By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 18, 2019
Libraries are sacred. It was in these hallowed spaces, where many of us first learned about the magic of literature. We remember the quiet wonder of shelves filled with stories; the thrill we felt as the librarian checked out our copious pile of new reads. And who can forget the sweet smell wafting from the pages as we cracked them open? As for librarians, they are the guardians of the library, the champions of the books, and the guides to finding the perfect story. Here are ten of our favorite books featuring libraries and librarians.
The children's section of the library isn't always quiet. But really, would you want it to be? The sound of kids excited about books is a beautiful thing! Storytime at the library is a favorite activity of both tots and parents alike.
Planting Stories by Anika Aldamuy Denise shares the real-life story of storyteller and puppeteer Pura Belpré. As New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, starting in the 1920s, she shared her birthland's magical folk tales and championed bilingual literature. The Boy who was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris is a great storybook for little ones beginning to understand the limitless power of learning.
Librarians may have a reputation for being cloistered and reserved, but in reality, they run the gamut. The World's Strongest Librarian is a charming, heartwarming memoir by Josh Hanagarne, a man who found his salvation from Tourette's syndrome in both books and bodybuilding. His story of overcoming unusual obstacles is humorous and uplifting.
In The Library Book, award-winning reporter and author Susan Orlean weaves her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the devastating 1986 Los Angeles Library fire, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of books. A New York Times Notable Book of 2018, it reads like a dazzling love letter to the beloved institution.
The first libraries date back to approximately 2600 BC and took the form of archival rooms filled with inscribed clay tablets. We've certainly come a long way! The People of the Book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Geraldine Brooks tells the story of Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator who is hired to analyze and restore an ancient tome known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. An exacting researcher, Hanna becomes enthralled by this centuries-old book and the fascinating historical clues hidden in its pages. You'll be surprised at how exciting (and romantic!) book conservation can be.
For a more recent perspective, check out The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. The novel weaves together two interesting episodes from Appalachia in the early 20th century. A traveling librarian for the Kentucky Pack Horse library service, Cussy Marie Carter is also the last of the mysterious blue-skinned people in her community. A spirited heroine, Cussy confronts prejudice and suspicion as she propagates literacy and the power of the written word.
Anyone who loves books knows that they are infused with intrigue and alchemy. There's always something to learn when you turn the page and when certain stories take root in your mind, they transform you. One such story is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Infused with magical realism, it is the story of Daniel, a young Spanish boy in 1945 mourning the loss of his mother. To console him, his father, an antique book dealer, introduces him to a secret library, The Cemetary of Forgotten Books. There he discovers a captivating mystery.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield presents the story of reclusive author Vida Winter, who has spent the past six decades penning alternate lives for herself. Finally, as she nears the end of her life, she summons a young biographer to bear witness to her extraordinary and mysterious past. This one's not so much about a library as about the magical power of story.
In some stories, the power of a library takes a sinister turn. In the leadup to Halloween, consider one of these stories about eerie, supernatural libraries.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins tells the story of Carolyn, an orphaned girl adopted by a powerful man she knows simply as Father. She and her adopted siblings are all forced to adopt his strange, ancient, and sometimes cruel customs. When he suddenly disappears, they turn to the books in his library and begin to learn the secrets of his unearthly powers.
From acclaimed, bestselling author Haruki Murakami comes The Strange Library. In this slim, illustrated novel a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep-man plot their escape from a nightmarish library where they are imprisoned. Dreamlike and bizarre, this tale takes readers on a weird trip.
Whether it was waiting for the bookmobile visit or making the trek to a neighborhood branch on foot, library experiences are a defining part of many readers' lives. But statistics indicate that that the role of libraries and librarians in society is changing. This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson explores the significance of these changes and explains the complex nuances of being a modern-day librarian, a.k.a. cybrarian. Bottom line: they're still our heroes!
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