Novels about people who love books

Seemingly by chance, I have been reading a succession of books about people who love books. The first one was suggested by a co-worker when we found we both liked Umberto Eco (author of The Name of the Rose). This book was also made into an excellent film with a more mature Sean Connery playing a medieval monk detective. I am going to give you the amazon links for these books as well.

The Eco book was The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

It takes some time to get into because the beginning is very disjointed, like the protagonist’s mind. The premise is that an antiquarian book seller has been in an accident where he doesn’t remember anything about his present life, such as who his wife is, but he remembers quotes from every book he has ever read. He uses these to start to remember snippets of his past life. As he remembers more and more, the narrative smooths out with flashbacks to his life as a young boy and teen at a country house in Italy during the war.

The next book I enjoyed much more. It was a fast paced novel that is a sequel to The Last Templar (also made into a movie). This sequel is The Templar Salvation.

The hero is an FBI man whose archaeologist girlfriend and another archaeologist are kidnapped in Jordan by an Iranian terrorist. We catch up with them in Rome where she is locked in the trunk of a car with a car bomb. Most of the book’s action takes place in Turkey, especially Cappadocia, that fascinating area of volcanic tufa where whole cities were excavated many levels into the ground and dug into the cliff walls and the walls of tufa spires. Tess and Reilly are looking for something the last Templars were eager to hide. The story flashes back to the adventures of the Templars and back to modern times. The somethings turn out to be ancient religious codices. I can’t give you more detail than that without spoiling the story. You can use your imagination as to what codices would be worth killing people over and attract the attention of both the Vatican and a terrorist. It is action packed, has some romance, some history, and is an entertaining read.

The next story I have been listening to as an audio book on cd in the car. My neighbor probably wonders why I am still sitting out in my car after I get home from work. It is People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. The actress who read the book has a great range of accents which adds to the flavor. The protagonist is an Australian woman book conservator who goes to Sarajevo to conserve a rare illuminated Sephardic haggadah. She finds various tantalizing bits as she replaces the bindings: wine stains, blood, an insect wing. They arouse her curiosity about the journey of the book. We have flashbacks to different eras as we follow the book: a young Jewish girl escaping the Nazis, an Austrian bookbinder with syphillis in Vienna, a Venetian rabbi with a gambling problem and a Catholic priest whose parents were crypto-jews. We run into Reyna again, the wealthy Jewish woman philanthropist, with a huge mercantile empire who lived in Venice prior to her flight to Ottoman Turkey. The conservator discovers that she is the daughter of a famous Jewish painter and begins to learn about her Jewish heritage. I am on disc 7 out of 12 and brought the cds in tonight because I don’t think I can wait for my next car ride to find out more.

I find it interesting how the subconscious seems to choose stories with interrelated themes. I read several books recently on Hannah Mendes (AKA Reyna, her Catholic name), and now she shows up as a character in People of the Book. I also just found out about a cool website called NoveList Select from EBSCO. You can type in characters, genres and other things about books that you like. It will suggest other books you might like (better than Amazon!). presents a slide show about how the readers’ advisory service works. Now you don’t need to leave the library empty-handed when the book you wanted is already checked out.


About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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