About books about books

I planned to read more Russians this year, and I’m still hoping it will happen. But a number of other factors (including a larger project that I seem to have let myself in for) have coincided to make sure that my reading thus far has had a different theme – that of books about books. I’m not counting literary criticism here (since that is necessarily about books) but I’m thinking of characters in books who read and think about what they read. So far this year these books have included Jo Walton’s Among Others, Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, and Francis Spufford’s The Child That Books Built. I’ve also read the most recent Karen Joy Fowler collection and Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, both of which engage with other works of fiction though not as directly. I’ll certainly soon be rereading Junot Diaz’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Antonia Forest’s The Ready-Made Family. I might even reread Northanger Abbey, since I haven’t visited it in a few years.

But: what next? What am I missing that has a protagonist’s reading as a major part of its plot? I need recommendations, internet.

8 Comments to “About books about books”

  1. Nabokov: Pale Fire (does it matter if the reading is of a fictional piece?)

    Graham Swift: Ever After (the plot turns around a character's world view being altered by reading Darwin)

    Evelyn Waugh: A Handful of Dust (the unforgettable Mr. Todd)

    Lloyd Jones: Mister Pip

    And I suppose one could make a case for Byatt's Possession.

  2. Of course, the granddaddy of all books where the protagonist's reading drives the plot is Don Quixote.

    And then there's Dante's Inferno, especially Canto V: 127 – 141.

    Perhaps most notable of all, there's Calvino's If on a Winter's Night A Traveler. You can't get more relevant than a book whose main protagonist is you, the reader.

  3. I would suggest these:
    84 charing cross road, helene hanff
    the bookshop, penelope fitzgerald
    possession, a s byatt

  4. Never Ending Story. The Name of the Rose. (there have got to be more).

  5. There is a fair amount of reading in Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and also in every Saul Bellow novel, particularly Ravelstein and Humboldt's Gift.

  6. Special Powers by Mary Hoffman – lots about her reading and how it effects the plot and makes a story.

    This one is pushing it a bit, but The Summerhouse by Alison Prince. It's not about reading abook so much as about writing a book but it is about books and stories and things so it might be relatvent to your interests.

    I know that there's at least one other one but it has slipped from my mind right now. I may have to return!

  7. Falstaff: Possession and A Handful Of Dust could both do with rereads, certainly (and Don Quixote, of which I'm still looking for a beautiful edition to own). I'm a bit ashamed of not having read Pale Fire yet. Love the Calvino, but it's still not exactly what I'm looking for. Swift and Jones I would never have thought of, so thank you for those in particular!

    pulicat: You know, I've never read any Fitzgerald. This is clearly a good place to start.

  8. Space Bar: Never Ending Story! It's been years!

    rahkan: I only vaguely remember Franny and Zooey – I remember not being very pleased with it, but it's been more than ten years and a reread can't hurt. Bellow I've been meaning to explore for a while, so it might as well be with those two.

    Anonymous: I hadn't thought of either of those (I don't think I've even heard of Alison Prince) so thank you very much! If you do return, leave a name/pseudonym so I know which anonymous you are? :)

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