I have thoroughly enjoyed brainstorming titles to include in this article. The theme of “books revolving around books” is perfect for a book lover like me. Each story shows the importance of books, the importance of stories. I loved being in the worlds these books took me to: sisters sharing a secret story, an underground library, a bookstore in London, two brothers and the memoir that brings them together, a woman who became a powerful presence in the world of rare books, and a story that connects generations of people over time and space. Books, libraries, paper, pages, words—all my favorite things. I hope you enjoy these stories.
It is early spring 1960, and Hazel Linden is finishing her last day of work at Hogan’s Rare Book Shoppe in Bloomsbury, London. With a touch of sadness, Hazel reflects on the wonderful days she spent here helping customers fall in love with books and the stories that live inside them. Before Hazel leaves the shop, there is one last box of books for her to open. Inside is a book wrapped in parchment, and as Hazel unwraps it, she sees a children’s book with a cover illustrated with two girls holding hands, thick woodlands behind them; a river; and a castle. Hazel is filled with shock as she sees the title of the book. This is a story she made up long ago, a story she told her sister and only her sister—a secret story they shared between them. But how can this book exist? How can this story be written on the pages when her sister, Flora Lea, is the only other person who knows it, but Flora Lea was lost twenty years ago, in 1939. This is a story of sisters, of loss, and of grief but also hope, always hope.
When a woman stumbles across a mysterious children’s book, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed in this “transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author) novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis.
1939: Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora evacuate their London home for a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the Aberdeen family in a charming stone cottage, Hazel distracts her young sister with a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own: Whisperwood.
But the unthinkable happens when Flora suddenly vanishes after playing near the banks of the River Thames. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, carrying the guilt into adulthood.
Twenty years later, Hazel is back in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore for a career at Sotheby’s. With a cherished boyfriend and an upcoming Paris getaway, Hazel’s future seems set. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the storybook world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years? Or is something sinister at play?
For fans of Kate Morton, Janet Skeslien Charles, and Kristin Hannah, this is a “fantastical” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) celebration of sisterhood and the magic of storytelling wrapped up in a “heartrending, captivating tale of family, first love, and fate” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
In a park just outside of Paris, on a crisp fall day in 1939, two women, Elise LeClaire and Juliette Foulon, meet. In an instant, a bond is formed. They are both American and both pregnant, each of them needing a friend, each of them with a sadness in her life. For Elise, it is fear that she married the wrong man, a man who could put her and her unborn child in danger. For Juliette, it is the grief she still feels from losing her baby girl two years before. The bond Juliette and Elise share grows tighter when, in January of 1940, they each give birth to a baby girl, Lucie, and Mathilde. But as the war moves ever closer to Paris, Elise will have no choice but to leave the city and her daughter behind. However, Elise is comforted knowing that Mathilde is with Juliette, whom she considers not just a friend but a sister. After a year away, Elise returns to Paris only to find Juliette’s bookstore, where she lived with her family, destroyed from an air-raid attack and no trace of Juliette, Lucie, or Mathilde. What happened to them? Will Elise ever see them again? A touching story of mothers and daughters, of friends, and most of all of love.
From the bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names comes a gripping historical novel about two mothers who must make unthinkable choices in the face of the Nazi occupation.
Paris, 1939: Young mothers Elise and Juliette become fast friends the day they meet in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. Though there is a shadow of war creeping across Europe, neither woman suspects that their lives are about to irrevocably change.
When Elise becomes a target of the German occupation, she entrusts Juliette with the most precious thing in her life—her young daughter, playmate to Juliette’s own little girl. But nowhere is safe in war, not even a quiet little bookshop like Juliette’s Librairie des Rêves, and, when a bomb falls on their neighborhood, Juliette’s world is destroyed along with it.
More than a year later, with the war finally ending, Elise returns to reunite with her daughter, only to find her friend’s bookstore reduced to rubble. Surviving neighbors tell her that Juliette and a little girl survived. But which little girl—and what happened in the bookstore’s final moments? Juliette has seemingly vanished without a trace, taking all the answers with her. Elise’s desperate quest to find out what happened to her daughter ultimately leads her to New York—and to Juliette—one final, fateful time.
An “exquisite and gut-wrenching novel” (Lisa Barr, New York Times bestselling author) you won’t soon forget, The Paris Daughter is also a sweeping celebration of resilience, motherhood, and love.
Belle da Costa Greene makes her way hurriedly across the campus of Princeton University, late for her job as librarian in the rare books department. Once inside the library, she is calmed by the quiet, and the turning of pages by the patrons fills her with joy. It is here that a man named Junius Morgan, who is the nephew of the famous financier J.P. Morgan, tells Belle that he has recommended her to interview for the position of lady directress for the library his uncle is building in New York City—the Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle is thrilled for this opportunity, but there is a secret she is hiding. Belle is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a notable advocate for equality. In order to achieve success in her career, Belle is forced to hide her true identity and pass as white. As J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, she becomes one of the most influential and powerful people in the world of rare art and books, and she builds a world-class collection for the library. All the while her secret is always on her mind. This is an extraordinary story wonderfully written by two amazing authors. They write with love and care for Belle, and this comes through in every word.
In 1961, Simon Weeks, head of publishing at M. Keating & Sons, is on a plane heading toward Moscow. In his briefcase he carries with him a manuscript. But this is no ordinary manuscript, and this is no ordinary trip. Simon Weeks is headed to Moscow to see his brother, Frank, whom he worked with in the U.S. State Department but who defected to Russia twelve years ago. The manuscript in Simon’s briefcase is Frank’s memoir, which Keating & Sons expects to be a bestseller. As the plane approaches Russia, Simon thinks of the brother he knew in their childhood, a best friend, a leader, someone Simon always looked up to. Simon can’t help but wonder how Frank has changed, why he left, why he and his wife chose this life. As Simon meets with Frank, he begins to understand Frank has an ulterior motive for calling his brother to Moscow. This is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, a well written story of two brothers and the choices they made.
A fascinating novel about five different characters whose stories take place over many different timelines and the common thread that connects them all—the story of Aethon, a man who goes to great lengths to find the perfect place, a utopia, a paradise in the sky. In 15th-century Constantinople, 13-year-old Anna learns to read Greek from a teacher and discovers the story of Aethon. When the city falls, she leaves, taking the story with her. On her journey she meets Omeir, who is fleeing the war, and shares the tale with him. In present day Idaho, we meet 80-year-old Zeno, who fears his life has been wasted until he meets a group of children and shares the story with them. They decide to put on a play about Aethon. On the night of the dress rehearsal, troubled teen Seymour makes a decision that will affect the rest of his life but will also ultimately lead him too to the story of Aethon. In a time in the future, the story of Aethon comforts 14-year-old Konstance, who lives in isolation on an interstellar ship called Argos. I loved how one story reaches across time and space to make an impact on these characters’ lives. This is an unforgettable book.
On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A Barack Obama Favorite * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more
“If you’re looking for a superb novel, look no further.” —The Washington Post
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times Book Review).
Among the most celebrated and beloved novels of recent times, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope, and a book.
In the 15th century, an orphan named Anna lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople. She learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds what might be the last copy of a centuries-old book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the army that will lay siege to the city. His path and Anna’s will cross.
In the present day, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno rehearses children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege.
And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father.
Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders whose lives are gloriously intertwined. Doerr’s dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own.
A bookseller pushes a cart of books down the aisle of a train car. His name is Edgar Fergins. You would not know it from looking at him, but a lifetime ago he was an assistant to Pen Davenport, a famous bookaneer in Europe. A bookaneer is a pirate whose treasure is stolen manuscripts of popular authors. Because this book takes place in an era before strict copyright laws, the bookaneers can reprint the manuscripts, sell them at inexpensive prices, and keep the profits for themselves, leaving the authors with nothing. But the days of loose copyright laws are soon ending. When rival bookaneers Pen and Belial discover that a dying Robert Louis Stevenson is working on a manuscript that will most likely be his last, they, along with Edgar, race against time to the South Pacific island of Samoa, where Stevenson lives. Who will be first to get the manuscript? Pearl tells an epic story.
Odile Souchet begins her dream job at the American Library in Paris in 1939, just as the Nazis begin to occupy the city. The library staff dedicate themselves to protecting the library and the precious books and lives inside. In 1983, Odile is far away from Paris and the library, but tragedy and pain remain with her. When a young girl who has experienced tragedy herself befriends Odile, together they will help each other to heal. An important story about courage, healing, and the power of words, this is an absolute favorite of mine.
An instant New York Times, Washington Post, and USA TODAY bestseller—based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II—The Paris Library is a moving and unforgettable “ode to the importance of libraries, books, and the human connections we find within both” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet seems to have the perfect life with her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into the city, 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 love letter to Paris, the power of books, and the beauty of intergenerational friendship” (Booklist), The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest places.
In September 1940, a bomb destroys most of the Bethnal Green Library in London, also killing its head librarian, Peter. Instead of the library closing, it’s moved underground to a half-completed Tube station nearby and best friends Clara Button and Ruby Munroe become the librarians. Both Clara and Ruby are determined to help as many people as they can. As the war continues, the underground station becomes home to many people seeking shelter and safety. A community is born, one that has not only the library but a theater, a doctor’s office, a café, and a wartime nursery. Book clubs are formed, and books are shared with anyone who wants them. This is not just the story of the underground library but of Clara, who is a war widow, and Ruby, who lost her sister in a tragic accident, along with many stories of people who call the shelter home. I enjoyed this book which is based on a true story. It is a story of hope and resilience, of courage and community, a perfect book club read.
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