In March, we introduced a new service: the Reading Doctor. Read more about Dr Louise here. And do feel free to request further prescriptions, as needed!
Prescription #12: books about books
I love reading, but I also love reading about books as subject matter. Can you recommend something for me to read... about reading?
Lockdown, with plenty of time in one’s own company, may lead to self-contemplative navel-gazing. In literature, that’s manifested in books about books: whether set in libraries, bookshops or publishing houses, featuring writers or readers as protagonists, foregrounding literary conventions of genre or plot, and making the text itself the central, self-conscious, theme.
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox is a love-letter to libraries everywhere, in their many forms.
Trust No One is a grisly crime novel by Paul Cleave which foregrounds and then plays with the conventions of the genre, in which a crime writer’s early onset dementia blurs the line between his life and those of his characters, whose murderous acts he confesses to.
The historical mystery novel The Athenian Murders, by José Carlos Somoza, is presented as the translation of an ancient text about a murder, complete with extensive footnotes and commentary by the translator, who begins to see himself somehow depicted in the ancient work.
Richard Flanagan’s First Person centres on the writer of a biography, a ghost writer haunted by his demonic subject, examining the intersections between lies and literature, between truth and its distortions.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is a novel about contemporary relationships which is set against the conventions of love, romance and marriage found in novels from the past, and asks what marriage in fiction means in an age of prenuptials and divorce.
Depicting writer Henry James during the late 19th century, The Master by Colm Tóibín imagines the internal struggles which underlay the lonely life in which he produced literary masterpieces.
Damien Wilkins imagines the last days of Thomas Hardy’s life in Max Gate, his beloved house in Dorset, where his literary friends bicker bitterly about his legacy.
The international bestseller The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, is set in Nazi Germany during WWII and tells how Liesel uses writing and the sharing of the written word as acts of resistance.
In The Starless Sea, by Erin Morganstern, we begin with snippets of magical stories, before the book loops upon itself and a character in one of them finds the book we’re reading, and recognises himself to be a character in it.
A student researching a writer comes across a book rumoured to be cursed in Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr Y; the book is a gateway to the troposphere – the place where all consciousness is connected – and thus begins an exploration of the relationships between quantum physics and post-modernist theory.