The best books with books as characters

Christine Wade Author Of Seven Locks
By Christine Wade

The Books I Picked & Why

Cloud Cuckoo Land

By Anthony Doerr

Book cover of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Why this book?

This is a time-travelling collection of tales braided through fragments of a Greek work of speculative fiction contrived so very long ago. I identified with all the book-loving characters from Constantinople in 1453 to small-town Idaho in the late twentieth century, to those seeking a future in outer space. I loved the fantasy and the adventure as well as the character's commitments to the magic and wisdom of written words, as well as to the translators who expand them and the librarians who conserve them.

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The Liar's Dictionary

By Eley Williams

Book cover of The Liar's Dictionary

Why this book?

This book is the story of etymology: words and the mystery of their origin and utilization by writers and speakers. And of course, the story of the books that officially collect and define them. I made a list of new words, arcane and whimsical. It was amusing to guess which were legitimate usage and which were contrived to aid the narrator’s search for what is true and real. Wordplay is the name of the game. Obsessive main characters with a supporting cast of a lackadaisical cat and oddly motivated associates of the dictionary compilation project amused me up until the surprise ending. 

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The Book of Form and Emptiness

By Ruth Ozeki

Book cover of The Book of Form and Emptiness

Why this book?

The Book of Form & Emptiness actually speaks aloud, explaining life’s conundrums, asking existential questions, and dispensing advice. It is a book (as in my fourth and fifth picks), that comforts a young bereft narrator who has endured unspeakable loss. Narrators I almost always fall for are young readers that find books to be a life-saving solace. Benny is one such teller of tales who finds a refuge at the library where he can hear books speak aloud, soothing him as his world spins out of control and he fears losing his somewhat peculiar mind.

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The Shadow of the Wind

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves

Book cover of The Shadow of the Wind

Why this book?

The book begins with an introduction to the book of the title to a young boy who can no longer remember his mother’s face. His father takes him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books as a consolation. He then becomes absorbed in the mysterious fates of both the book and its author, and then falls in love with a blind girl. Set in post-war Barcelona it is a romp with a cast of charming and eccentric characters whose chatter and wisdom often made me laugh out loud.

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The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why this book?

This is a story of a young girl who is saved from the horror of her historical circumstance by an unlikely read of The Grave Digger’s Handbook. What book could be a greater teacher to a young lonely girl who braves dislocation and danger at the hands of the Third Reich just as she is coming of age. She becomes such a bibliophile that she steals books as she can and book lovers like you and me are entirely sympathetic to her teenage impulses, as she lives at a crucial moment when for some the only safety is found between two book covers.

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