Celebrate National Library Week (April 12-18) with some of these terrific odes to libraries and librarians and the unique thrill of losing yourself in a book. Libraries mean different things in different novels: In Mobile Library, a library on wheels is a boy’s way of literally leaving his troubles behind, in The Librarian, violent gangs fight over books that are supposed to have magical powers, and in The Time-Traveler’s Wife, a real-life library is practically a main character.
And in some fantastic nonfiction reads, librarians discuss their love of books, the quirks of working in a public library, and history’s lost libraries, as well as the most beautiful libraries ever built.
David Whitehouse’s second novel is a tragicomic adventure about Bobby, a troubled boy who escapes his small town in a stolen library-on-wheels. As he travels across England encountering a series of odd characters (who all help tell the story), he realizes that real life can be every bit as exciting as any work of fiction.
In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians
Author and librarian Michael Cart’s short story collection includes such classics as Borges’s “The Library of Babel,” Isaac Babel’s “The Public Library,” John Cheever’s “Trouble of Marcie Flint”, and Lorrie Moore’s “Community Life,” as well as stories by Ray Bradbury, Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin and M.R. James.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Newberry Library in Chicago is central to this story: Time-traveling Henry DeTamble is a librarian there and it’s where he first meets wife Clare. The library’s site answers readers’ questions about the reality of items mentioned in the book. Yes, there’s a cage, and a book bound in skin, and yes, you can tour the library.
The winner of the 2008 Russian Booker Prize, Elizarov’s novel follows Alexei Vyazintsev, whose dying uncle has left him a book by an obscure novelist. Alexei is soon caught up in a strange movement devoted to the author, whose books give readers unusual powers. Now devotees gather to form “libraries” to protect the owner of each book (or “librarian”) from those would happily kill to get their hands on it.
The Library at Night
“Libraries have always seemed to me pleasantly mad places, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been seduced by their labyrinthine logic,” Manguel writes in this meditation on libraries real and imaginary. He writes about the destruction of the famed Alexandria library, what books Count Dracula might have owned, the libraries of Dickens and Borges, and heroes like the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety when the Nazis were destroying Jewish libraries.
I Work At A Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks
Anyone who’s ever worked in a library is sure to relate to one librarian’s strange-but-true encounters with odd patrons and are-you-kidding-me requests from patrons. Compiled from Gina Sheridan’s blog about working at the St. Louis Library: http://iworkatapubliclibrary.com
The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World
This coffee table book celebrates the world’s most important libraries, from the baroque Library of the Institut de France in Paris, to the magnificent Vatican Library in Rome, and the famed New York Public Library. Photographer Guillaume de Laubier has been given access to many libraries off limits to the general public and the text by Jacques Bosser details the fascinating history of each monument to the printed word.
The World’s Strongest Librarian
Josh Hanagarne is 6’7″, can deadlift 600 pounds, and has Tourette’s syndrome. He’s also a librarian, one who found a welcome escape in books and overcame the challenges of Tourette’s to fulfill his dream of working in a library. Publishers Weekly calls his memoir, “wildly quirky” and “highly engaging” and Booklist found it “excellent and uplifting.”