Whether it’s a tale set in the publishing world, a love letter to libraries, or a story starring an actual novel, all readers can appreciate a good book about books. And it’s so satisfying to know that many authors are as obsessed with books as we are. To celebrate our shared love of the page, we’ve collected some of our favorite literary-focused memoirs, essays, novels, and story collections that are sure to be perfect picks for your book club.
The Pages edited by Hugo Hamilton
“A powerful, powerful piece of work…. It brings so much to life—Joseph Roth, Chechnya, Germany, the art of writing, the whole notion of banning books, the lips of the past speaking to the present.”—Colum McCann, bestselling author of Apeirogon
One old copy of Joseph Roth’s novel Rebellion sits in Lena Knecht’s tote bag, about to accompany her on a journey from New York to Berlin in search of a clue to the hand-drawn map on its last page. It is the brilliantly captivating voice of this novel—a first edition nearly burned by Nazis in May 1933—that is our narrator. Fast-paced and tightly plotted, The Pages dramatically illuminates the connections between past and present as it looks at censorship, oppression, and violence.
“Sparkling. . . . sharp, thoughtful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In 1958, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was published in the United States to immediate controversy and bestsellerdom. More than sixty years later, this phenomenal novel generates as much buzz as it did when originally published. Central to countless issues at the forefront of our national discourse—art and politics, race and whiteness, gender and power, sexual trauma—Lolita lives on, in an afterlife as blinding as a supernova. Lolita in the Afterlife is a vibrant collection of sharp and essential modern pieces on Vladimir Nabokov’s perennially provocative book—with original contributions from a stellar cast of prominent twenty-first century writers.
“Gripping . . . A story well told.” —The New York Times Book Review
In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted Ph.D. who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could be his biographer despite her never having written—or even read—a biography before. Battling an elusive Beckett and a string of jealous, misogynistic male writers, Bair persevered. She wrote Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Deirdre to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir. The catch? De Beauvoir and Beckett despised each other—and lived essentially on the same street. Bair learned that what works in terms of process for one biography rarely applies to the next. Parisian Lives draws on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes. This gripping memoir is full of personality and warmth and gives us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.
“A series of wonderful stories on the power of books.” —The Guardian
The stories in Ali Smith’s new collection are about what we do with books and what they do with us: how they travel with us; how they shock us, change us, challenge us, banish time while making us older, wiser, and ageless all at once; how they remind us to pay attention to the world we make. Woven between the stories are conversations with writers and readers reflecting on the essential role that libraries have played in their lives. At a time when public libraries around the world face threats of cuts and closures, this collection stands as a work of literary activism—and as a wonderful read from one of our finest authors.
“Schwalbe . . . highlights not just how relevant but how integral literature can be to life.” —The Washington Post
During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne—and we, their fellow readers—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us. A profoundly moving memoir of caregiving, mourning, and love—The End of Your Life Book Club is also about the joy of reading, and the ways that joy is multiplied when we share it with others.
“A beautifully written tribute to the way things were at the edge of the digital revolution, and to the evergreen power of literature.” —Chicago Tribune
After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. Precariously balanced between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office—where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents doze after three-martini lunches—and then goes home to her threadbare Brooklyn apartment and her socialist boyfriend. Rakoff is tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, but as she reads the heartrending letters from around the world, she becomes reluctant to send the agency’s form response and impulsively begins to write back. The results are both humorous and moving, as Rakoff, while acting as the great writer’s voice, begins to discover her own.
“An honest and open-hearted book by someone whose life has been informed and enriched by her reading.” —Susan Hill, The Times (London)
While debating literature’s greatest heroines with her best friend, thirtysomething playwright Samantha Ellis has a revelation—her whole life, she’s been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre. With this discovery, she embarks on a retrospective look at the literary ladies—the characters and the writers—whom she has loved since childhood. From early obsessions with the March sisters to her later idolization of Sylvia Plath, Ellis evaluates how her heroines stack up today.
“[Murakami] remains a suspenseful and fantastical storyteller.” —The Washington Post
Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of acclaimed author Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.