MY FAVORITE THING about summer is reading. Having the chance to really dive into a book is a luxury (pool seating preferred, but not required). And my favorite thing about reading is books. That may sound like some kind of riddle, but I’m enchanted by the very power of a book to be read, to absorb the reader and be absorbed, and keep a place in the reader’s mind long after it’s finished. So really, what could be better than a book about books. I mean, it’s like a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. This is a theme that’s popped up in some of my favorite reads (blame The Princess Bride, the original book within a book). So to fellow bibliophiles who are looking for their next adventure, check out these novels, starring writers, readers and books themselves.
This lyrical whirlwind of a book revolves around author St. John Fox, his wife Daphne and Mary, his imagined muse…who may or may not have come to life. Helen Oyeyemi’s work often includes hints of fairy tales, some of the first stories we ever hear as children. Here, the tale “Bluebeard,” he of the locked door and the murdered wives, appears in flashes throughout the pages, in many different guises. Told in part through Mr. Fox’s own developing drafts, this novel offers many, many stories for the price of one. Fiction and reality don’t just meet, they flirt, date, get married and procreate. And the result is Mr. Fox. Fair warning, the book feeds on ambiguity and no small amount of confusion on the part of the reader. But if you can roll with it, there’s a lot to enjoy.
If you’ve ever struggled with the book vs. Kindle dilemma, this might capture your interest. The novel tackles the encounters between the past and present, between traditional media and technological advancements. It takes place in a dusty San Francisco bookstore, with a strange owner and some even stranger patrons. But it quickly develops into a tale of tech-y detective work, with algorithms, processing and even some big-gun computing at Google headquarters. Electronics speed up the ride, but the true key to the mystery lies in the heart of the books themselves.
A mysterious letter, a “literary apothecary,” a bestselling author with writer’s block, and a journey along the Seine with a boat full of books. In Nina George’s novel, Jean Perdu hides his own heartbreak by “prescribing” books to troubled customers. The premise of the right book being the perfect medicine is a lovely idea that will resonate with readers. Perdu’s journey exists outside of his books, but they are what carry him (and readers) along the way.
Nicholas Duhamel’s wildly popular first novel turned his life upside down. The only problem is, he can’t seem to write a second. He escapes to a Mediterranean island to work, but instead finds himself obsessing over his own tumultuous past, and unravels a family secret. It’s a fairly standard tale of self-destruction and self-discovery, but seeing how Nicholas, as a writer, twists his own life to fit into his story adds an interesting angle to the book. De Rosnay intentionally crafted an unlikeable main character, and at times it’s nearly unbearable to swallow Nicholas’ pettiness. But moral judgments aside, the book is an example of how we all create our own stories to cope, and what happens when we are forced to reconcile our versions with the truth.
— Emily Harburg
MyLittleBird summer intern Emily Harburg recently wrote about meal-delivery subscription services.