September is a great month for the literary holidays. It’s World Kid Lit Month, celebrating children’s books in translation. September 6 is National Read a Book Day, the eighth is International Literacy Day and Banned Books Week is September 26 to October 2.
Right now, I’m focusing on September as National Library Card Sign-Up Month!
As a children’s librarian, I’m biased about how great libraries are, but I’m definitely not the only one who thinks so. Here are five books about amazing libraries and librarians to help you celebrate.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
First up, both alphabetically and in age, is Matilda! If you aren’t familiar with the book (or the incredible 1996 movie), Matilda is a little girl who learns to read at three and a half and finishes her library’s children’s collection at four and three months. The library is a necessary haven away from her parents. Matilda also shares a love of books with her teacher, Miss Honey. As a kid, this was the perfect book for me.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
Esther stows away on the Librarian’s book wagon to escape an arranged marriage after the woman she loved was publicly executed for “deviance.” Officially, the Librarians deliver “approved materials” created by the state to the small towns clinging to the countryside. In reality, they’re radical queer spies on horseback. They distribute the government’s propaganda while promoting the resistance and smuggling packages and people throughout the country.
Upright Women Wanted is a super fun, very queer alternative future Western novella. These are librarians rebelling against state control in ways many wish they could. And, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I love everything Sarah Gailey writes.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
When Nora Seed commits suicide, she wakes up not in heaven or hell but the Midnight Library. Like so many other mystical libraries, it’s immense and maybe endless. It’s filled with nothing but books and shelves and Nora’s school librarian. Each book contains the story of another reality; one tells of her life as it happened, while the others contain every life she could have lived if she made different choices along the way.
The Midnight Library is a little different in that, although there are books, it’s really more of a metaphor. A library is the perfect setting to celebrate both the ordinary and the infinite possibilities of stories.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Carolyn and her adopted family study the seemingly endless knowledge of an immortal being they call “Father.” The lessons they learn in the library are terrifying and powerful. Each sibling is in charge of a catalog of knowledge — healing, mathematics, the dead, or in Carolyn’s case, language — and they’ve studied so intently they’ve acquired a complete mastery almost like magic. After Father goes missing, they must decide whether to use their knowledge to find him or tear down everything he tried to create.
To say The Library at Mount Char is strange and alarming would be an understatement. It’s incredibly dark and not for the squeamish, but at its core is the pursuit of knowledge and what happens when you go too far to attain it.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
When Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a misshelved book in his university’s library, he’s startled to come across a passage that intimately describes a moment from his own childhood. Desperate for answers, he sets off on a quest that leads from his university to a masquerade in New York and, eventually, to the Starless Sea.
It’s a sort of endless library, home to books and stories of all kinds. It also has its own destiny: to destroy itself so that, reborn like a phoenix, the current stories can finish and new ones begin.
The Starless Sea references and then rejects older stories by making them its own. Erin Morgenstern mentions The Shadow of the Wind, The Little Stranger and The Long Goodbye, among others. Characters joke about Narnia when traveling through wardrobes and Alice in Wonderland while falling through time and space. Everyone in The Starless Sea is a lover of stories, and a library is a perfect place for this story to begin.
There are also some great non-fiction books about the history of libraries. If you’re interested in that, check out the following:
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
Where Are All the Librarians of Color? by Rebecca Hawkins and Miguel Juarez
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers by Binnie Tate Wilkin
Celebrate National Library Card Sign-Up Month with lots and lots of books. Check them out from your library and enjoy!
This article was originally published on 9/10/21.