Books about Bookshops, Libraries, & Reading for True Bibliophiles

Bibliophile - an illustrated miscellany by Jane Mount

For bibliophiles, it’s not enough to be so obsessed with books that we’re reading four or five works of fiction or nonfiction at any given time. We also love books about bookshops, libraries, and even books about books and reading! This might seem eccentric at first glance, but for the devout book lover, it makes perfect sense.

Here’s a slew of books for book lovers that celebrate the passion for the page. At left, Bibliophile: An Illustrated History by Jane Mount, which kicks off this list.

In this list you’ll find a book about so-called “book towns” around the world; a celebration of libraries; a musing on the art of reading itself; a collection on the thrill of finding rare books; a few books on bookshops, and a book on the joy of  bibliomania. What perfect gifts these make for the book nerds in your life — or for yourself, if you fit that description! 

 

Nonfiction

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Bibliophile: An Illustrated History by Jane Mount

Bibliophile by Jane Mount

Bibliophile on Bookshop.org*
Bibliophile on Amazon*

A love letter to all things bookish, book people and places are curated by Jane Mount, who illuminates them with the vibrant illustrations she’s known for.

You’ll find literary trivia, see the world’s beautiful bookstores, workplaces of famous authors, and even get a taste of famous fictional meals. Best of all, it’s a wonderful resource for discovering some of the greatest reads ever.

“In this love letter to all things bookish, Jane Mount brings literary people, places, and things to life through her signature and vibrant illustrations … A source of endless inspiration, literary facts and recommendations, Bibliophile is pure bookish joy.”

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Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores:
True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers,
and Book Lovers by Bob Eckstein

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores on Bookshop.org*
Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores on Amazon*

From New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein, here’s a collection of 75 gorgeous detailed paintings of some of the world’s most iconic bookstores, served up with the inside scoop about what goes on inside them. Quirky and charming, the anecdotes and stories feature many of today’s most renowned authors and thinkers.Some of these bookstores have gone by the wayside, many, thankfully, are still open for business.

“Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures our lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional.” Read an excerpt from this book on this site.

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Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises
of the Printed Word by Alex Johnson

Book Towns by Alex Johnson

Book Towns on Bookshop.org*
Book Towns on Amazon*

“Book Towns” of the world are hamlets, villages, and towns center on literature and bookshops — in other words, paradises for book lovers.

Book Towns will take you on a tour of the recognized literary towns around the world, with stories of how they grew and offering information on how to get there. But even if you never get to any of them, the beautiful photos and charming stories are perfect for the book-loving armchair traveler.

“Amid the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, among the verdant green valleys of Wales, in the shadow of the Catskill mountains and beyond, publishers and printmakers have banded together to form unique havens of literature.” Read more about Book Towns on this site.

 

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I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas
of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

I'd rather be reading by Anne Bogel

I’d Rather be Reading on Bookshop.org*
I’d Rather Be Reading on Amazon*

I’d Rather Be Reading is a collection of witty reflection that any voracious reader will relate to. Blogger and author Anne Bogel (known for her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?) invites book lovers into a virtual community that’s as cozy as it is fascinating.

“With fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives. The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone’s life, I’d Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.”

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I’d Rather be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers 
by Guinevere de la Mare

I'd rather be reading - a library of art for book lovers

I’d Rather Be Reading on Bookshop.org*
I’d Rather be Reading on Amazon*

Echoing the title of the previous entry, this gifty book is more visually oriented. From the publisher: For anyone who’d rather be reading than doing just about anything else, this book is the ultimate must-have. In this visual ode to all things bookish, readers will get lost in page after page of beautiful contemporary art, photography, and illustrations depicting the pleasures of books.

Artwork from the likes of Jane Mount, Lisa Congdon, Julia Rothman, and Sophie Blackall is interwoven with text from essayist Maura Kelly, bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, and award-winning author and independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett.

A pocket-sized book of less than 100 pages, it’s rounded out with poems, quotations, and aphorisms celebrating the joys of reading, this lovingly curated compendium is a love letter to all things literary, and the perfect gift for bookworms everywhere.

 

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Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds
in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Rego Barry

Rare books uncovered by Rebecca Rego Barry

Rare Books Uncovered on Bookshop.org*
Rare Books Uncovered on Amazon*

From the publisher: Feed your inner bibliophile with this volume on unearthed rare and antiquarian books. Few collectors are as passionate or as dogged in the pursuit of their quarry as collectors of rare books. In Rare Books Uncovered, expert on rare and antiquarian books Rebecca Rego Barry recounts the stories of remarkable discoveries from the world of book collecting.

Read about the family whose discovery in their attic of a copy of Action Comics No. 1— the first appearance of Superman — saved their home from foreclosure. Or the Salt Lake City bookseller who volunteered for a local fundraiser — and came across a 500-year-old copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle.

Or the collector who, while browsing his local thrift shop, found a collectible copy of Calvary in China — inscribed by the author to the collector’s grandfather. These tales and many others will entertain and inspire casual collectors and hardcore bibliomaniacs alike.

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The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

The Bookshop Book on Bookshop.org*
The Bookshop Book on Amazon*

From the publisher: Here’s a book in which the bookshop, even more than the book itself, is the center of curiosity and fascination. Here you’ll  find more than 300 weird and wonderful bookstores around the world, in every form imaginable: shops on buses, in converted churches, abandoned factories, on barges, and even odder places.

You’ll encounter stories of bookshops that moveable, mutable, and that are even folded into vending machines. “From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine … The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.” From the bestselling author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

 

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of a Bookseller on Bookshop.org*
The Diary of a Bookseller on Amazon*

You wouldn’t think that the journals of a bookseller would be so comedic, but The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell is laugh-out-loud-funny. The owner of a used bookstore, appropriately called The Book Shop, Shaun’s story takes place in Wigtown, Scotland.

This rural town was the first of the forty-some odd “Book Towns” compiled into the book of the same name, above. Bythell dishes on how he buys books, how he makes his old-fashioned business thrive in the modern world, and more. The heart of the book is his the hilarious interactions with staff and customers, adding up to an entertaining romp for book nerds. Shaun Bythell is also the author of Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops.

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The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells

The Library - A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells

The Library on Bookshop.org*
The Library on Amazon*

From the publisher: Ancient libraries, grand baroque libraries, scientific libraries, memorial libraries, personal libraries, clandestine libraries: Stuart Kells tells the stories of their creators, their prizes, their secrets, and their fate.

To research this book, Kells traveled around the world with his young family like modern-day ‘Library Tourists.’” So states the description of this book that will surely thrill devoted library lovers.

The Library is a celebration of libraries as places of wonder, and of the physical book as a thing of beauty. And it explores the human element, the very thing that has made libraries enduring institutions in a rapidly changing world. By the author of Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature.

 

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The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book Susan Orlean

The Library Book on Bookshop.org*
The Library Book on Amazon*

Susan Orlean has created a wondrous love letter to libraries. From Amazon: “Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before …

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.”

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The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
by The Library of Congress

the card catalog by the library of congress

The Card Catalog on Bookshop.org*
The Card Catalog on Amazon*

From the publisher: The Library of Congress brings book lovers an enriching tribute to the power of the written word and to the history of our most beloved books. Featuring more than 200 full-color images of original catalog cards, first edition book covers, and photographs from the library’s magnificent archives, this collection is a visual celebration of the rarely seen treasures in one of the world’s most famous libraries and the brilliant catalog system that has kept it organized for hundreds of years.

Packed with engaging facts on literary classics — from Ulysses to The Cat in the Hat to Shakespeare’s First Folio to The Catcher in the Rye — this package is an ode to the enduring magic and importance of books.

 

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Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks
by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451

Dear Fahrenheit 451 on Bookshop.org*
Dear Fahrenheit 451 on Amazon*

From the publisher: A librarian’s laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and breakup notes to the books in her life. If you love to read … you know that some books affect you so profoundly they forever change the way you think about the world. Some books, on the other hand, disappoint you so much you want to throw them against the wall. Either way, it’s clear that a book can be your new soul mate or the bad relationship you need to end.

In Dear Fahrenheit 451, librarian Annie Spence has crafted love letters and breakup notes to the iconic and eclectic books she has encountered over the years. From breaking up with The Giving Tree (a dysfunctional relationship book if ever there was one), to her love letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife (a novel less about time travel and more about the life of a marriage, with all of its ups and downs), Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way.

Filled with suggested reading lists, Spence’s take on classic and contemporary books is very much like the best of literature―sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes surprisingly poignant, and filled with universal truths.

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Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law,
and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunewald

Reading behind bars

Reading Behind Bars on Bookshop.org*
Reading behind Bars on Amazon*

From the publisher: In December 2008, twenty-something Jill Grunenwald graduated with her Master’s degree in library science, ready to start living her dream of becoming a librarian. But the economy had a different idea. As the Great Recession reared its ugly head, jobs were scarce. After some searching, Jill was lucky enough to snag one of the few librarian gigs left in her home state of Ohio. The catch? The job was behind bars as the prison librarian at a men’s minimum-security prison. 

… Over the course of a little less than two years, Jill came to see past the bleak surroundings and the orange jumpsuits and recognize the humanity of the men stuck behind bars. They were just like every other library patron—persons who simply wanted to read, to be educated and entertained through the written word. Jill simultaneously began to recognize the humanity in everyone and to discover inner strength that she never knew she had. At turns poignant and hilarious, Reading behind Bars is a perfect read for fans of Orange is the New Black and Shakespeare Saved My Life.

 

 

Children’s books

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Schomberg: The Man Who Built a Library
by Carole Boston Weatherford 

Schomburg - the Man Who Built a Library

Schomberg on Bookshop.org*
Schomberg on Amazon*

Though this book is meant for grades 3 to 6 (illustrated by Eric Velasquez), it can really be enjoyed by “children of all ages,” and is a wonderful way to learn about an amazing, under-appreciated personage in American literary history.

From the publisher: In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages … A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

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The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch on Bookshop.org*
The Book Itch on Amazon.com*

From the publisher: In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch–a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore.

And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father’s bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people–Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. In his father’s bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other.

People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in.

Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, ALA Notable Children’s Book, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Kirkus Best Children’s Books, & other awards. It’s picture book (illustrated by R. Gregory Christie) for grades 1 to 4, though like the book above about Arturo Schomberg, it can be enjoyed by all ages.

 

Novels

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The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The bookshop by penelope fitzgerald

The Bookshop on Bookshop.org*
The Bookshop on Amazon*

Set in 1959, Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop—the only bookshop—in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers.

By daring to enlarge her neighbors’ lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence’s warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn’t always a town that wants one.

The Bookshop, published in 2015,  was adapted to film in 2018, to mixed reviews by audiences and critics. Devotees of media about bookstores should nevertheless get some enjoyment from it.

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The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II
by Madeline Martin

The Last Bookshop in London

The Last Bookshop in London on Bookshop.org*
The Last Bookshop in London on Amazon*

From the publisher: August 1939: London prepares for war as enemy forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and drawn curtains that she finds on her arrival are not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

This 2021 publication has become a bestseller and a reader favorite.

 

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop on Bookshop.org*
The Little Paris Bookshop on Amazon*

From the publisher: “Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.”

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

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The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

The bookshop on the corner by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Corner on Bookshop.org*
The Bookshop on the Corner on Amazon*

From the publisher: Nina Redmond is a librarian with a gift for finding the perfect book for her readers. But can she write her own happy-ever-after? In this valentine to readers, librarians, and book-lovers the world over, the New York Times-bestselling author of Little Beach Street Bakery returns with a funny, moving new novel for fans of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop.

Nina is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile — a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. 

Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending. The next book in this series is The Bookshop on the Shore.

 

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