Literary-themed books are perfect for book lovers; what can be more enjoyable than reading a book about books, or a modern retelling of a classic? From books about Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, to an author’s book tour, to stories about the power of books to transform lives, these 11 novels demonstrate the importance of books in our everyday lives.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
The Jane Austen Society is set in Chawton, England, following the Second World War, where Jane Austen spent her last years. When Austen’s legacy is threatened, an eclectic group of townspeople band together to save her home and heritage. Struggling with personal tragedies and loss, these individuals unite around their love of Jane Austen and find themselves aiding each other as much as they help save Austen’s legacy. The Jane Austen Society is full of fascinating tidbits about the author and her tales, but it also highlights the importance of community and relationships, demonstrating that both can be found in unlikely places.
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Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
In this unique book, a Black author sets out on his book tour to promote his latest novel. Interspersed with the tour narrative are the stories of Soot, a young boy growing up in a small town and of the Kid, a potentially imaginary child who keeps appearing to the author. In addition, a news report about a police shooting is woven throughout the novel. As the book progresses, these storylines eventually converge into a carefully constructed and masterful ending.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
The Reading List tells the story of Aleisha, a teenager with a troubled home situation, who decides to work in the library for the summer to escape her home life. While working at the library, she stumbles across a list of 8 books with the words “In case you need it” at the top. Curious, she begins to work her way through the list, becoming engrossed in each book and its characters and finds that each book helps transport her to another place. Along the way, she recommends each book to a librarian patron she meets named Mukesh, a lonely widower trying to fill his days. As the two read and discuss the books, they develop a sweet friendship that helps them both through trying times.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read follows two writers, a romance novelist and an author of literary fiction, who are both impeded by writer’s block and struggling to meet looming book deadlines. Polar opposites in every way and encumbered by prior misconceptions about each other, January and Augustus are thrown together when they rent neighboring beach houses. Late one evening, they agree to swap genres: January will write a heavy drama, and Augustus will compose a happily ever-after story. To research their books, they will spend time together visiting various local spots and in the process (of course) learn more about each other.
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Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
In recent years, modernizing and retelling Jane Austen stories has become all the rage. In Recipe for Persuasion, Dev takes inspiration from Austen’s Persuasion to tell the story of Chef Ashna Raje, a chef who reluctantly agrees to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars to save her struggling restaurant. She immediately regrets her hasty decision when she is paired with her first love Rico Silva, who is now a FIFA soccer star. Their romance ended badly, and Ashna and Rico blame each other for the failed relationship. When they have a disastrous first meeting for Cooking with the Stars, the clip goes viral and they become social media darlings. The author hews close enough to Persuasion to warrant the inspiration claim but creates her own original update of a classic story.
Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan
Once Upon a Wardrobe delves into the question of what inspired C.S. Lewis to create Narnia. Megs Devonshire studies math and science at Oxford and relies on facts versus intuition; when her terminally-ill brother George becomes infatuated with a new book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and implores her to find out how Narnia came about, Megs finds herself visiting C.S. Lewis, an Oxford don, and his brother Warnie hoping to answer George’s questions. Instead of providing her answers directly however, Lewis tells her stories about his own life growing up which she then relays each weekend to George. While Megs struggles to find the connections, George helps her understand the stories that Lewis relates and how they led to the creation of Narnia.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Belle de Costa Greene worked as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian and curator of his private library housed in a townhouse off of East 36th Street before the collection became the Morgan Library and Museum. While she became an influential individual in the art world and one of the country’s most prominent librarians, she hid a big secret: she was a Black woman “passing” as a white woman and moreover was the daughter of the first Black graduate of Harvard. The Personal Librarian chronicles Belle’s life and legacy and what it was like to be torn between success and the desire to be herself.
The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Féret-Fleury
An ode to booklovers everywhere, The Girl Who Reads on the Metro follows Juliette as she rides the Paris metro to and from work and muses about her fellow passengers and their reading choices. One day she stumbles upon an old bookstore and is recruited by the owner Soliman as a passeur, the name he uses for the individuals who take used books from the store and match them with just the right owner. Meeting Soliman and his daughter Zaide shakes up Juliette’s life for the better, but Juliette has to decide whether she can trust fate and take her life in a new direction. Bibliophiles will revel in the numerous literary references.
The Editor by Steven Rowley
James Smale is an unpublished author whose autobiographical novel about his dysfunctional life has been sold to Doubleday Books. Sent by his agent to the publishing house, Smale is astonished to learn that Jackie Kennedy Onassis is his editor. As they commence working together to prepare the novel for publication, the two develop a friendship of sorts as Jackie strives to help James come to terms with unresolved family issues.
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Agatha Christie disappeared in December 1926 and returned 11 days later, claiming amnesia and providing no information on where she had been. Her abandoned car was found with her fur coat still in the car, even though it was winter, and her husband and daughter had no idea where she was. The mystery surrounding these 11 days exists still today, and Marie Benedict puts her own spin, using a creative format, on where Agatha Christie went and why in this take on what might have happened.
Blush by Jamie Brenner
Blush will appeal to book lovers everywhere as the three Hollander women turn to books, specifically the “trashy” romance novels of the 1980s, to try and save their family vineyard and legacy. While very different, all three women, Vivien, Leah, and Sadie, bond over books written by Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz and others, and find inspiration and ideas for moving forward as long-buried family secrets are exposed and wounds form the past reappear.
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