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People of the Book

By Donalyn Miller — October 19, 2008 3 min read

Currently switching between two books, People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks, the story of one book that unites people across cultures and time, and Inkdeath, the latest in Cornelia Funke’s popular Inkworld series, I am reminded of how much I love fiction books that include readers and books in their plotlines: Books that highlight the importance and joy of reading. Books that reveal the power of reading to transform your life. Books that provide social commentary about censorship. Books that show reading as a path out of ignorance and oppression. Books where reading heroes rule the day. In celebration of my favorite sub-genre, here is a list of my all-time favorite books about books and readers.

Elementary Readers

Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco: After a TV tower is installed in the town of Triple Creek, the residents stop reading. Aunt Chip, the town’s former librarian, finally decides to do something about it.

Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch: Henrietta is a chicken who reads, and this skill puts her at odds with her aunts who wish Henrietta would act more like a chicken. When the farmer ships the aunts off to the soup factory, Henrietta must rescue her family by using her reading ability. You will love the message of this hilarious book, “Reading can save your life!”

Intermediate Readers

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke: Mo and his daughter Meggie love books, but Mo never reads out loud. After a stranger appears at their door, Meggie discovers that her father can read characters out of books and released several nefarious characters from the book, Inkheart, years before. Each book in the Inkworld series (Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath) contains innumerable quotes from classic books and gems from Funke about books and the people obsessed with reading them. The Inkheart movie, with Brendan Frasier as Mo, will be released this winter.

The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley: Sylvie is a storybook princess, but she and the other characters only come alive when their book is opened by a Reader. Her book is slowly forgotten and Sylvie’s story is in danger of disappearing forever. Sylvie hatches a plot to get Readers to discover her book and embarks on an adventure that blurs the line between books and reality.

Middle School and High School Readers

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Set during World War II with Death as the narrator, The Book Thief is haunting. Liesl, the title character, has lost her home and family. By stealing books, she grabs control of her bleak situation and finds solace and builds connections with other people through her love of words.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Guy Montag, a fireman who burns books, inhabits a world that is every reader’s nightmare. Although Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit a half century ago, his examination of censorship and the fear surrounding books and the ideas in them, still resonates today.

Adult Readers

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Set in Spain in 1945, this breathtaking book follows the life of a teenage boy, who rescues an obscure book and falls into a mystery involving the book’s mysterious author.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: Fforde deftly blends literary allusions and witty asides about books and readers throughout his science fiction novels starring Thursday Next, a Literary Division operative who fights to save characters erased from beloved classics. The Eyre Affair, the first in the series, follows Thursday’s efforts to stop an evil villain intent on altering the plot of Jane Eyre.

For the sake of symmetry, I restricted my list to eight books. Do you have any favorite books where readers, writers, librarians, or books take center stage?

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.