The only thing better than reading books is reading books about books. And if you find books about books that are also about the power of story and language and books, well, that’s three layers of joy, and pretty much the epitome of Reading Bliss.
But what to do once you’ve read and re-read Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books for the eighty-seventh time? Here are a few fantasies I’ve got my eye on—some old, some new; some YA, some not—that fit that bookish theme in some way or another:
Alphabet of Thorn, by Patricia A. McKillip
If you love the comfort and feel of old fairy tales but want an unfamiliar story, McKillip will be a good fit for you. This one is about an orphaned girl who is taken in and raised by the palace librarian to be a translator. She finds a book written in a “language of thorns”—a book that even the greatest scholars have deemed indecipherable—and she begins to translate it. Politics, history, secrets, magic, and complex, multi-faceted female characters—I don’t know how I’ve gone so long without reading this book, because it sounds like it was written for me.
The Reader, by Traci Chee
After Sefia’s father was murdered, she and her aunt were only able to salvage one item from the wreckage of her childhood home: a package containing the rarest of objects in their world, a book. They’ve kept moving ever since, desperately trying to evade their murderous pursuers. Now, her aunt has been kidnapped, and Sefia is determined to use the book to save her aunt, solve the various mysteries she’s been living with for years, and finally end the running. This book has been praised to high heaven by pretty much everyone, and is one of the finalists for the 2016 Kirkus Prize.
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
Kirkus gave the second installment of this series a pretty tepid review, but the premise has my interest piqued anyway: it’s about an interdimensional librarian who hops to world after world in search of rare books! It sounds like a mash-up of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes with bonus fae folk and dragons, so I’m thinking I might give it a try anyway.
The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
Every single person I know who has read this book has described it the same way: SO GOOD and SO WEIRD. It’s about a group of twelve people who were raised by a man they call Father, a man who allowed them to study in his library—a library that contains books that teach you how to walk in the land of the dead, to communicate with animals, to see the future. Now, Father is missing, control of his library is up for grabs, and a fierce battle is on the horizon. Kirkus praised the voice, the world-building, the characterization, the prose, on and on and on and on.
The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh
Nothing says THE POWER OF STORY like The Arabian Nights, right? I’ve been meaning to read this one for well over a year now.
The Book That Dripped Blood and other titles from Michael Dahl’s “Library of Doom” series
Judging by the titles, cover art, and descriptions, the “Library of Doom” books look like they’d be a good fit for fans of Goosebumps. Kind of scary, kind of silly, with a framing narrative about the Librarian who has been tasked with keeping the world’s most dangerous books out of the hands of readers.
There are lots more out there—which ones would you recommend?
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom and The Backlist, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.