[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Freya Sampson to the site. She’s sharing her favorite books about books! Take it away, Freya!]
I have a special place in my heart for stories that feature book-loving characters. Perhaps it all stems from my childhood delight at reading Matilda, or the fact that I love stories filled with literary references, but give me a book about books and I’m a happy reader. My own debut novel, The Last Chance Library, features a bookish heroine and a cast of characters for whom books and reading are a lifeline. Here are eight novels that have brought me joy, all of them celebrating the power of stories.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
…is one of the first books I can remember falling in love with as a child. To my five-year-old eyes, Matilda was the perfect heroine: she loved books and had a strong sense of justice, but she was also just the right amount of naughty. And Mrs. Phelps, the benevolent librarian who helps Matilda discover the wonder of the library, completely enchanted me. I remember feeling so excited when I went to my local library and was given my very own library card, just like Matilda’s. As Roald Dahl writes, “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives”. I think any of us who love reading can relate to that.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
I love Nina, an introvert who works in a bookstore and lives for quiz trivia, making lists and her cat, Phil. Nina’s quiet little world is turned upside down when the father she never knew dies, and she suddenly discovers an entire chaotic family she had no idea existed. She’s a very funny, extremely likeable heroine, and if you’re a bookworm then you’ll be rooting for her from the first page in this utterly charming, laugh-out-loud romcom.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
This is a wonderful historical fiction novel, based on a true story about the American ‘pack horse librarians’, who ran travelling libraries in Depression-era rural Kentucky. The hardships of life in the Appalachian mountain communities is beautifully-drawn, and Moyes creates a cast of brilliantly courageous women. The story is a celebration of the power of reading to transform people’s lives.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
When Nora Seed tries to end her own life, she finds herself in a magical library between life and death, filled with books which contain different versions of her life story. As Nora discovers the many different twists and turns her life could have taken, including being a rock star, an Olympic medalist or a mother, she’s forced to confront her own regrets. I’ve not read much speculative fiction, but I found this unique story uplifting and life-affirming.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
…is one of the best-selling books of all time, and for good reason. Set in post-war Barcelona, it tells the story of young Daniel, a bookseller’s son mourning the loss of his mother. He finds comfort in a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, but when he tries to find the author’s other works, he discovers that someone is systematically destroying every copy of every book by Carax. Daniel sets out on a quest to find out what is happening to the books and why. The Shadow of the Wind is an epic tale, stunningly written, that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
This romance novel is a warm hug of a book. After her father’s sudden death, Emilia returns to the chocolate-box English village where she grew up in order to try and save her family’s failing bookstore. There, she meets the colourful customers who frequent the store, but can they help Emilia save Nightingale Books from the property developers who are circling? If you’re in need of a cosy romance with all the feels, this book is for you.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
Aleisha, a teenager with a complicated home life, reluctantly takes a job in her local library, where she discovers an abandoned reading list scribbled on a piece of paper. One day elderly Mukesh wanders into the library, mourning the recent death of his beloved wife, and looking for ways to bond with his shy, bookish granddaughter. Aleisha starts to recommend books from the reading list to Mukesh, and slowly the two develop a friendship that will help both of them heal. This book is full of heart, and I guarantee it will have you heading to your local library and borrowing all the books on Aleisha and Mukesh’s reading list.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Grumpy AJ Firky runs a failing bookstore, is grieving the death of his wife, and has recently lost his prize-possession, a rare and valuable first edition of poems. Then one day he finds two-year-old Maya sitting on his bookstore floor, a note attached to her asking the finder to look after her. This is a gorgeous book, funny and heart-warming, which had me in floods of tears by the end. It’s also a love letter to books, bookstores and book lovers everywhere.
About the Author:
Freya Sampson works in TV and was the executive producer of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed and Gogglesprogs. She studied History at Cambridge University and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson, out now!
June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.
Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.
Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.
To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.