Books About Books Make Great Books

“In books I meet the dead as if they were alive,

In books we see what is yet to come…

All things decay and pass with time…

All fame would fall victim to oblivion

If God had not given mortal men the book to aid them.”

I believe the above quote from Richard de Bury adequately expresses the importance books play in our lives.  Books can teach us about civilizations long gone, as well as the world around us now, and they can inspire us with glimpses of what the future could be.  Some people believe that books are so important they have written books about them.  Here are 5 of my favorite books about books.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke — This book is about Meggie and her father Mo, a man who can read characters out of books and into the real world.  One night while reading the book Inkheart aloud to his wife and baby girl,  Mo reads several characters out of the book.  Unfortunately, for everything that is read out of a book, something must go in.  Mo’s wife is taken into the book, and the rest of the story is roughly about getting her back, while the characters from the book try to take over the real world.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford — While the characters of Inkheart are read into the real world, Detective Thursday Next in The Eyre Affair uses the Prose Portal to go into a book to stop a thief from blackmailing the literary world.  However, the damage done by Thursday and the thief to the classic novel Jane Eyre causes Thornfield Hall to burn down and Rochester’s mad wife to fall to her death…What do you mean that’s how the story ends?  Are you sure it always ended that way?   And are you sure that a Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt hasn’t always been trapped in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven?

The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning — Speaking of The Raven, the bibliomystery The Bookman’s Wake follows detective-turned-book dealer Cliff Janeway as he tries to protect a young woman who has stolen a rare volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven from someone who’s been killing people for more than 20 years to get his hands on it. This book also can teach you a lot about rare books and book binding, even as the reader stops into the University District Half Price Books store while following Janeway to Snoqualmie Falls. (Seriously, we’re in the book!)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — Since we were talking about people stealing books, we can’t leave out Liesel Meminger, the main character of The Book Thief, a book which is, of course, narrated by Death, during Nazi-Germany, a time when Death admits he was a pretty busy guy.  Liesel steals her first book after an apprentice gravedigger drops The Grave Digger’s Handbook in the snow after her brother’s funeral.  The also steals The Shoulder Shrug from a pile of books to be burned in celebration of Hitler’s birthday  Throughout this book, the power of books to change lives is explored.  Liesel even writes the book of her life story, which is the book that Death has been carrying around with him for years.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — If we are going to mention burning books, we have to mention Fahrenheit 451, which is about a man whose job is to burn books.  First published in 1953, this book talks about technology taking over our lives and making them empty.  Books became blander and blander due to censorship, and finally stopped selling altogether.  So the government started burning them.  However, some people don’t give up their books willingly and are arrested or killed.  Montag, the main character is a fireman, or someone who burns books for a living, but he is also a man searching for something more in his life.  He begins to keep and read some of the books he is supposed to burn until the men he works with start coming after him.

Now, this is just a sampling of some wonderful and at times very poignant books about books.  There are many others.  In fact, the Assistant Manager at the Mesquite store might kill me for not mentioning The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende.  So, what are your favorite books about books?

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

“Read the Movie” during Teen Read Week

October 16-22 is Teen Read Week, which is a literacy initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)  and the American Library Association (ALA). To help celebrate this week, I want to encourage teens to “Read the Movie.”  Below are my recommendations of great books that have been turned into entertaining movies (which you’ve probably already seen).

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Made into the wonderful Dreamworks movie, this book is a wonder in itself, and besides the names, and Hiccup’s facetious attitude about the place he lives, the stories are completely different.  In this book, everyone has a dragon, and Hiccup’s first task, in order to make him a man in the eyes of his village, is to catch a dragon. His second task is to train it.  However, dragons are not so easy to train, and the only training manual that his village has consists of only one page that says “Yell at them, the louder, the better.”  Not being much of a yeller, Hiccup has to figure out a different way to train his dragon, pass his manhood test and save the day.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Though I never miss a Brendan Fraser movie, I’m glad I did not miss this book either, for the movie did use a lot of creative license in the screenplay. The book is told through the eyes of Meggie, whose father, a bookbinder, goes on the run from an evil man named Capricorn for reasons he will not explain. When her father gets kidnapped, Meggie must learn to trust an aunt she doesn’t like and a strange man named Dustfinger who betrayed her father, in order to save her father and save the book that Capricorn wants so desperately to get his hands on. She soon learns that her father has the ability to literally bring the story to life whenever he reads out loud. This adventure story is as much about the love of books as it is the actual adventure, with quotes from different books to begin each chapter and quaint illustrations to end it.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini
While the movie is good, the book holds so much more and is an epic tale reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien. While Eragon is out hunting one day, a great explosion scares away his prey, but leaves a smooth blue and white stone, which he tries to sell a couple of times with no luck. Finally one night, the stone hatches, and out pops a dragon.  Suddenly, Eragon finds himself being chased across the empire with a magic-wielding, sword-fighting storyteller, who knows more about what’s going on than he is willing to tell. This book caused me to cry at least twice and the dialogue (especially where Brom was concerned) had me laughing numerous times.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I know. I know. Who hasn’t read Twilight? Well, it’s time to pull it out and read it again. It’s October. Halloween is getting close. What a perfect time to read a love story about a “vegetarian” vampire (or so the other vampires call the Cullens) who can read minds, and the new girl in town who doesn’t know how good she smells. Though at times Meyers sentence structure can have you reading a sentence more than once to make sure you understand what she’s saying, the story sucks you in until you wonder things like, “How normal is my mind?” and “That guy over there is pretty pale.  I wonder if he’s a vampire.”  This was a book I could not put down. And though I haven’t watched any of the Twilight movies yet (Vampire movies have always freaked me out a bit), I may have to rent them this Halloween, provided I don’t have to watch them alone.

My point is don’t be content to just watch the movie. You never know what you might be missing. Read the book. Don’t forget to check out the winners of the YALSA Top Ten: Inkheark, Eragon and Twilight have all been on this list at one time. So, what is your favorite book that has been made into a movie?

— Julie

Young Adult Library Services Association 2011 Teen’s Choice Nominees

It’s time to vote for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teen’s Top Ten, a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books from the previous year. Every year, 30+ publishers send recent young adult titles to teen book discussion groups in libraries and schools across the country. These groups evaluate the books and nominate their favorites for YALSA’s Teen’s Top Ten list. Being a big fan of previous winners – like Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth (no pun intended) into this year’s list. Of the twenty-five nominees, here are my two favorite picks for the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten.

before i fall by Lauren Oliver

Sam, a popular senior girl at Thomas Jefferson High School, gets into a car accident coming home from a party and dies, but instead of a white light or pearly gates, she wakes up in her own bedroom and must live through the day of her death again. Now, she is stuck in a loop and every time she goes to sleep, she wakes up the morning of her accident, and every day she discovers something new about herself, about her accident and about how her actions affect other people. A definite must read, with an ending I didn’t expect. Be prepared for a few tears.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

The second book in the Leviathan series, continues the adventures of Deryn/Dylan, a girl (Deryn) dressed as a boy (Dylan) serving as a British airman during World War I. Though constantly worried that someone will discover her secret, Deryn makes friends with Alek, an Austrian prince who has a few secrets of his own, and together they plan a revolution, destroy the Germans’ hold on the Ottoman empire and save the British airship “The Leviathan” from the Germans new weapon, the Teslaa canon. This series was my first experience with the steampunk genre, and I can’t wait to read the third book – Goliath is scheduled for release in September.

Other books on the list include I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Love Inc. by Yvonne Collins, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third and final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. 

Be sure to check out the complete list of the 25 YALSA Teen’s Top Ten nominees. Voting will begin August 22 for readers ages 12-18 and the winners will be announced during Teen Read Week, October 16-22.  

Which is your pick? And who do you think will make it to the top ten?

— Julie