Off the Shelf

Book Recommendations featuring Librarians by Carol Urban


This month, we bring you six titles of well-reviewed books about the too-often unsung heroes of the world of books — Librarians!

The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes
Historical fiction (2019)

“Based on the true story of the Pack Horse Library initiative — a Works Progress Administration project that ran from 1935 to 1943 and turned women and their steeds into bookmobiles — Moyess characters travel into the remote Eastern Kentucky mountains to deliver learning to the most isolated residents.” The Washington Post

The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray
Historical fiction (2021)

“As the personal librarian to financier J.P.Morgan, Belle Da Costa Greene pursued and curated a collection of rare books, manuscripts and art that became world-renowned. What the world didn’t know was that Belle Da Costa Greene was Black. Widely recognized as an authority on illuminated manuscripts and deeply respected as a cultural heritage executive, Greene was one of the most prominent librarians in American history.” NPR

Note: To mark its 2024 centenary, the Morgan Library & Museum in NYC will present a major exhibition devoted to the life and career of Belle da Costa Greene.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
Non-fiction (2016)

“While Europe was still groping its way through the dark ages, Timbuktu was a beacon of intellectual enlightenment, and probably the most bibliophilic city on earth. …That ancient literary heritage, and the threat it faces from radical Islam, is the subject of this part history, part scholarly adventure story and part journalistic survey of the volatile religious politics of the Maghreb region.” The New York Times

The Librarianist, by Patrick de Witt
Fiction (2023)

“A bittersweet tale of a retired librarian. Its 2005 in Portland, Ore., but Bob Comet, 71, is stuck in the past. One day, he follows a lost elderly woman out of a convenience store. From her name tag, he deduces she is from the local senior center and returns her there. After a tour, Bob decides to volunteer, soon bonds with a motley group of seniors, and gradually shares details of his life. …[The author] imbues the people Bob meets with color and quirks, leaving a trail of sparks through an otherwise low-key narrative.” Publishers Weekly

The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles
Historical fiction (2020)

“[The author] worked at the American Library in Paris, where she learned of the remarkable selflessness and bravery of the librarians during the Occupation. She has woven a fascinating tale, based on true events and historical characters. The prose contains many memorable quotes about books and libraries. This could be just one more in the recent influx of novels about Paris, but it is so very much more! A true gem for all historical fiction readers.” Historical Novel Society

The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe
YA Historical fiction (2012)

“Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. Fourteen-year-old Dita …is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp, when Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks her to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards. She agrees and so becomes ‘the librarian of Auschwitz.’ Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history come this extraordinary story of courage and hope.” OverDrive


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