One of the questions I’ve been asked most regularly about The Railwayman’s Wife is why its main character, Ani, goes to work in a library. In truth, this is because the real story that inspired the novel dispatched its widow to such a job—but the poetry of incorporating that fact into the imaginings of the novel, of placing books and reading and the magical space that libraries offer up at the center of the narrative, was irresistible.
Libraries have always seemed to me to be places of infinite promise, infinite respite (or escape), infinite inspiration and infinite potential. They shimmer with the excitement of the things you don’t know are housed along their shelves as much as the excitement of the things you go searching for in the first place.
The following books, which all feature different kinds of libraries and book collections, speak to the things we celebrate in reading and researching—or just the job of being near books—as much as to all that has been feared or suspected of text-based activities. In many ways, it’s a list of books about reading for readers, those dedicated people who are always adding to the bulk of their own libraries, real and/or imaginary, through the different stories they encounter and make part of their lives.
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