An Ode to Librarians: 6 Books Dedicated to a Love of Literature

October 25 2021
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Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anthony Doerr, rocked all our bookshelves this month with the publication of his latest Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anthony Doerr rocked all our bookshelves this month with the publication of his latest novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” this beautiful and entrancing story emphasizes the important connection we, as humans, have made with books. With that central theme in mind, I’ve rounded up some other fantastic works of literature that shine light on librarians and books in their own captivating ways. If you too are intrigued by Tony Doerr’s latest immersive masterpiece, tune into Book Club Favorites’ live discussion with him on November 2 at 12 pm ET on Simon & Schuster’s Facebook and YouTube channels!

Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

This powerful novel is told from three separate time periods: fifteenth-century Constantinople, a small town in present-day Idaho, and an interstellar spaceship traveling decades from now. Throughout these drastically different times, Doerr weaves a magnificent story that reflects our vast interconnectedness with each other, with the Earth, and of course, with a book. The lives of Doerr’s characters are intertwined in the most glorious and imaginative ways. Prepare to be taken on the journey of a lifetime with this masterpiece of a book. As always, Doerr does not disappoint.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.

Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig

Somewhere far beyond, in a sector of the universe we will never reach, is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one telling a new version of reality. There is the story of your present life, the life you may have lived, and stories of all the people you may have become. In THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY, Nora Seed finds herself faced with the possibility of trading in her present life for the one she might have built for herself, if only she made different choices. As she travels through the Midnight Library, Nora must decide what it truly means to have lived a fulfilled life.

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The Midnight Library
Matt Haig

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The Paris Library
by Janet Skeslien Charles

THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during the dangerous times of World War II. Alternating between Paris 1939 and Montana 1983, this novel weaves its story through two libraries. Odile in Paris makes the brave decision to join the Resistance after the Nazis invade her city. But once freedom comes, she is faced with unbelievable betrayal. Flash-forward to Lily in Montana, whose interest is piqued by her elderly neighbor. As she uncovers mysteries about her neighbor’s past, she slowly comes to realize that one dark secret connects them both.

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The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

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Close Enough to Touch
by Colleen Oakley

This witty and charming novel of one librarian’s rare allergy will have readers overflowing with bittersweet compassion. Jubilee Jenkins is allergic to human touch. Any skin-to-skin contact could kill her. But after living a life of solitude for nearly ten years, the librarian decides to brave the world once again. Eric, a struggling father who pops into his local library for some help, finds himself utterly captivated by the eccentric librarian across the counter. This story will give reads a new appreciation for the life of a librarian and reignites that feeling of a love just out of reach.

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Close Enough to Touch
Colleen Oakley

“A witty, inventive, and bittersweet” (Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author) love story for anyone who’s ever wanted something—or someone—just out of reach, Close Enough to Touch will delight fans of Jojo Moyes’s One Plus One and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.

Can you miss something you never had?

Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee’s decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door—and into her future.

Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful—albeit eccentric—woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.

Charming and utterly unique, Close Enough to Touch is “a story that overflows with compassion, humor, and the impulsive need to read just one more chapter until you reach the very satisfying end” (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author).

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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
by Edward Wilson-Lee

This story, brimming with adventure, details the quest of Christopher Columbus’s son to create the greatest library on earth. Through its pages, THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS gives readers a glimpse into sixteenth-century Europe. After Columbus’s death in 1506, eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to build a library that would collect everything ever printed. Hernando traveled extensively and obsessively to realize this near-impossible vision. Backed by impeccable research, this story is worth stacking on your own shelf.

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The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
Edward Wilson-Lee

This impeccably researched and “adventure-packed” (The Washington Post) account of the obsessive quest by Christopher Columbus’s son to create the greatest library in the world is “the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters” (NPR) and offers a vivid picture of Europe on the verge of becoming modern.

At the peak of the Age of Exploration, Hernando Colón sailed with his father Christopher Columbus on his final voyage to the New World, a journey that ended in disaster, bloody mutiny, and shipwreck. After Columbus’s death in 1506, eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to continue—and surpass—his father’s campaign to explore the boundaries of the known world by building a library that would collect everything ever printed: a vast holding organized by summaries and catalogues; really, the first ever database for the exploding diversity of written matter as the printing press proliferated across Europe. Hernando traveled extensively and obsessively amassed his collection based on the groundbreaking conviction that a library of universal knowledge should include “all books, in all languages and on all subjects,” even material often dismissed: ballads, erotica, news pamphlets, almanacs, popular images, romances, fables. The loss of part of his collection to another maritime disaster in 1522, set off the final scramble to complete this sublime project, a race against time to realize a vision of near-impossible perfection.

“Magnificent…a thrill on almost every page” (The New York Times Book Review), The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books is a window into sixteenth-century Europe’s information revolution, and a reflection of the passion and intrigues that lie beneath our own insatiable desires to bring order to the world today.

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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
by Joshua Hammer

To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pull off a heist like no other. Abdel Kader Haidara journeyed across the Sahara in the 1980s to track down tens of thousands of ancient Islamic texts. This dangerous operation smuggled 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. Haidara’s goal throughout his entire adventure was to preserve this crucial text in a gorgeous library. But as he embarks on this mission, Al Qaeda shows up. Packed with thrills and history, this story chronicles the brave journey of one mild-mannered activist into one of the world’s greatest smugglers.

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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
Joshua Hammer

To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven in this “fast-paced narrative that is…part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller” (The Washington Post) from the author of The Falcon Thief.

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

“Part history, part scholarly adventure story, and part journalist survey…Joshua Hammer writes with verve and expertise” (The New York Times Book Review) about how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world’s greatest smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction. With bravery and patience, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. His heroic heist “has all the elements of a classic adventure novel” (The Seattle Times), and is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty of their culture. His the story is one of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.

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Photo credit: iStock / Chinnapong

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