It’s no secret that book lovers love to read books about books. Reading a book about books means getting comfortable with an acute awareness of the page, often watching characters react to a second set of fictional characters and, in turn, a dimension of themselves. For that reason, I find the plot device a captivating one, a chance to push boundaries of established genres and tropes encapsulating the essence of fiction with fiction.
Double Your Dose of Literary Happiness with These 10 Books About Books
It was Henry David Thoreau who said, "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." Is this what fictional novelist Robert Eady had in mind in PARIS BY THE BOOK? Did he disappear to Paris while secretly working on a manuscript set there? His wife, Leah, is uncertain, but she's willing to fly her family to France using the hidden plane tickets she discovers while looking for him. There she and her daughters find a surprise career as booksellers while they search for clues and wonder about Robert's fate.
Joan Castleman spends 40 years resisting her literary chops in favor of supporting her husband's writing career. Stuck in an airplane seat beside him, she decides enough is enough; she wants out of their marriage. Reliving their first moments and the evolution that's led them to the present carries an insightful deconstruction of two lives and a battery of choices.
Imbued with the characteristic wit and intelligence that Meg Wolitzer brought to The Interestings, The Wife raises big questions about voice, marriage, power, and gender in literature. Slim but smart, this provocative story can be read in a day, but it will remain on your mind for much longer. A film adaptation starring Glenn Close and Frances McDormand is in the works and we would watch those two titans of acting in just about anything.
BE FRANK WITH ME introduces us to the reclusive novelist Mimi Banning, who is struggling to write her new book. Cue the arrival of Alice, a young assistant from Mimi's publishing house turned houseguest to make sure Mimi delivers her manuscript in time. But it's Mimi's son, Frank, who steals the show with his quirky persona and unpredictable antics, turning a book about finishing a book into a witty, memorable tale of fully developed characters with unconventional bonds.
What do you do with an “eccentric” child whose personal style recalls 1930s Hollywood? What do you do with his mother, a J. D. Salinger–type author who, after falling prey to a Ponzi scheme, must hire someone to take care of her son while she finishes her long-awaited second book? In short, BE FRANK WITH ME is a sweet story of a family, born and made, in all its unconventionality.
Rising for air after weeks of solitude spent transforming ideas into words on a page can often feel like returning to day-to-day tasks after a long vacation. If you're like Eliza in THE ELIZAS, a staggering duality might start to emerge: a rescue from a near-drowning in a fancy hotel pool like your protagonist, Dot; a sharp insistence that you weren't bent on taking your own life echoed by the disbelieving glances of your family; encounters of places that only exist in your own prose. Eliza's novel is pure fiction, isn't it? Or is there something trapped so deeply in her subconscious that she's accidentally set it free on the page?
The value of a good manuscript is always debatable, but it doesn't usually house deadly consequences. If you inject a manuscript with newsworthy implications, an anonymous author, and veteran industry players considering the chance to publish or option film rights, the traditional acquisition game becomes a heated, pulse-pounding mess. THE ACCIDENT is exactly the kind of book that will keep you up at night, attempting to trace the source of the manuscript, who has copies, and what it all might mean.
Meet Simon, a New York publisher and brother of the notorious Frank Weeks, whose defection to the Soviet Union shattered both the country and Simon's early career. In THE DEFECTORS by Joseph Kanon, Frank's ready to sell his story, and Simon's got dibs on publishing it. The catch? Simon must come to Russia to meet and work on the memoir in person, where Frank may have ulterior motives.
Technology has finally surpassed the printed word, and handheld memes rule supreme. That doesn't mean everyone's ready to give it up—especially not those who have persevered to create the last print edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language. When the chief editor is nowhere to be found, the journey to find him becomes a thought-provoking, frightening, and allegorical ride for book lovers everywhere.
Cal Cunningham is the hopeful yet ultimately uninspired young writer in ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Yes, the circumstances surrounding his sudden million-dollar novel are shady at best. But the whole situation practically fell into his lap, and how can he be expected not to take advantage of that? A unique premise carried out with the skill of Patricia Highsmith or, as Stephen King says, "worthy of Hitchcock at his best," this book will have you rooting for characters making questionable decisions and savoring every reveal.
Alan Conway is a legend in the crime world, and his murder-solving Atticus Pund is a fan favorite. But his newest manuscript starring Pünd feels different to his editor, Susan—disturbingly familiar and possibly mimicking real-life events. With a compelling format that allows you to read chapters of Alan Conway's manuscript sandwiched between sections of Susan's present-day concerns, you can indulge in a true book-within-book experience.
THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss describes just how powerful one book can be, spanning generations and experiences in a timeless capsule of collective need. When he was younger and living in Poland, Leo Gursky wrote a book. Fourteen-year-old Alma watches her lonely mother work to translate Leo's book 60 years later and decides she needs to journey to find him. Lost memories and deep emotions are beautifully depicted, tangled in the most elusive and encompassing emotion of all: love.