It is my absolute pleasure to welcome Anna James to my blog today for my stop on the Pages & Co Blog Tour, talking about her favourite fictional librarians and booksellers…
Bookwandering is the ability to literally travel inside of books; but in the world of Pages & Co this can only happen inside bookshops or libraries, where the power of books is at its most potent. Apart from inside books, most of the story takes place in two main settings; Pages & Co bookshop, where my heroine Tilly lives, and the British Underlibrary, a secret library which is the hub of British bookwandering.
I love books about bookshops and libraries, and booksellers and librarians, although librarians are often ill-served in books and pop culture. I wanted to write some librarians who weren’t just shush-ing clichés, which is why I created Amelia Whisper, the Chief Librarian at the Underlibrary. Here are some of my other favourite fictional bookish sorts.
1. Henry de Tamble from The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my all time favourite novels: I’ve reread it more than almost any other book I own. Henry, one of the central two characters, is a librarian at the real life Newberry Library in Chicago, and also one of my longest lasting literary crushes. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Chicago and meet Audrey Niffenegger a few years ago, who took me to some of the real places in Chicago that are in the book, including the Newberry. I felt like I was bookwandering myself (before I’d even invented the word bookwandering!)
2. Mr. Penumbra from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
One of the ultimate books about books; this manages to be a celebration of traditional bookselling and tumbledown bookshops while also being a call to embrace new technologies and communities. It’s also an absolutely brilliant hipster (I mean this as a compliment!) mystery book – I’d also really recommend his most recent book, Sourdough, which has a similar vibe but is about food rather than books. At the heart of the book is the titular bookseller who owns a strange bookshop with very few customers and some very unusual books that seem to be in code, which our hero stumbles across after getting fired from his tech job.
3. The Librarian from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
The first thing to mention about the Librarian at the Unseen University is that he is an orangutan, due to some magic gone awry. He is however quite happy as an orangutan and in fact refuses to be changed back, finding the extra climbing skills and dextrous feet useful for his work. Not a main character (I don’t think) in any of the Discworld books, he makes regular cameos in the Library but also serving a brief stint in the City Watch, as a keyboard player in Soul Music, and as the organist at the University.
4. Senor Sempere from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Shadow of the Wind is a favourite read of mine (I’ve way overdue a reread and the final book in the series being published imminently is maybe the motivation I need). Set in Barcelona in the 1930s, everything starts at Sempere and Sons, the bookshop owned by Daniel and his widowed father, a hub of resistance in a politically fraught country. The Shadow of the Wind is all about the magic, and power, of words and books and when the body of a writer is found dead it sets Daniel off a journey which takes him to the secretive Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where you can choose one forgotten book…
5. Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Please excuse me this not-really-a-book-character librarian because how could I make a list of my favourite fictional librarians without including Giles. And there have been enough novelisations and graphic novels about Buffy the Vampire Slayer for him to count anyway. Although he does often slip into some librarian clichés, for Giles I can forgive it. He’s smart, caring, incredibly loyal and pulls off a cardigan admirably. And with his love of secret communities, I think he’d make an excellent librarian at the British Underlibrary.
Huge thanks to Anna for this wonderful guest post. I think I’d have to agree with Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and I’d add Mr Lemoncello from Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabstien; he is to Libraries what Willy Wonka is to chocolate factories.
Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James was published on 18th September 2018 £12.99 hardback, and is available from all good bookshops now. You can read my review here.
About The Author…
Anna James is a writer and journalist living in London who was Book News Editor at The Bookseller magazine and was Literary Editor of Elle UK. Anna has also written for The Pool, The LA Times, The Financial Times and The Independent, as well as making bookish YouTube videos as A Case For Books. She hosts literary events and panels and is the co-founder and host of the YA Salon in London. Anna was shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Award for Women in Publishing in 2015, and the London Book Fair Trailblazers Award in 2016.
Huge thanks to Sam from HarperCollins for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers. Do make sure you check out all of the stops.