If you have been reading my blog for long enough, you will know how much I love books. You will also know how much I love reading books about books. There is something about such books – discovering kindred spirits with similar feelings about books in the authors always cheers me up. The love of books is one of the most sincere loves in the world, and such writing is always straight-from-the-heart and passionate, making its reading a highly pleasurable experience.
I am here to list out some of my most favourite books about books. These books have rekindled the love of books in me, given me great joy, and helped me relate to other book lovers. I hope this list will help you find some interesting reads.
Here we go:
1. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
84, Charing Cross Road is a real-life story about the USA-based author corresponding with a bookstore in London, Marks & Co., regarding some books, which turns into a full-fledged friendship with the store owner and its staff over time. Wit, love for books and genuine compassion drips from every letter by Helene to the bookstore, and vice versa. The back-and-forth letters instill in Helene a curiosity to visit London at least once in her life, and to see her beloved Marks & Co. on the famous Charing Cross Road, the same desire that reverberated in me throughout my reading of the book.
I read this book a few years back, and the feelings I had when I read it still stay with me. It is such a delightful read that I haven’t stopped recommending it to people ever since. One of my favourite books of all times, a real gem.
My copy of 84, Charing Cross Road also had its sequel – The Duchess Of Bloomsbury Street – in which Helene, much later in her life, gets a chance to visit London, finally. I will not kill the suspense for those of you who haven’t read the book, but will say that The Duchess Of Bloomsbury Street is an equally enticing read.
2. Q’s Legacy – Helene Hanff
Q’s Legacy is the third book in the Charing Cross Road series, after The Duchess Of Bloomsbury Street. Another beautiful read, it is all about books as well.
Q’s Legacy is, again, non-fiction, Helene’s dedication to her mentor, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Cambridge Professor, popularly known as Q. Helene writes about how, as a poor college drop-out, she discovered Q’s books in a library quite by chance, and made him her mentor. She pored over Q’s books, discovered more and more books in the process, and read them all. She taught herself the art of writing through Q’s books and the ones that he had recommended, for which she says she will be eternally indebted to him.
It is a very inspiring read, with Helene’s determination to learn and her love for books and writing shining through every sentence.
3. The Uncommon Reader – Alan Benett
The Uncommon Reader, as the name suggests, is the story of a reader who is not very common, who is no one else but Her Highness, Queen Elizabeth. One fine day, the Queen discovers a travelling library by chance, discovering, in the process, loads of books and her latent love of reading. She realises that she simply adores reading, and that there is a lot that she needs to read yet. She finds company in Norman, a young, lowly boy who works in the palace kitchen.
This short novella goes on to describe how the Queen’s life changes as a result of her developing the reading habit, how her thoughts and perceptions about things gradually change. And, because this particular reader is not common, a lot of people have a lot of opinions on her reading. I won’t say any more, but will let you discover the joy of this beautiful book on your own.
4. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – Marie Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is the story of a book club that was formed in the Channel Islands during the Second World War. The book is written in a series of letters, from one book club member to the other, because it was the time of the Occupation and their activities had to be kept a close secret. The book does have a lot of similarities with 84, Charing Cross Road, but there are a lot of differences as well.
It is a beautifully written book, full of passion, love, books, warmth, wit and humour. It is a sheer joy to read, and no one I have recommended it so far has been disappointed by it.
This book was originally started by Mary Ann Shaffer, who fell ill just as the manuscript went into publication. She was too sick to make the changes that the publisher requested of her, and so, the task of editing the manuscript and seeing it through publication was taken up by Annie Barrows, Mary’s niece. This is the only book ever published in the name of Mary Ann Shaffer. Touching, right?
5. Matilda – Roald Dahl
One of my regrets in life is that I discovered Roald Dahl pretty late in life, actually only a couple of years ago. I wish I could have read the delight that is Roald Dahl’s Matilda as a child, but I am glad I did at least now. I loved the book to bits.
Matilda is a highly intelligent and talented child, born to monster parents who do not know her worth. Matilda discovers books at her neighbourhood library as a child, and she begins to devour them at an alarming speed. Reading changes her life or, rather, she learns how to change her life. Matilda finds a friend in Miss Honey, her school teacher, who needs some life-changing herself. Together, Matilda and Miss Honey become a great team.
With a cast of mostly unsavoury characters, which have been hilariously depicted, Matilda makes for a fun and inspiring read.
6. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is another beautiful book that I cannot stop recommending, ever since I finished reading it. Written in an extremely warm and sensitive manner, The Book Thief is a chunkster that speaks about the horrors of war without being overly horrifying. In fact, as I said in my review of the book, I think this book is about the human face of war. Just as much as it is about war, the book is about books, too. It is about how books changed the life of a little girl who had nothing to hold on to, how they helped her face the war, and made pathways for her to connect with people.
The Book Thief is one of those rare gems that you find in the book world, and should be extremely happy to have the good fortune of reading.
What are your favourite books about books? I would love to know!