The Little Paris Bookshop
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened. After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story.
Matilda is a five-and-a-half year-old genius bookworm. Her classmates love her even though she’s the teacher’s pet. But her parents are self-centered idiots who think she’s a nuisance, and the school principal is a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.
The Book Thief
It is 1939 in Nazi Germany and the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scrapes out a meager existence for herself by stealing. One day she encounters something she can’t resist—books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. Together they discover that books can feed the soul.
How Reading Changed My Life
In this slim collection of essays on the joys of reading, novelist and former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen takes us on a journey through her own formative years as a reader and shares the books that influenced her thoughts on life, politics, and love. Peppered throughout the book are wonderful meditations on reading, like this from editor Hazel Rochman: “Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”
Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading
In this memoir, the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air reflects on her life as a professional reader. Maureen Corrigan takes us from her unpretentious girlhood in working-class Queens, to her bemused years in an Ivy League Ph.D. program, from the whirl of falling in love and marrying (a fellow bookworm, of course), to the ordeal of adopting a baby overseas, always with a book at her side. Along the way, she reveals which books and authors have shaped her own life—from classic works of English literature to hard-boiled detective novels, and everything in between.
The Novel Cure
Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
A novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it. To create this literary apothecary, the authors trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote.
What do we talk about when we talk about books? The smell. The texture of the paper. The weight of the object in our hands. The typography. The cover art. The heft of a tome. The slender spine. The deckled edge. The warp and weft of bookcloth. The connection we feel with the characters. The impact of a story on our psyche. The emotional journey we embark on at the hands of an unknown navigator.
Being a book lover is a sensual experience—it engages all of the senses and trips all of our pleasure wires. One person’s fetish is another person’s passion, and book lovers are some of the most passionate people I know. We have a capacity for empathy and emotion that has been honed over a lifetime of caring deeply for others. As a reader, you don’t just put yourself in another person’s shoes, you disassociate and become someone else. You hand over your heart and mind to an author you have never met and you trust that stranger to treat you with care. They might break your heart. They might haunt your dreams. They might infuriate you. Or, worst of all, they might disappoint you. It’s a gamble. Just like love. Just like life.
For those of us who have devoted ourselves to books, it is an endlessly rewarding love affair. There will always be more books than there are hours in the day. We can surround ourselves with overflowing shelves, the mere sight of which can bring us joy. Our best beloveds will never grow old. Our relationship with literature will evolve and change over time, but the books will remain long after we’re gone. They are a symbol of so much more than words on a page. They are a legacy of the varied lives we lead, a record of the past and present, a vision of the future. A promise of so much more.
Perhaps that is why so many of us love reading (and writing) books about books. As book people, we see ourselves in the pages, and like Narcissus, we can’t look away. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Call me a fetishist, call me a narcissist. There are far worse things you could be obsessed with other than books. If you must feed an addiction, better make it a reading habit. Here are seven books of fiction and seven nonfiction works that celebrate the love of books.
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