I have a row of books that sit on a shelf beside my bed. I have stacks of unread books all over my home. Before I thought to read books by category, I would pick my next book by moving from stack to stack and reading the next one. A book by Jasper Fforde was at the beginning of the next stack, so I decided to combine practices and developed a category around the title. All these books surround characters who live very bookish lives.

Two books went on my shelf of favorites, that rarest of book--those that I would happily spend precious reading time to read again! These two books also happen to fall into my very favorite style of book--stories that are told through letters (84 Charing Cross Road and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). 

Sometimes a category will develop a deeper level of connection, this one in particular shares much deeper connections. Three of the books share England, book stores, and letters. All the books have an abiding and deep love of literature and most of these selections add an element of mystery.  Two share the love of the all but forgotten author Charles Lamb, a quirky connection, but still. 

The Serialist by David Gordon

I treally liked this book, it had me hooked from beginning to end. I will definitely read more by this author.

I also loved it for providing this paragraph about why "I" read.

"Why do we read? In the beginning, as children, why do we love the books we love? For most, it's travel, a flight into adventure, into a dream that feels like our own. But for a few it is also escape, flight from boredom, unhappiness, loneliness, from where or who we can no longer bear to be. When I read, the words on the page replace the voice in my head and I cease, for a little while, to be me, or at least to be so painfully aware of being me. These are the real readers, the maniacs, the ones who dose themselves with fiction the way junkies get high..." David Gordon, The Serialist pg. 138.

I may not consider myself a junkie but I am a serial reader, soon as I finish one I pick up another...not to mention the fact that currently I am actually reading four.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This book is mostly set in the San Francisco bay area and revolves around a recently laid off young man who takes the night shift job in a small 24-hour book store. Things are strange, very few customers, and the regulars stop by to borrow large obscure books hidden deep in the shop. It ends up being a much bigger story, the battle between digital and bound books. It morphs into a bit of a mystical adventure. I liked it, it is weird, I hope to get around to reading his next book. 

Lost in a Good Book (A Thursday Next Novel) by Jasper Fforde

This is the second novel in a futuristic crime series set in an alternate version of England and follows the cases of literary detective, Thursday Next, it is a sequel to The Eyre Affair. This book was originally published in 2004 and I bought the paperback version. I remember enjoying the first book but yet this book grew dust on my shelves for years. Mission finally accomplished in 2018--but I don't think I will read anymore of this series, and I'm not entirely sure why. 


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarin Bivald

The debut book by this author. The story revolves around a bookish Swedish girl who travels to a tiny town in Iowa to visit her pen pal, an elderly lady who passes away while the girl is en route. The townspeople encourage her to stay, live in her pen pal's house and she decides to open up a tiny bookstore in this tiny town--both romance and immigration issues ensue. This book reads like a made-for Hallmark movie to me, but interestingly enough my mother and her neighbor (both avid Hallmark movie watchers) didn't like the book at all. I did, especially since the character suggested all types of reading to her customers not just "the classics" and because the recently deceased pen pal had lived in a bedroom piled high with books.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Garielle Zevin

This book is about the grumpy judgmental owner of a bookstore set on a tiny island, I think in the north east but I could be remembering that wrong. He judges his clientele for having the temerity to read what they like and not what he thinks they should like. Needless to say his store is not thriving and then someone steals his most expensive rare book. There is an ex-wife, a daughter, and a police friend, and a new girlfriend. I mostly liked reading this book, it referenced a lot of other books, albeit mostly the "tried and true" mainstay classics that everyone insists are must reads. 

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

A very simple, short story--a classic tale of a friendship that grew out of the shared love of books. This true story is told through the 20 years of transatlantic correspondence between New York City based author, Helene Hanff and the English proprietor and staff of Messrs. Marks & Co., the sellers of rare and secondhand books located at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. The book is mostly set in the late 1940's and 50's giving a compelling look at the deprivation felt by Englanders immediately following the second World War. I will read this book again and again.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I had often glanced at this book as I browsed through the shelves of many a book store. I am glad I resisted its lure until now and it has proven to be a perfect fit into multiple categories. I will read this book again with pleasure (and indeed I have). This book is also set in England, as it emerges out of the shadow of the second World War. A London author who is looking for the subject for her next book receives a letter from a stranger who lives on the island of Guernsey--he had found her address in a book he had bought secondhand. They begin a correspondence, she travels to Guernsey, it turns into a love story, not just romance, but the power of books to transform lives. This novel has a strong back drop of history and is told using the literary style of correspondence, a style I adore, we read the letters shared between herself, this stranger, her editor, her fiancee, and the fellow members of this Guernsey based literary society.



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Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.