Monday, April 18, 2016

Novels about books

Those of us who love books, and I mean really love books, tend to love books about books. That phrase, "books about books," usually refers to nonfiction works, such as Joe Queenan's One for the Books or Wendy Welch's The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Yet there are numerous novels, more every year it seems, that are also books about books. That is, books or authors or the characters from famous novels are vital to the plots. Whether or not these novels qualify as literature, they are nevertheless read avidly by those who love literature.

As examples of this genre, I have chosen 10 novels from the past 15 years. Most of these books I have written about previously in this blog.

Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard (2003) - Tiny Tim, from the famous Charles Dickens Christmas story has grown up in Bayard's novel and struggles to discover who has been killing young girls in London. B

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (2006) - Great Expectations is his only textbook when a white man reluctantly becomes the teacher of children on a tropical island during wartime. A

Finn by Jon Clinch (2007) - Clinch revisits Huckleberry Finn, but this time from the perspective of his no-good father. A

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (2007) - Fiona Sweeney loads books on the back of a camel and takes them to villagers in an arid part of Kenya. A

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke (2007) - Sam Pulzifer accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson's house, so now he's a suspect when the homes of other writers are torched. B+ 

The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom (2010) - The last, so far, of Ian Sansom's Mobile Library mysteries, this one finds librarian Israel Armstrong having to prove a Philip Roth novel he loaned to a teen-age girl has nothing to do with her disappearance. To do that, he needs to find the girl. A

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012) - A bookstore employee discovers there is much more going on in Mr. Penumbra's store than just the sale of books. B

The Bookman's Tale by Charles Lovett (2013) - A young bookseller thinks he may have found a book that will prove William Shakespeare was actually the author of those plays bearing his name. B

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014) - A small-town bookstore, a rare collection of Poe poetry, an abandoned baby and a little romance are combined in a winning novel with chapters themed by famous short stories. A-

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (2016) - Author Truman Capote's literary career reaches it zenith and then plummets downward while he hangs out with some famous New York City socialites. A

You don't have to be a book nut to enjoy any of these novels, but it sure helps.

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