The best books about libraries

15 authors have picked their favorite books about libraries and why they recommend each book.

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The Vanished Library

By Luciano Canfora, Martin Ryle (translator),

Book cover of The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World

The Ptolemaic kings of Egypt had a staggering ambition: to house all the books ever written under one roof, in the city of Alexandria. Parchments collected regardless of what the content of the books was, or which language the parchments were inscribed in. It was much more than a library: it was the world’s foremost research and scholarly institute at the time (around 2000 years ago) and was famed for its ground-breaking discoveries in fields of mathematics, the sciences, and many other forms of knowledge. But then the library burned down—and the fate of all those precious books has been a subject of much speculation.

The author, Professor Canfora, plays hard and fast with the facts—but then the ‘facts’ are scarce and murky. The book was published in 1990 and thus misses a very important chapter: in 2002, a fantastic modern Library of Alexandria was resurrected as a wonderful circular…


Who am I?

I have a life-long interest in the intersection of the real and the mythical when it comes to travel and adventuring in foreign lands. This has driven my own exploration of many parts of Asia and the Himalayan regions. One tiny nugget of information can take you on a wild journey that leads to great discoveries. Curiously, we keep losing precious knowledge through war and neglect—and then re-discover it. The finest example of lost and found cultural facets has to be hieroglyphics. The meaning of the writing was lost for over a thousand years until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, which enabled us to decipher Egyptian temple art again. So hieroglyphics entered the realm of the mythical and then returned to reality once decoded.


I wrote...

Shangri-La: A Travel Guide to the Himalayan Dream

By Michael Buckley,

Book cover of Shangri-La: A Travel Guide to the Himalayan Dream

What is my book about?

Shangri-La is one of the most evocative myths of our time —so powerful that it has entered the dictionary as a synonym for paradise. As myths go, it is a young one: Shangri-La made its debut with the 1933 publication of British author James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon. No sooner was Shangri-La created by Hilton than a host of places staked claims to being the real location that inspired the book. Maybe something to do with finding the Fountain of Youth, as Shangri-La residents live to over 200 years old.

This guidebook to the mythical site of Shangri-La is rooted in the glorious reality of the Himalayas, encompassing parts of southwest China, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, and Ladakh. It forms a concise guide to the most remote areas of the region, with a focus on major mountain peaks, and some well-chosen treks in each area. Practical information and maps will ensure that visitors can make the most of their trip to this other-worldly destination, while armchair readers can browse and dream...

Digging for Words

By Angela Burke Kunkel, Paola Escobar,

Book cover of Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Digging for Words is the beautifully written and illustrated story of how one person can make a difference. Former sanitation worker José Alberto Gutiérrez found a discarded book on his route and realized he could fill a gap—the absence of a library in his Bogotá, Columbia barrio. Collecting books he found, he created a library to empower himself and countless others. Angela Burke Kunkel frames the story with Gutiérrez’s work and the life of a young boy, also named José, who loves to read and can’t wait for Saturday when Señor José’s library is open. I love this book for its true and inspiring nature, its emphasis on recycling/reusing, its celebration of the importance of stories (and access to stories), and the way books sustain and connect us.


Who am I?

Oh, how I love picture books! I am a children’s book author who has worked in children’s publishing for 25 years. I’m also incredibly lucky to co-teach a picture book writing and illustrating course at Rhode Island School of Design. Although I write everything from board to chapter books, picture books are my passion. They’re a unique art form, where words and pictures each tell part of the story, neither operating alone. The best picture books touch our hearts with poetic, universal nuggets of wisdom, no matter our age. Their symphonies of carefully chosen words, brushstrokes, design, and production result in printed gems we’re never too old to savor.


I wrote...

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing

By April Jones Prince,

Book cover of Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing

What is my book about?

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, it was the longest, tallest suspension bridge in the world. Fireworks and top hats filled the air in celebration after fourteen years of construction. The magnificent structure was an engineering marvel and a true work of art. But some people wondered just how much weight the new bridge could hold. Was it truly safe? One man seized the opportunity to show people in Brooklyn, New York, and the world that the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact strong enough to hold even the heaviest of passengers. P.T. Barnum, creator of “The Greatest Show on Earth” and lover of spectacle, would put on a parade too big for the Big Top and too wondrous to forget!

Massimo Listri. The World's Most Beautiful Libraries

By Georg Ruppelt, Elisabeth Sladek,

Book cover of Massimo Listri. The World's Most Beautiful Libraries

With its double book size and its weight of 7 kg, this breathtaking tome by Massimo Listri defines the ‘coffee table book’ new - in fact you could use it at coffee table itself! The photos and stories of the most amazing libraries from the 15th to the 19th century will blow you away. As pricyest book of this list it is a perfect present for a milestone birthday for a dear one who loves historical libraries (and who wouldn’t?).


Who am I?

I am writing about the good things in life, covering love, books, motorcycles, and everything in between. It was around 2010 when I started travelling for my job as a travel journalist and lived abroad for some years in France, Namibia, and Indonesia. I started to visit indie bookstores in every city I got to and made a book out of them ten years later. The best part was the precious, deep, and always inspiring conversations with the bookshop owners. This list contains their and my favourite well-tried book present recommendations for every age and occasion.


I wrote...

Do You Read Me? Bookstores Around The World

By Marianne Julia Strauss,

Book cover of Do You Read Me? Bookstores Around The World

What is my book about?

Do You Read Me? is showing the most beautiful, quirky and magic bookshops I found all over the world, from Los Angeles to Beijing, Reykjavik, Paris and Tel Aviv. Independent bookshops are personal, political and surprising, they can show you doors to unexpected roads. They are places where likeminded - and unlikeminded! - people meet, talk and inspire each other.

This book seeks out the most innovative and committed bookshops achieving this, sharing their concepts and celebrating book culture in all its glorious forms. Support your local bookstore!

Waiting for the Biblioburro

By Monica Brown, John Parra (illustrator),

Book cover of Waiting for the Biblioburro

As a book-loving child who grew up poor in rural Utah and who eagerly awaited the bi-monthly visit of the bookmobile to our little farming community, Waiting for the Biblioburro sings to me. Set in the mountains of Colombia and inspired by the mission of real-life teacher and librarian Luis Soriano, Waiting for the Biblioburro tells the story of little Ana who looks forward with great anticipation to the arrival of Luis and his two burros, Alfa and Beto, who carry books to her little mountain village. The colorful folk-artsy illustrations by John Parra perfectly bring to life Brown’s story.

According to the author’s note: “This book is a celebration of Luis and all the teachers and librarians who bring books to children everywhere—across deserts, fields, mountains, and water.” 


Who am I?

As I wrote in my author's note for Library on Wheels: "Growing up as a book-loving child in rural Utah in the 1960s and '70s, I developed a strong emotional connection to the bookmobile. My father died in a mining accident when I was five, leaving my mother with seven children to raise on her own. We didn't have much money or many opportunities, but every two weeks the bookmobile brought the universe to me." As a writer of children's books, I was immediately intrigued when I ran across an obscure reference to Mary Lemist Titcomb, credited with being the inventor of the bookmobile in America--and I knew at once that I had to write about her. 


I wrote...

Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile

By Sharlee Glenn,

Book cover of Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile

What is my book about?

Mary Lemist Titcomb (1852-1932) was one of the most innovative librarians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As the head librarian of the Washington County Free Library--one of the nation’s first county libraries—located near the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Maryland, Mary wanted to make sure that all the residents of the county had access to books—not just the adults, not just the rich or educated, not just those who lived in town.

She was absolutely unwavering in her dedication to this vision. And so she came up with the idea of a horse-drawn “book wagon” which could carry books to the outlying villages and farms. And thus, the bookmobile was born!

The Library of Ever

By Zeno Alexander,

Book cover of The Library of Ever

This is a fun read about a girl who ends up at a very special library. It’s fantasy yet realistic... a bit Harry Potter-esk in its magic as well as an exciting page-turner about evil forces trying to close libraries and block the path to learning. But the best part is the questions that the librarians get asked are real questions. You think you know the answer but you soon learn how important it is to do research and double-check. As I was reading, I googled and discovered the problems are real ones with unexpected answers. I learned so much! And if you like the first book, there’s a second book too!


Who am I?

I’ve been devouring books for most of my life. When I was young, I read Pippi Longstocking. I wanted to be just like her – strong, free, and independent. Through books I learned about other people in other countries, times, and circumstances. I have been writing books for a long time (I wrote 40) and work in (international schools) with teachers and students on their writing. From specific stories, readers learn universal wisdom. Many books written for children should be everybody-books! Books, more than any other medium, can help you to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins'. The books I picked to share with you all do this.


I wrote...

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

By Margriet Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr (illustrator), Falah Raheem (translator)

Book cover of Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

What is my book about?

This powerful picture book is the universal story of people searching to live in peace in a place without war. It was illustrated by a Syrian artist with natural stones on the beach of Syria. Published in both English and Arabic, the book has been translated into many languages and is raising both funds and awareness of the plight of refugee children.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

By Chris Grabenstein,

Book cover of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

I love the puzzle-solving aspect of this book. The reader can try and solve the puzzles along with the characters or just read along and see how the kids figure it out. Lots of different personalities are represented, and while the library is somewhat “fantastical” in its high-tech visuals and gadgets, the story is very much grounded in our world. It’s a fun ride!


Who am I?

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. Her debut, Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, was a 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection. She loves board games, scavenger hunts, and puzzles, so books with aspects of those elements have always appealed to her. Every book recommended below has at least one of those elements, and the great news is that it's also the first in its series, so if you fall in love with the first book, there’s a good chance you’ll love the others, too!


I wrote...

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

By Kim Long,

Book cover of Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament—the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve STEAM-based puzzles. She needs the prize money to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. 

Castles, museums, and labyrinths await as Lexi and her team attempt to stay on course and outwit their competition. The perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't!

By Elise Parsley,

Book cover of If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't!

I’m a big fan of Elise Parsley’s books, so of course, I had to read this one when it came out. My kids and I laughed a lot while reading this. Magnolia wants to set up a loud and messy circus, complete with a human cannonball routine in the library. The kids quickly pointed out that this goes against commonly accepted library behavior – though, of course, it takes Magnolia quite a while before she notices that everything is wrong with her plan.

Who am I?

I've loved books and reading from an early age. My family and I go to the library nearly every week to check out books, do research, or attend library programs like storytime. My interest in libraries led me to read books about libraries and write one of my own. I’m a children’s book author living in North Carolina with my husband and two book-devouring kids. I Want My Book Back is my second book, following my debut, Teach Your Giraffe to Ski. When I’m not reading or writing, I like hanging out with my family, being outdoors, and going on everyday adventures.


I wrote...

I Want My Book Back

By Viviane Elbee, Nicole Miles (illustrator),

Book cover of I Want My Book Back

What is my book about?

Daryl loves one book – it takes him on roaring, stomping dinosaur adventures! So, when someone else puts it on hold and he’s forced to return it to the library, he’ll do anything to get his book back.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

By William Joyce, Joe Bluhm (illustrator),

Book cover of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

As a person who loves words, loves stories, loves books, my eyes filled with tears reading and re-reading The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore to my children. The story was in part inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds, but when he discovers a library filled “with the faint chatters of a thousand different stories as if each book was whispering an invitation to adventure,” his life is forever changed.

In a time of eBooks and apps, this story speaks to the power and allure of stories and the printed page that generations of us grew up with. As with the young girl who, like generations before her, opens the book pages at the end of this story, the story ends as it begins...


Who am I?

I am an author, physician, mother of three, and an advocate for social justice in education. I came to Canada as a refugee from the Vietnam war when I was a young child. I love to write children's stories that convey the humanity in our lives. My books have been shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award, Red Maple Award, and Blue Spruce Award.


I wrote...

Ten Cents a Pound

By Nhung N. Tran-Davies, Josée Bisaillon (illustrator),

Book cover of Ten Cents a Pound

What is my book about?

Ten Cents A Pound is about a young girl who is torn by her desire to stay home with her family and the familiarity of their village, and her desire to go to school and discover the world beyond the mountains that surround them. Every time the girl insists that she will stay, her mother repeats that she must go—that there is more to life than labor in the coffee fields. Their loving exchange reveals the struggles and sacrifices that they will both have to make for the sake of the young girl’s future.

I feel this book is inspiring conversations about the importance of education and the sacrifices our parents make.

Ban This Book

By Alan Gratz,

Book cover of Ban This Book

I love that Alan Gratz, a skillful storyteller, takes the important topic of banning and censoring books for children, and shows its dangerous side effects from a child’s point of view. We meet a well-meaning mother who wants to protect her child from, what she feels, are unsuited books in the school library. But one of those is Amy Anne’s most beloved book. She is not going to let these books disappear without a fight. In a respectful but effective manner she ends up showing the adults the importance of letting children make their own choices. 


Who am I?

I’ve been devouring books for most of my life. When I was young, I read Pippi Longstocking. I wanted to be just like her – strong, free, and independent. Through books I learned about other people in other countries, times, and circumstances. I have been writing books for a long time (I wrote 40) and work in (international schools) with teachers and students on their writing. From specific stories, readers learn universal wisdom. Many books written for children should be everybody-books! Books, more than any other medium, can help you to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins'. The books I picked to share with you all do this.


I wrote...

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

By Margriet Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr (illustrator), Falah Raheem (translator)

Book cover of Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

What is my book about?

This powerful picture book is the universal story of people searching to live in peace in a place without war. It was illustrated by a Syrian artist with natural stones on the beach of Syria. Published in both English and Arabic, the book has been translated into many languages and is raising both funds and awareness of the plight of refugee children.

The Bodies in the Library

By Marty Wingate,

Book cover of The Bodies in the Library

Although the U.S. has wonderful libraries, England seems to top them, and I’ve always found English mysteries to have a special draw to them. The Bodies in the Library, the first First Edition Library Mystery, is no exception, combining both an English library and a clever mystery. Set in the English town of Bath, the book features Hayley Burke, who has taken the position of curator of a collection of Golden Age mystery books despite the fact that she has no knowledge of mysteries and is faking her experience. So when an Agatha Christie group meets at the library and one of the members is murdered, Hayley must do her best to solve it, so she can keep her job. Following in the footsteps of Miss Marple and Agatha Raisin, I found Hayley to be a memorable character with nerve and verve who I enjoyed meeting in this first…


Who am I?

I enjoy reading and writing cozy mysteries, especially ones that feature libraries and cats because I’m a librarian and have three cats of my own. I like cozies because they focus on characters who can become your fictional friends as you learn more about them with each book. I like the fact that there’s a minimum of violence and even though there may be romance, there are no explicit sex scenes. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories with twists and secrets that are revealed slowly to the reader. These are the type of books that you can savor along with a cup of tea seated next to a purring cat. 


I wrote...

A Stone's Throw (Cobble Cove Mysteries)

By Debbie De Louise,

Book cover of A Stone's Throw (Cobble Cove Mysteries)

What is my book about?

The first of the Cobble Cove cozy mysteries featuring Alicia the librarian and Sneaky, the Siamese library cat. In this book, Alicia, a widowed librarian, searches for answers about her dead husband’s strange hit-and-run accident. Her search leads her from her home on Long Island to the fictional upstate New York town of Cobble Cove where her husband grew up.

Befriending a few of the small town’s quirky residents including the local innkeeper and the handsome yet mysterious newspaper publisher and his father, a librarian at the Cobble Cove Library, she discovers that her husband’s death might not have been an accident and that the man she’s now attracted to may be connected.

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