Top 5: Books about books

books about books

As a book lover, books that revolve around the subject of books hold a special kind of fascination for me, so this week I’ve pulled together a list of some of my favourite books about books. These are all totally different, but although each one is unique, they all share one things – books in some form are a central part of the story. They’re all great reads and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any and all of them! I’ve also linked back to my reviews of these books on this blog where I can.

  1. Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz

Summary: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years, and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway….

But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

Read my review here.

  1. The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

Summary: Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

  1. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Summary: ‘Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother . . .’ As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world begin to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is violently propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters, his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.

Read my review here.

  1. Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

Summary: Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone – and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra.

The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore…

Read my review here.

  1. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary: Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find.

Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

 

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‘The Prisoner of Heaven’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The third installment in a planned quartet of novels from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven has been on my wishlist for a while now (see here for a full round-up). It’s predecessors, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game were both gripping reads, so my expectations when it came to this book were understandably high. That said, it’s not necessary to have read the books in order, so if you haven’t read the others, it doesn’t take anything away from this one.

The-Prisoner-of-Heaven_225The Prisoner of Heaven tells the story of Fermin Romero de Torres – mentioned in previous novels but coming to a forefront here. Imprisoned in horrifying conditions by the regime during the Spanish Civil War, Fermin crosses paths with some of the most detestable and terrifying figures of the Spanish authority. Condemned to a prison where so called ‘enemies of the state’ are sent to die, his fellow cell mates and gaolers are varying degrees of crazy and intensely dangerous.

To survive, Fermin must put his trust in a man whose sanity is increasingly called into question, a brilliant but eccentric writer named David Martin. The words that pass between them and the pact they make within the prison walls will continue to reverberate for years to come. When a man from his past arrives on his doorstep, Fermin is forced to confront his worst memories and to relive a previous life. And as his story comes to light, it becomes clear that the past never truly stays in the past.

As with all of Zafon’s previous works, The Prisoner of Heaven is beautifully written and creates a brilliantly dark and realistic vision of post-war Spain. But ultimately what he does so well is to capture the magic and the mystery of the unknown. The skill with which he writes invites the reader to make their own connections, to see the scene as it continues to play out on the pages and to draw their own conclusions.

For me, The Prisoner of Heaven lacked some of the magic of Zafon’s previous novels. While it started off very much in the dark gothic vein that we’ve come to know him for, it soon diverged into a more straightforward, but no less sinister, plot. Still, there’s no denying that Zafon is a master storyteller, weaving together narratives to create a story with just the right amount of tension, pace and humour.

Book release countdown…

After an intense hour browsing the internet for books to buy – and having read countless reviews and bloggers top read’s lists – I’ve come to the conclusion that most the books that I desperately want to read haven’t been released yet. With this in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of my own top five books to look out for this year. Make a note of the dates!

1. And the mountains echoed – Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury, 21st May 2013)

From the bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed is set in Afghanistan in the latter half of the twentieth century and focuses on the devastating effects of war on a country and on the families that live there. The author has a history of exploring powerful, evocative issues and it’s had rave reviews from everyone that’s read a preview copy.

2. Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Phoenix, 11th April 2013)

Admittedly, this isn’t technically a new release, but I’ve been waiting for months for the paperback version to come out and it’s finally (almost) here! Previous books in the series – The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game – created an intricate world and a fascinating cast of characters. The Prisoner of Heaven completes this gothic, literary themed trilogy. Hopefully this lives up to the expectations I’ve got from the first two!

3. The Golem and the Djinni – Helene Wrecker (Blue Door, 15th August 2013)

This debut novel from Helene Wrecker has been compared to The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches – both of which are amazing books that would probably make it onto my all time favourites list. Set in 19th century New York, it’s described as a tale of two fabled creatures, one made of fire and one make of clay, struggling to live, love and to overcome a powerful, villainous adversary.

4. MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury, 29th August 2013)

Margaret Atwood is one of those rare authors that, in my opinion, can write amazing fiction about any subject under the sun. This hugely anticipated finale to her dystopian trilogy (which also includes Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood) is being released at the end of the summer and I’m practically counting down the days.

5. The Winds of Winter – George R. R. Martin (Voyager Books, TBC)

I’ve put this one on the list because I want it to come out soon, but I’m not holding my breath. The author hasn’t given many clues as to when the manuscript will be finished, but sample chapters keep being released to keep everyone on tenterhooks. With a pretty dramatic cliffhanger at the end of the last instalment, I’m still hooked. If anyone has any news on this one, let me know!