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Literature from Librarians: Great Reads Written by the Experts

Hemlock and After by Angus WilsonThis is a unique reading list – these books were all written by librarians and most of them were recommended to us by librarians. If any profession is well qualified to write books then librarians truly fit the bill.

Librarians are loyal customers of AbeBooks and we tend to listen when they speak. But it was interesting to see so many librarians recommend Casanova’s autobiography – were they trying to tell us something? This famous Italian adventurer and lover was a librarian in the household of the German nobleman Count Waldstein. The authors on this list range from the top dogs at the Library of Congress to folks who have worked at the national libraries of Argentina, France and Sweden, and people who have checked books in and out at public and school libraries.

We decided to exclude Chairman Mao and his Little Red Book. This one-time librarian at Peking University is perhaps the most widely read of all librarians who wrote but it was under extraordinary circumstances (although it is now thought the book was ghostwritten). Our featured book (pictured at left) is Hemlock and After by Angus Wilson, illustrated by Ronald Searle, and was a bestseller in 1952. Wilson was a librarian in the British Museum.

Librarian Lit

Star Man's Son by Andre Norton

Star Man’s Son
Andre Norton

A post-apocalyptic tale from 1952 – Norton was a librarian in Cleveland and the Library of Congress.

Books in My Baggage by Lawrence Clark Powell

Books in My Baggage
Lawrence C. Powell

Clark Powell was a librarian at UCLA and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Jill by Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin

Larkin was a librarian at the University of Hull. Jill is a novel about life in Oxford during WWII.

A Winter's Love by Madeleine L'Engle

A Winter’s Love
Madeleine L’Engle

L’Engle was a volunteer librarian in New York. A scarce novel about a troubled marriage.

Collected Poems by Marianne Moore

Collected Poems
Marianne Moore

This modernist poet, noted for her wit, worked in the New York Public Library in the 1920s.

Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Higher Power of Lucky
Susan Patron

Patron won a Newbery Award for this children’s book. She worked at the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Feud by Thomas Berger

The Feud
Thomas Berger

A novel about conflict in small town 1930s America – Berger was a librarian and journalist.

The Wild Old Wicked Man and Other Poems by Archibald MacLeish

The Wild Old Wicked Man
Archibald MacLeish

MacLeish, Librarian of Congress from 1939-1944, was also a playwright, journalist, lawyer & statesman.

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken

The Giant’s House
Elizabeth McCracken

Written by a former public librarian, this novel (about a librarian) was a National Book Award nominee.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

The Mouse & the Motorcycle
Beverly Cleary

Cleary worked as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington, before writing children’s books.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Dee Brown

An agriculture librarian at the University of Illinois, Brown’s 1971 book remains a non-fiction classic.

Ill-Starred Captains: Flinders and Baudin by Anthony J. Brown

Ill-Starred Captains
Anthony J. Brown

Brown was a former librarian from the State Library of South Australia.

Doctor Brodie's Report by Jorge Luis Borges

Dr Brodie’s Report
Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was a director of Argentina’s National Public Library. This is a collection of 11 short stories.

Miss Julie by August Strindberg

Miss Julie
August Strindberg

Strindberg worked for eight years as an assistant librarian at Sweden’s National Library.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Anne Tyler

This novel was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Tyler is a former librarian and bibliographer.

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Out Stealing Horses
Per Petterson

An ex-librarian & a bookseller, Petterson’s novel was one of the NY Times’ books of the year in 2007.

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

Story of the Eye
Georges Bataille

Histoire de L’Oeil is a controversial novel from 1928. Bataille was an archivist at France’s National Library.

Vertical Poetry by Roberto Juarroz

Vertical Poetry
Roberto Juarroz

Juarroz was head of Bibliotechnology & Informational Science at the University of Buenos Aires.

Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast
Bill Richardson

This Canadian is a Master of Library Science. This book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor.

The Legate's Daughter by Walter Breem

The Legate’s Daughter
Wallace Breem

Breem was a legal manuscripts librarian in London – this novel is a Roman kidnap adventure.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
Laura Amy Schlitz

A novel set in medieval England in 1255. Schiltz is a school librarian in Maryland.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer

A true bookperson, Shaffer worked as a librarian but also in bookselling and publishing.

Story of My Life by Giacomo Casanova

Story of My Life
Giacomo Casanova

This great lover was a librarian in Count Waldstein’s household where he wrote his autobiography.

Chewing the Scenery by Davina Elliott

Chewing the Scenery
Davina Elliott

Davina worked for London’s Westminster Libraries and still volunteers at St James’s Library.

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