A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

66. The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky

67. How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

68. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

69. Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill

70. Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

71. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin

72. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett

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

74. My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force

75. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

76. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

77. The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud

78. A Passion for Books: A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books by Harold Rabinowitz

79. Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet

80. The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them by Antonia Fraser

81. The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read by Nick Hornby

82. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

83. Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Rego Barry

84. Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores by Hans Weyandt

85. A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel

86. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

87. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

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

89. Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

90. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins

91. So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

92. Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby

93. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

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

95. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

96. When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning

97. Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks

98. The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan

99. The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller

100. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee

What other books about books did I miss? Share your favorites in the comments!