Thursday 11 February 2016

Books in Books

There are a whole swath of books out there that talk about books - books ON books - it's a shelf on goodreads and in many bookshops. I love books on books and I'm hoping to dive into Barry Jones' latest effort, The Shock of Recognition, sooner rather than later.

There is another categoryabout books like Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
of books

But this particular post is about Books IN Books.

My reading over the past couple of months have had an inordinate amount of books being referenced within another book.

Books IN books is a completely different creature to books ON books.

Books ON books covers two types of stories. It can be a book that pays homage to another book (The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield as a love letter to Jane Eyre) or it can be a memoir about someone's experiences with a range of books and reading (The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe).

Books IN books however, refers to the casual mention of another book that the main character of the book you are currently reading is reading.
The book can be significant in giving you a clue about the characters personality, interests or even a hint to plot development within the book you're reading. But you can read the book in your hand without knowing anything about the other book. It won't affect your enjoyment of the story.

But if you have read the book being referenced, you may gain a little added pleasure and/or knowledge. It can add another layer of meaning to the story in front of you.

In recent months I have discovered:

The Death of Ivan Illyvich in Being Mortal
Bonjour Tristesse in Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave
Mila 18 in Reckoning
Crossing to Safety in Love and Hunger
Pilgrims Progress in Little Women

I read Mila 18 during my teens (during my Leon Uris phase!) - Magda also read it in her teens and found it confronting in light of her fathers war history. Because I had also read the book, I understood exactly what she meant and how it must have affected her.

I'm not sure if I will ever be able to cope with the overt Christian content of Pilgrim's Progress, but Alcott gives us plenty of detail about the book as the story goes along, so I feel like I know as much as I need.
But I haven't read either Ivan Illyich and Bonjour Tristesse. And I'm dead keen to.

I read Crossing to Safety thanks to Charlotte Wood's rave review and referencing of it in her book about cooking and eating. (I started reading Love and Hunger about four years ago, then it got 'lost' in my kitchen. I found it again during our move last year & I finally finished it during my summer hols - which is why it still counts as a recent read :-).

Have you read any of these books?
And have you come across books in books that you've felt compelled to read simply because your favourite character read it?


  1. Anonymous12/2/16

    I started my blog because I originally intended to read books that were mentioned in books. I didn't get very far since I want to read so many other books, but I do note whenever a book is mentioned in a book. I started this year by reading 84 Charing Cross Road because it was mentioned in The Reader's of Broken Wheel Recommend. Both were lovely books. And while I don't intend to read Pilgrim's Progress, I did download the Vicar of Wakefield, since Jo is reading it early in Little Women.

    1. Ohhhh 84 Charing Cross Road has been on my radar for a long time I will have to check out TROBWR as well :-)

  2. I love the idea of reading about a book in a book. For once I have read some of the books you talk about here. The wonderful, and one of my favourite books ever "The Shadow of the Wind". I just love all his books. I also read "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe, which I liked very much. What a wonderful idea to take your mind off tragic things.
    I have also read "IThe Death of Ivan Illyvich" which is great and Bonjour Tristesse, which I read just recently. Had never read anything by Sagan before, but is now a fan.
    I have "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield in my book case, so looking forward reading that one.

  3. What a great topic. I've read Setterfield's book and Schwalbe's book and liked them. I was reading The Paying Guests recently and it talks about Anna Karenina -- also Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours sort of intrigued me about Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. But otherwise I'm drawing a blank though I know there are dozens of good books in books.

  4. Anonymous15/2/16

    I love books in's one for you from Barbra Vine's The Dark Eye Adapted, which I finished a day ago. While there are several books mentioned, a key cornerstone, delineating the character of one the main protagonists is that he is reading Saki and quoting him. It has implications at several levels!

    1. Oh I love it when an author does that. I love it when I know the author or book they're referring to and I fell like I have some special insider knowledge.

      And I also love it when I don't know the author or book referred to because then I feel compelled to seek them/it out!

      Win/win :-)

  5. Beautiful post. I have a tag where I list all the books that mention books and then mention those books in the respective blogpost (if that makes any sense at all).

    I read quite a few of the books you mentioned, like The Shadow of the Wind, 84, Charing Cross Road and The Thirteenth Tale, it's always lovely to see books you loved mentioned in another book you love.

    Anyway, I love your blogpost and look forward to seeing many books you found in books. :)

    Happy Reading,
    Marianne from
    Let's Read

    1. I think I know what you mean!

      I'll certainly be using the 'books in books' tag from now on for my posts & hopefully will remember to link back to the original book!

  6. I love books in books! It adds more meaning to your reading experience when you have read the book that is mentioned. I have read Little Women and I think that Jo quotes a Shakespeare play, either Macbeth or Hamlet.


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