Book Adventures

By Becky Thornton

Mysterious fantastical bookstores, book pirates, travel to alternate universes, espionage involving rare books, and an entire city built upon a labyrinth of living books—these are novels where the books themselves are central characters.

  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

    2012 by Robin Sloan

    The Great Recession has forced a San Francisco web-designer into employment at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. After a few days on the job, he discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its enigmatic owner suggests. This is a good old-fashioned mystery that explores the past and future of reading.

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  • The Last Bookaneer

    2015 by Matthew Pearl

    London, 1890. Pen Davenport is the most infamous "bookaneer" in Europe. A master of disguise, he makes his living stalking harbors, coffeehouses, and print shops for the latest manuscripts to steal. On the island of Samoa a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labors over a new novel. The thought of one last book from the great author fires the imaginations of the bookaneers who race to be the first literary pirate to get the prize. Pearl is best known for his first novel, The Dante Club, and has a wonderful voice for action tales.

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  • Arcadia

    2016 by Iain Pears

    In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor Rosie. One day while chasing Lytten’s cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where storytellers are revered above all others. Time travel, alternate universes, multiple point-of-view storylines, and intricate structuring make this a gorgeous story to lose yourself in.

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  • The City of Dreaming Books : a novel from Zamonia by Optimus Yarnspinner

    2007 by Walter Moers

    Optimus Yarnspinner, a young writer, inherits from his beloved godfather an unpublished short story by an unknown author. The search for the author’s identity takes Yarnspinner to Bookholm―the so-called City of Dreaming Books. He soon falls into the clutches of an evil genius and finds himself trapped in labyrinthine catacombs underneath a city that is home to a legendary monster. Full of excitement, mystery, puns, and amazing creatures and locales, this is an incredibly unique thrill-ride of a book.

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  • The Angel's Game

    2009 by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    Literature, demons, and obsession. David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. Thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Zafón is also the author of The Shadow of the Wind, which you should definitely also read.

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  • The Club Dumas : a novel

    1996 by Arturo Reverte

    Lucas Corso is a book detective, a middle-aged mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas's masterpiece. Get ready to be kept on edge the whole way through.

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  • People of the Book : a novel

    2008 by Geraldine Brooks

    This ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. This is a deeply affecting, intricate read that feels intimate both historically and personally.

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  • The Invisible Library

    2016 by Genevieve Cogman

    Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen. It's a light and fun fantasy with great characters that has now evolved into a series.

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