10 Books on Books

In my recent blog survey, someone mentioned that one of their favourite parts of this blog is my book recommendations. 

Having just finished “The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books” by Thomas Wharton (which was beyond excellent – I'd give it my highest recommendation, especially for book lovers!), here's a list that was my submission to the FIMS book zine in Winter 2006.

But first, a small taste of “The Logogryph”:

It is believed that within the city there are at present over five hundred optometrists and sixty-five thousand librarians. Eighteen of the latter, usually the most capricious and heterodox, are chosen yearly as anti-censors, whose duty it is to ensure that no book is ever banned or prevented from reaching any reader.  There is also a body of officials whose function is to ensure that any disturbing or scandalous volumes are distributed at random through the city, in order that the wrong reader may come upon them by accident, and so complicate and deepen her reading life with matter she may otherwise never have encountered.

(God, he's a good writer!)

Ten Great Books About Books
(And Language and Writing and Libraries)

1. Salamander – Thomas Wharton
A fantastic (in both senses of the word) tale about an 18th Century book binder and printer who is commissioned by a Hungarian count to create an infinite book.

2. Skipped Parts – Tim Sandlin
Two bookish young teenagers attempt to discover what authors write about in the “skipped parts” of their books.  Set in the shadow of the Kennedy assassination, Sandlin has been called the J.D. Salinger of his generation.

3. Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
A meditation on censorship set on a fictional island where letters are slowly being banned from the alphabet.  The author incorporates this device in a series of letters between the novel's characters as they increasingly struggle to communicate within these limitations.  If you like this, you'd also probably enjoy Christian Bok's “Eunoia“, a Griffith Prize winning poetry collection with each chapter written using only one vowel (and if you follow that Eunoia link, you'll find many other “gimmick” book suggestions.)

4. The Book on the Bookshelf – Henry Petroski
The author uses the development of the innocuous bookshelf to trace the development of books and libraries.

5. A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books – Nicholas Basbanes
Basbanes has a whole series of books on different aspects of book culture from rare books to bibliophiles to the power of books to change the world.

6. The Professor & The Madman – Simon Winchester
An amazing history of the creation of the Oxford English dictionary.

7. The Proud Highway – Hunter S. Thompson
Probably one of the most revealing glimpses into the lengths someone will go to to become a writer, this collection of Hunter S. Thompson's early letters show the writer he will become in a way that even his early works don't. 

8. HappinessTM – Will Ferguson
A hilarious comic novel that (accurately) pokes fun at the behind-the-scenes of the publishing world via the story of a guru who writes a self-help book that actually works!  The first work of fiction by one of Canada's greatest non-fiction writers.

9. First Chapter: The Canadian Writers Project – Don Denton
Portraits of great and emerging Canadian writers along with their answers to either the question “Why did you become a writer?” or “What would you tell your younger self now?”

10. Revolting Librarians Redux – Jessamyn West (ed.)
Great look at activist/alternative librarianship in a series of essays as well as lists, poetry, comics and more. 

Comments 1

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Got this one via e-mail:
    here's a really good book – The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. It's a lovely look at the history of the book and bookstores, etc. Tons of very positive reviews on-line too.

    Posted 27 Feb 2007 at 5:38 am

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