Books About Words, Reading, and Readers

Books on reading, re-reading, readers, re-readers, books, libraries, words, dictionaries, and other ways of worshiping that Gutenberg fellow.


The Uncommon Reader

by Alan Bennett

HRH and her corgis stray out off the ordinary route on one of their morning walks at Buckingham Palace gardens. They come upon a mobile library, a mobile librarian, and a ginger-headed kitchen help called Norman. The Queen borrows a book and, of course, nothing will be the same again. Ever. Included: gentle wit, musings about what reading does to us, and why it is so dangerous when individuals stop and think (if you happen to be a government official or a senior member of the royal personnel, that is).

This book also appears on Books in 140's Favorite Reads of 2008


Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

by Anne Fadiman

I once had this book on loan from a library for a year (being a grad student is sweet ;-). I just kept re-reading it, and each essay becoming a personal friend. Not recommended to be read on the public transport, as you will find yourself yelling “Yes! Me too!” If you are a book junkie, it is a must-read.

This book also appears on Books about... Books!


At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays

by Anne Fadiman

Fadiman strikes gold again and we find ourselves chanting along with her, “the essay is not dead!” The art of essay is pondered upon and praised but the passion for all books and the love of reading run as deep as in her previous title, Ex Libris. We look forward to the next one, Ms. Fadiman!


The Surgeon of Crowthorne

by Simon Winchester

“A Tale of Madness, Murder, and the Oxford English Dictionary.” If dictionaries make you happy... if you ever spent a sleepless night wondering who came up with a definition for ‘walrus’ and who invented the word ‘boredom’... if you are an ardent follower of QI... if you find yourself reading through 20 pages of OED though you were just going to look up ‘cabaletta’... then this book is for you. You will read it with your cheeks red and when you are finished you will exclaim “I cannot BELIEVE he didn’t put the rest of his research in here! More, I want more!”


The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within

by Stephen Fry

he name of the author of this book should suffice as the entire recommendation. If there is anyone who could teach one how to write poetry for FUN and retain a social life it is Mr. Fry. We strongly suspect that even if you end up learning absolutely nothing (you must have been really lazy then) your social life will improve nevertheless.

This book also appears on 33 of the Best Books about Writing Fiction


Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love

edited by Anne Fadiman

We meet Fadiman again, editing a book of essays by 17 American writers, revisiting with them books they love, have loved, and will, in all probability, continue to love. All of the pieces first appeared in the literary quarterly The American Scholar and are reprinted in this edition with her own forward. "For all true readers, the bonds that count are not with books we haven't yet met but with those we already know intimately."