Welcome to another (resurrected) edition of my mid-month mini reviews! I haven’t done one of these for such a long time so it’s nice to be back. This month, I’ve decided to look at meta-reads; books that are about… books!
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Urgh, this book. On the surface, it looked like everything I could ever want – an ode to libraries and reading, a tale of a bookish community coming together to overcome huge odds, an intriguing investigation into a dreadful crime. However, I felt like The Library Book was trying to be all things to all people – and in doing so, fell a little flat.
I was initially gripped by the description of the fire that raged through the LA Public Library – Susan Orlean has a fantastic writing style and some of the imagery she used (the inferno was so hot that firefighters said it was like looking through glass) has really stayed with me. However, I didn’t like the meandering nature of the narrative. There was the description of the fire, the history of libraries in the US, the methods used to preserve the books, the importance of libraries, the figures involved in creating the library, the aftermath of the fire, the possible suspect and the investigation into him, the history of the building, the local community, library workers… all lumped together in a way that didn’t seem coherent to me.
I did enjoy reading about the historic elements of libraries in the US but ultimately the investigation into the main suspect responsible for the fire was sketchy at best and failed to hold my attention. Not a terrible book but it failed to live up to my expectations.
Three “so… who was responsible?” out of five
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #19 Read a book of non-violent true crime
The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick
I saw this book as one of my libraries “hot buzz must borrow bestseller” (or whatever they call it) books so I dutifully gave it a read. And while it was a perfectly nice book, that was really the problem with it. It was just… nice. Mild-mannered. The literary equivalent of a french manicure – basically, a bit dull.
The story actually hit quite close to home – a woman with no children who gets put upon by everyone including her colleagues at the local library *tries not to think how much this sounds like me* has a chance encounter which leads her to unravel a family mystery. Whilst the idea was quite original, the writing was so full of tired tropes that I found it quite frustrating. A poor thirty-something singleton with no children, filling her empty days by helping others? Check. A glaringly obvious same sex relationship that takes the main character half the book to recognise because straight is the default? Check. A red wine drinking, cravat wearing eccentric who sells old books? Oh, hello Giles from Buffy!
So, whilst this wasn’t a badly written book it failed to hold my attention for more than a few chapters at a time. Perfectly pleasant is the best way I can describe it.
Three and a half “this is too close to my own life” out of five
Writers as Readers: A Celebration of Virago Modern Classics
I say this every time I read a VMC Designer Edition book but LOOK AT IT. I absolutely adore how pretty these books are and I always, always love the content. Even though it’s not a novel, this book is no different.
The idea behind Writers as Readers was to take forty authors and ask them to write a short essay on their own favourite books or writers. It had everyone from Margaret Drabble to Sandi Toksvig talking about well known individuals like Daphne DuMaurier and Angela Carter but also lesser known writers like E. M. Delafield and Elizabeth Von Armin. I loved the wide cross section of novels/authors chosen and picked up a huge number of TBR additions!
Due to the brevity of the “chapters” (a few pages for each essay) I found that this book was easy to dip in and out of – usually as a break from reading a heavier tome. It was great to see all the positivity and enthusiasm for different books – a bit like blog hopping! I thought the whole concept was a great idea well executed – even though the whole thing is basically just a big advert for Virago.
Four “This is seriously damaging my TBR” out of five
So, have you read any of these books? Do you like reading books about books or do you prefer things to be a bit less meta? Let me know in the comments!