I love books about books. There is something so satisfyingly meta about them. I have bought books that are just lists of books. If it is a book about reading chances are I will get to it sooner or later. I gravitate especially towards books that are about books that I have read so many times they have absorbed into my psyche as you can see here.
How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much
by Samantha Ellis
“I don't know if I'll get a happy ending. But why worry about a happy ending? Why worry about any ending at all? I don't know where I'm going next, and for the first time in forever, I don't want to. I want my life to be picaresque. Fantastical. I want to say yes and.”
I love the premise of this book: That in some ways the heroines we read about, and love are the women we are striving to become. Samantha Ellis ticks off each of her literary heroines to figure out what they have taught her. In the process, you get to know about her life as an Iraqi Jewish woman growing up in a tiny, insular community in London. Her journey through books is also her journey towards feminism. There was a lot of potentials for this book to be boring and pretentious. Literary analysis! Feminism! A woman comes of age! Ellis' clear eye and sense of humor make it thought to provoke, charming, and thoroughly readable. This was my second read.
Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
by Lizzie Skurnick
“Now, suddenly, I was the kind of girl who felt true physical pain when asked to put down a book at the dinner table, who asked friends over and ignored them to finish Island of the Blue Dolphins for the fifth time.”
This is a book that I didn't know I wanted. Long rambling discussions about popular 20th century YA? Check. I loved that someone else was finally freaking out about a cover, the description of a dress or a meal that I have been thinking about on and off since age 9 or so. Each book is a chapter of its own. I found that too much time was spent retelling the whole story in the book, but the nostalgia, thoughtfulness, and humor displayed consistently entertained me. I have read it twice, and chances are I will read it again.
“Realizing that your emotions and experiences aren't yours alone is one of the great powers of reading.”
It is a combination of books, food, recipes, and cooking. All my favorite things.It is a bit of a memoir as it basically goes from book to book chronologically from early childhood on. The essays are a formula of the book, event in her life, connection to food, recipe. The recipes sound delicious, and I have a couple that I am going to try. I wasn't overly impressed with the writing. I think that almost every essay was rushed. I am trying to put my finger on it...
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
by Anne Fadiman
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.”
I bought my copy of this book in a bookstore outside of Cambridge on a trip I took to the UK when I was 19. It is a short book on I strongly identified with almost every single one of the essays. To this day I think that the chapter on the mingling of bookshelves is the purest and most romantic definition of love I have ever read. Other favorites are the essays on bookmarks, reading where you are (obviously) and food in books. Fadiman is a little condescending/snobby/pretentious (I have never fully decided which) especially about what other people are reading. For God's sake let me like genre books in peace. It is just as legit as In Search of Lost Time, Swan's Way, and Dead Souls. But I have read it half a dozen times and pressed copies on almost every friend that I have who is remotely bookish.