Here on Modern Mrs Darcy I’m happy to play host to a community of avid readers. Around here, we love books and reading. And we also love to read about books and reading.
A good story is an experience, and many of us enjoy the extra layer of bibliophile enjoyment provided by a book about a book, or that takes place in a bookstore. I count myself among them, obviously. (I mean, I wrote a whole book about books and reading myself!)
I love reading the extra details about the writing life, or the writing process, or behind-the-scenes glimpses of the world of bookselling. There’s something for everyone here: literary mystery, love stories, heartwarming correspondence, treacherous librarians. The deep love of reading unites them all.
Novelist Carrie comes to Slains Castle to research and write her next book. She sets the story in 1708 Scotland and names a character after her ancestor and the writing process is like nothing she’s ever experienced before. The novel, covering a Jacobite fleet, flows out of her, making her feel as if she's actually there. And then she discovers what she's writing actually happened. But how could she have possibly known? Interweaving a present-day storyline with a historical one, Kearsley plays with genetic memory, making for a story you won't soon forget. More info →
Who really wrote Pride and Prejudice? That mystery drives this literary thriller, which plunges the reader into the world of first editions, secondhand books, and zealous collectors. When a young librarian discovers a document that casts doubt on Austen's authorship of Pride and Prejudice, she struggles to clear her beloved author of plagiarist charges before it's too late. Lovett flips back and forth between the time when Jane was writing her best-known story and today's desperate race to prove her innocence. Lovett's love of books permeates every page. Farfetched? Of course, but piles (stacks?) of fun for booklovers. The Lost Book Of The Grail, centered around Arthurian legend, and The Bookman's Tale, concerning Shakespeare, are also fantastic. More info →
The title didn't grab me, but this little novella was a delightful surprise. Helen McGill doesn’t realize she’s teetering on the verge of a midlife crisis until the professor rolls into town. He wants to sell her brother Parnassus—his traveling bookstore on (wagon) wheels. Helen falls in love with the idea of traveling through upstate New York, matching book-deprived readers with the right books, and she buys Parnassus herself. Adventures ensue. Recommended reading for fans of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Essential reading for book lovers, and anyone who believes that when you sell a man a book, you sell him a whole new life. More info →
This Gothic mystery is slow to build but those who persevere will be rewarded. The plot flips back and forth between World War II and the 1990s, but not in the way you'd expect. Book editor Edie is drawn into a mystery surrounding her favorite novel, introducing her to the Sisters Blythe who inherited Milderhurst Castle in Kent. Their father wrote the famous children’s storybook The True History of the Mud Man seventy years prior. It's fiction...or is it? The setting is a crumbling old castle, which contributes to the story's creepy (but not quite scary) feel. Some readers think this is Morton's best work. More info →
This atmospheric novel is built around a literary mystery: who is Julián Carax, and why is someone systematically burning his books? I'll confess I had a hard time getting into it, but after I got oriented I couldn't turn the pages fast enough: I loved the post-war Barcelona setting, the rich cast of characters, and the surprising twists and turns the story took. This is a lifetime favorite of several readers I know with great taste, and I'm so glad I can finally see what the fuss is all about. It's a book about books, a mystery, a love letter to literature, a beautifully written masterpiece, a work worthy of a lifetime favorite list. The plot description reminds me of personal favorites The Thirteenth Tale and The Distant Hours. More info →
If you love a good literary mystery, this one's for you. This is the first in a series that follows the adventures of a librarian spy. Twinges of fantasy meet a page-turner. Irene is no ordinary librarian, and her employer is no ordinary library—she works for The Library. This library doesn't exist just in one world, it exists across space. Her job is to chase down unique works of fiction across alternate realities to keep these books safe. Her latest mission is to venture into a kind of steampunk London to recover a copy of a very dangerous and powerful book by the German brothers Grimm. When she gets to the place and time, the book is gone and other dangerous spies are hotly pursuing it. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman or Jasper Fforde. This is not high literature, but it's a really fun book. These would make a great binge read. I recommended this to Mel Joulwan on WSIRN episode 60. More info →
In the first book in The Great Library series, no one is allowed to own books and Scholars control the Great Library, which decides what the masses may know. And of course, nothing and no one is as they seem, not even our hero. Jess trains to enter the Library's service but he's also there as his illegal bookselling family's spy. Soon he'll have to make a decision about whose side he's on and whether knowledge is more valuable and powerful than life itself. More info →
An inventive plot that will either work for you or won't, Fforde introduces us to literary detectives who protect books and their characters, going so far as to slip inside the books themselves. When Acheron Hades steals an original manuscript and kills a minor character, that character disappears from every volume of the novel in existence, which is bad enough. But his next target is Jane Eyre herself and Thursday Next will have to do everything in her power to stop him and return Bronte's classic to its former glory. More info →
You may have seen this with its alternate title The Little Shop of Happy Ever After. I couldn't resist reading this again just before my trip to Scotland. When Nina's job as a British librarian is cut due to budget deficits, she takes a leap of faith and opens a bookmobile in a tiny Scottish town. The bookmobile and its treasures transforms one townsperson at a time and Nina's life is revitalized as well. Now that's the power of a good book! More info →
This novel is such good fun for book lovers, and at its heart is small-town bookseller A. J. Fikry. He's seen better days: he's isolated himself after the death of his wife, his bookstore sales are at record lows, and he's decidedly cranky about the state of publishing. For devoted readers, this book is a wonderful reminder of the power of books, and how they can bring people together. But be warned: this book can explode your to-be-read list, because at the beginning of each chapter, the narrator recommends a book—or sometimes, a short story—to his daughter, describing what it's about and why she'll enjoy it. (He’s a bookseller: he can't help himself.) More info →
I love A. S. Byatt, particularly for the wonderful way she writes her female characters. In this literary mystery and comedy of manners, two scholars research the lives of Victorian Era poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Through letters, journals, and poetry, Ash and LaMotte spring vividly to life. Through parallel plot lines, two separate love stories unfold as we push past the surface and get to know all four characters. More info →
Whether you're a bookworm or a word nerd, this dystopian tale examines our dependence on technology and social media and the staying power of the written word. Readers are transported to a world where bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are obsolete and everyone is ruled by handheld devices called Memes. The last edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language is about to be printed when Anana's father, the printer, goes missing and she's swept into a dangerous search to find him and stop the spread of a mysterious word flu. A fun ride from start to finish. More info →
Iris’s grandmother wrote the famous high-fantasy Elementia series but Iris wants nothing to do with it. She’s never read the books and she barely ever met her grandmother but that doesn’t stop the trilogy’s fans from wanting a piece of her and her family. Iris fears what the fandom is capable of—and that’s before the movie adaptation begins filming. But when Iris tries to shut down the production, she learns she doesn’t have the story quite right. A fun light-hearted read! More info →
Emilia returns to her hometown after the death of her father in order to run his business: Nightingale Books. You’ll love learning how Julian came to open the bookstore and the way Emilia essentially grew up in the bookshop. You also get to know some of the villager's stories and what the bookstore means to them. More info →
A must-read for bibliophiles, and you'll feel compelled to discuss the heartwarming way books bring people together with all your book-loving buddies. This is the story of the twenty-year relationship between a New York writer and a gentlemanly London bookseller, as told through their correspondence. More info →
The heroine of Reay's third novel is Lucy Alling, a Chicago girl who makes her living selling rare books. She's been using suspicious methods to boost her sales, and when that comes to light it ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend. But Lucy gets an unusual shot at redemption, which takes the form of a literary tour of Europe, including a stop at Haworth, the Brontë sisters family home, where things come to a head. If you've enjoyed Reay's previous novels don't miss her soon-to-be-released book The Printed Letter Bookshop, out May 14. More info →
This mystery, set firmly in the tradition of Gothic greats like Jane Eyre, kept me guessing from start to finish. The premise is intriguing (and you may find yourself a little bit envious of the narrator's bookish existence). Reclusive author Vida Winter hires a biographer to share her story. Margaret has one question: Why? While she decides whether to take on the assignment, she begins reading one of the author's works: Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. Winter's fairy tale collection is as well-loved as it is famous for the mysterious missing thirteenth tale. She is captivated by the stories, and puzzled by them because the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? A moody literary mystery, perfect for curling up with on a cold day. Note: a few unsettling scenes if you're a sensitive sort. More info →
Junior librarian Lazlo Strange loves getting lost in the pages of a book, especially when it’s about Weep, a city he's never seen but has heard stories about since childhood. And it is this love of reading and learning that will propel him on the adventure of a lifetime. Laini Taylor's love of books and libraries permeates the pages of this YA Fantasy. More info →
This contemporary novel gives us a wild goose chase in a fascinating setting. Clay, an unemployed Silicon Valley tech worker who now works at a dusty bookstore, discovers its mysterious hold books hold more secrets than he'd ever imagined. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore combines elements of mystery, friendship and adventure as well as the conflict between new technology and print books. This fast-paced book is mystery, quest, and love letter to the written word, all rolled into one: think Harry Potter meets National Treasure. More info →
When a young woman stumbles upon an ancient book and old letters in her father’s library, she learns the true history of Dracula and comes to believe he lives even today. Many have risked their lives to find him and now she must decide whether to take up the quest herself. A compelling exploration about what we can dig up when we search our past. More info →
What are your favorite books about books and bookstores? What titles would you add to this list? Tell us all about them in comments!