Recently, I read two non-fiction books that I heard about from friends. The first, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, was a page-turner. A vibrant, healthy, twenty-something woman suddenly becomes psychotic, and then, even worse, she loses her ability to speak properly and even to move. What makes this book so frightening is that what happened to the author could, in theory, happen to anyone. Susannah developed an autoimmune disease and was the 217th person in the world to ever be diagnosed with it. That was in 2009. The figure has quickly grown and continues to, as people become more aware of it.
The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding is an interesting tale about a young NSA employee who got disgusted with the carte-blanche information gathering that was going on unimpeded. He risked it all to expose the NSA’s shocking invasion of the world’s privacy.
For those of us who are familiar with bibliographic terms such as ‘signature,’ ‘quarto,’ or ‘catchword,’ there are books out there whose protagonists are just as in love with books as we are. Please enjoy these recommendations below:
The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett (2013)
Of the books recommended here, this one has the strongest focus on the details of bookbinding. The story has a lot of bibliographic detective work, as well as a strong link to Shakespeare, and is a gripping page-turner to boot!
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1993; English translation published in 1996)
There is more detective work in this book as well, with three potential forgeries of a seventeenth-century book whose author was burned at the stake. Interesting details on the life of Alexandre Dumas add to the educational value of this novel, but more of a focus on the occult in the last quarter of the book made me enjoy it slightly less towards the end. But nevertheless, this is a riveting read.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001; English translation published in 2004)
There are fewer bookishly technical terms in this book, although the protagonist works in a bookshop owned by his father, and has a deep love for books. This is not a light-hearted read by any stretch of the imagination, but the author’s delightful turn of phrase had me chuckling out loud many times throughout. Mystery, cruelty, love, redemption and books fill a full 487 pages, and will be very difficult to put down once you start it.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)
This story also features a protagonist who loves books and whose father owns a bookstore. It tells the story of a famous author who is at the end of her life, and her story really does not relate to books, except that it is being made into one. However, it is still an intricately woven tale that keeps you guessing until the very end.
For readers of this post who have children and are looking for something to read with them, here are some of my favorite books from my childhood. It has been decades since I’ve read them, but they will stay in my heart forever. I wonder, what makes some books leave such deep impressions on us, while others don’t? I’m sure the illustrations have something to do with it, but there’s more, too. I can’t put a finger on it, though.
Here are three books that come to mind that I read at a very early age, and that I still love to look at whenever I visit my old room in my parents’ house:
1. What’s the Matter With Carruthers? written and illustrated by James Marshall (1972)
The copy I had as a child has a certain, unmistakable smell, which takes me back as soon as I open the book. The adorable, quirky story is about Emily (a pig) and Eugene (a turtle) as they try to figure out why their friend Carruthers (a bear) is so very grumpy. Even their tuba and tambourine serenade doesn’t do the trick! At the end they find out why.
2. The Visit written by Joan Esley, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (1980)
Eva, at The Sycamore Street Press, did a post about this book, and includes pictures of some of the pages. Please check it out!
3. Noddy by Enid Blyton (1949-1963)
My father started reading Noddy books to me when I was about 5, and I still have the collection. These books have adorable illustrations and stories that show positive problem-solving and conflict resolution.
And so I ask you, dear readers, are there some books from your childhood that will always be in your heart? And, are you familiar with any of the books in this post?
As the title of this post suggests, I wanted to give my readers some smiles and create a fun post. The videos below are endearing and quirky and I enjoyed them, so I hope you do too.
1. Uptown Funk parody, Unread Books
2. What happens in a bookstore at night? The Joy of Books
3. The Fabulous Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
4. All About That Bass parody, All About Them Books