Mahesh Rao commentary on libraries in his New York Times essay “Lost in the Stacks,” reminded me of how libraries have nurtured my own love of reading. My first memory of going to a library is linked to holding my mother’s hand as we walked through the park to a tall building – an adventure to a new world. Later in college I found comfort in hiding behind books in a remote carrell as I studied obscure passages. Just like Rao, I inadvertently forgot to return a book or two, discovered years later in my own collection.
Librarians, more than authors, have always held my reverence. Some are modestly taciturn, never revealing their wealth of information until asked. Others, like Rao’s North London friend, are ready to share common interests and review my selections as I check out more books than I can carry.
Books about libraries draw me in. Some of my favorites:
- Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon with the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a library for literary works no longer remembered by anyone. Daniel finds mystery and adventure, as books salve the lingering pain of his mother’s death.
- The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai connects a children’s librarian with questionable ties to the Russian mafia to a curious 10-year-old boy whose parents enroll him in an anti-gay class and strictly monitor his library material.
- This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson challenges the stereotype of librarians. See my review – here
- By Its Cover by Donna Leon uses a rare books collection in a prestigious Venice library as the setting for the twenty-third in her series of Guida Brunetti mysteries. My review – here.
Do you have a favorite book about libraries?
- Review of The Borrower
- Rao’s essay – Lost in the Stacks