8 Great Books About Books: ‘Phantoms On the Bookshelves’ & More

Michele Filgate picks the best works that celebrate history’s greatest pastime—reading.

07.19.12 6:25 AM ET

Phantoms On the Bookshelvesby Jacques Bonnet

Bonnet owns more than 40,000 books. It’s not the Library of Congress, but for a private collection, it’s pretty solid. In this slim ode to books, the author muses on the life of a serious reader—with Bonnet
 himself being the ultimate example. In only nine chapters, he talks about many aspects of book collecting: how to organize them, where to acquire them, and the idea of owning a working library rather than
 just collecting books. Bonnet brings an infectious enthusiasm to the genre. The written word is as important to his identity as his own memories: “To lose one’s books is to lose one’s past,” he says. His
 love of books is something serious readers can relate to: “I sometimes have the impression that I have really only existed through reading, and I would hope to die…with a book in my hand.”

The Book Loverby Ali Smith

Smith browsed through her personal library and mused on her favorites. The result is a wonderful glimpse inside the mind of one of our best contemporary writers. She includes work by Angela Carter, Marilynne
 Robinson, Virginia Woolf, Clarice Lispector, Thomas Hardy, and many other literary voices.

A History Of Readingby Alberto Manguel

Manguel used to read aloud to Jorge Luis Borges, and it was through this amazing opportunity that he learned about some of the books he now loves. Manguel is a master of the “books about books” genre, having
 written several nonfiction volumes about his obsession. This particular work focuses on not just the author’s personal reading history, but a general history of one of the best pastimes there is. And one
 of the sentences in this book is my own personal mantra: “Reading, almost as much as breathing, is our essential function.”

1001 Books You Must Read Before You DieEdited by Peter Boxall

This isn’t so much a book to read from cover to cover but one to leave on the coffee table and open to a random spot. It features beautiful glossy pages and seemingly endless amount of recommendations from various
 critics and literary experts. You might feel super smart after realizing how many books you’ve already read.

Read This! Handpicked Favorites From America’s Indie BookstoresEdited by Hans Weyandt

Hans Weyandt of Micawber's Books decided to ask some of the best independent booksellers around the country for their lists of titles they love to handsell. The art of handselling is something indie booksellers
 excel at, and Weyandt originally decided to post these on his bookstore’s blog. Now Coffee House Press is putting it together in a lovely book, to be published
 in September, complete with an introduction by the most famous independent bookstore owner of all: writer Ann Patchett.

The Whole Five Feetby Christopher Beha

Reading is a way to escape your life, but it’s also a way to educate yourself. Harper’s Magazine associate editor Christopher Beha turned to the Harvard Classics after going through a particularly tough time—and
 the result is a memoir of a year spent reading some of the best books ever written.

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