Why We Love Books About Books



It seems to be a growing trend, or has it always been there and I just started noticing? Books about books are everywhere.


I recently put down A Sorcery of Thorns, a YA fantasy that I found absolutely delightful, as I reflected on these books that glorify books. Sorcery, by Margaret Rogerson, is a reader's dream. Elizabeth Scrivener is a girl who was abandoned at the door of a magical library, and she grows up there. In this world, the grimoires she is surrounded by imbue great power given to them by sorcerers, and the books themselves are alive in a way. They talk back, have personalities, and can be helpful or terrible. By spending her childhood around books, Elizabeth becomes strong and magical herself. It's basically an allegory for what readers knew already: books are magical, and they contain great power for those who know what to do with them.


In The Secret, Books & Scone Society, by Ellery Adams, Nora is a bookshop owner trying to get her life back after she shattered it to pieces. She also has a special gift: by asking you a few vague questions about a problem you are trying to solve, she can put together a reading list when, if read in the proper order, will get you on the right track. Which many readers already know. Books can be healing.


All of this made me think deeper about why books are so special, and why there is a certain percentage of the population who connect so deeply with written stories. In books, we can find ourselves: we see something in a character or a situation that causes us to reflect on our own lives. Or perhaps we see in a character someone who we wish to be, and it makes us a better person.


As characters grow in depth and emotion, so too do we. It's a statistical fact that avid readers are more empathetic of others. We spend a great deal of time living the world through someone else's experience, and this ability crosses over into the real world


It makes sense, then that authors would write books as love note to books. They already find what it is they wish to in books and want to share that with the world. I found that The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is exactly this, a book for book lovers, which comes with a warning: Reading can be dangerous. For in the hands of a master writer we may find ourselves moved quite against our will.


I believe that avid readers, ones who devours book like they are necessary, like they are air, become that way when they see the real magic of books. This is probably why avid readership often starts at an early age. When you are a child, you still believe in magic. If you are open to it, if you select the right story at the right time, something inside of you is unlocked, and you get to keep that childlike sense of wonder your whole life through. All you need to do is open the pages of a good book.


I recently found that sense of wonder again with The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern, she of the very wonderful Night Circus as well. Morgenstern creates beautiful worlds you can lose yourself in, and the Starless Sea is about losing yourself in books to create the most impossible magic. I sigh as I write this because to me The Starless Sea is pure magic, but maybe only a reader would think so.


What book is magic to you? What book made you discover how deep you can go into yourself and into other worlds?