Librarians are the Superheroes.
I’m warning you right off the top: I’m not a big fan of historical fiction.
I used to read it for the exact same reason that many of you do: so I could learn about other places and cultures. After a while, however, I started to get frustrated with the format. I realized I prefer straight nonfiction for a variety of reasons, which I will share in the future.
There really isn’t a topic I prefer more for a book than books, so for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek I put my normal prejudices aside and gave it a chance. I read the first couple of chapters, but then I found myself flipping to the back of the book to read the historical note, which I read carefully and with interest only to discover that I didn’t care to read anymore.
When I look at my reading history, a strange blank space is fiction about books. Somehow, I’m just not interested in fiction about books, reading, or readers. But show me a nonfiction book about books? I’m right there. Show me a guide for readers, I’m there, with a pen in hand because I need to mark off everything I’ve read. In some cases, I own both paper copies (for note taking and browsing) and digital copies (for referencing) of the same books.
So what I do not have for you today are more historical novels about books and librarians, but what I do have for you are my favorite books about bringing reading to others. And they are mostly nonfiction.
Plagiarized or not? You decide.
There has been a kerfuffle in the media about the relationship of The Giver of Stars with Book Woman in that Jojo Moyes has been accused of possibly plagiarizing. While the attorneys sort it out, go ahead and read both.
Oh, so you think riding a horse to deliver books is a big deal? Check these out (no pun initially intended, but I kind of like it now that it’s out there).
Knowledge is power, y’all.
Bringing books and education to children detained in Auschwitz….
Note: the above is a novelization based on real people and events. Read this article from People Magazine for more information.
In The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, we have librarians spiriting precious ancient manuscripts out of Timbuktu under the noses of Al Qaeda. These documents are important to Muslims because they serve as resources for moderate Islam.
Read more in this article from National Geographic:
God’s Smuggler is a Christian classic about Dutchman Andrew van der Bijl, who smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, where the Bible was forbidden.
Below is a nonfiction book meant for children that is actually about the pack horse librarians in Kentucky.
Horse-Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobiles from Smithsonian Magazine.
Reading is so fundamental that this sentence is also a charity that provides books to children and book resources to those who work with children.
Click on “Reading is Fundamental” above for access to their free online resources, including an app!
These books tell more true stories that show why reading is important.
Note they focus on the act of reading although plenty of good reads are mentioned along the way!
This book is about the program that organized the publishing of books for the forces during World War 2. It’s really amazing to read about how many people and industries had to come together to get this program off the ground. The story of how they did it and what it meant to the troops is fascinating. This is a book I wanted to keep because of complete lists of all the titles used. In addition to showing you what type of reading helped the people who had to go fight the was get through it and also a more general window into popular reading at the time.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Book of the Month Club, or what it meant during a time when most Americans did not have easy access to bookstores. Most people could go to the library or choose from the cheap paperbacks available in the Wal-Mart type stores of the time. At best, their department store might have a book section.
To fill this gap, the Book of the Month Club used a carefully selected board to choose the book that all members received each month. It was a way for people to know “what was worth owning” and to buy the books affordably.
The Book of the Month Club is a commercial enterprise, so they did all of this, and they made money doing it.
I still remember when the first mall, with a bookstore, opened near my home in the 1970’s. Before that, I mainly had access to books through the various libraries in my life.
When I was a young adult, even though by then we had numerous bookstores in the malls and the first big box books stores were coming to my area, I still loved the Book of the Month Club, and its twin, Quality Paperback Books, for the always interesting selection of books.
This book is a readable academic study about BOMC and what it did for reading in middle-class, mid 20th century America.
Note: The BOMC still exists although in a different form. Check the link above.
I very appropriately found this book ON CLEARANCE at the Library of Congress gift shop in Washington, DC. It is a history of how, what, and why women have read, from prehistory to the present day.
Reading the Romance is by the same author as A Feeling for Books, above. It is a study of the meanings women make from reading romance novels.
I see the act of reading as a bid for personal independence, no matter what the situation.
The interesting part is discovering how and why people read what they read, especially if it’s a genre that really isn’t your thing!
If you want something a little lighter, here you go:
The Library Book has been widely acclaimed to the point that I’m almost afraid I’m boring you by including it, but in the end, I am if for no other reason than to confirm that if you haven’t read it, you should, especially if you like books. It’s kind of a true-crime book combined with the story of an American public library system.
The Bestseller was actually out of print for a while, but happily, it is back in. It is my one of my favorite “beach reads” of all time: a fun page turner about a year in the publishing world, focusing on the stories of five different authors: Which one will become the bestseller?
If you remember the book/film The First Wives Club, this book is by the same author.
Cover Photo: Public Domain, wikimedia.org