Every book lover I know shares a strong reverence for librarians. They are more than the caretakers of books. They tend the garden which fosters our love of reading.
In this list of great books about librarians, you’ll also find them doing host of other things like: being feminists before their time, bucking racial and social constructs, bravely guarding books, solving mysteries, saving lost souls (including their own), finding love, having shoot-outs and keeping the magic alive.
Who knew that librarians could do all of that? Well, in these librarian books, they definitely do that and more. So, get ready to load up your TBR with these 21 awesome reads.
There are also lots of books about libraries, and obviously libraries feature heavily in the books that I’m recommending below. But I’ve edited these collection for books that feature librarians as leading protagonists of the action.
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Librarians in Fiction
The librarians in these fictional stories are tender, heroic folks, trying to find their way in the world…and also solving crimes accompanied by their cats.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
This book was inspired by the Packhorse Library Project. It was a 1930’s WPA program that sent librarians deep into Appalachia to deliver reading materials to the remote communities.
In this book, 19 year old Cussy Carter is hired to be one such librarian. Her route is complicated enough, what with slippery creek beds and steep mountain terrain. But she also has to contend with folks are are suspicious of the government program, and who are more focused on getting food on the table than learning how to read.
Her life is complicated by the fact that she is a descendant of the Blue Fugate Family. This lineage was affected by a genetic trait that gives her skin a blue hue. At a time when color conferred social status, she experiences a range of discrimination and maltreatment because of her condition.
The book has some lovely themes of perseverance, agency and finding ones-self.
Read it for book club and use our Troublesome Creek discussion guide to get the conversation started.
The Giver of Stars, by JoJo Moyes
Moyes has also written a book featuring the Packhorse Librarians. In it, Englishwoman Alice marries an American in a bid to escape from England. But Alice finds life in small-town Kentucky equally stifling and she chafes at her father-in-law’s strict rules. So, she signs up for the program as a way to broaden her world and find purpose.
She meets and befriends a cadre of librarians who are strong, independent and ahead of their time. Through her work, she finds friendship, freedom, a way to belong and coping mechanisms for bucking the prevailing patriarchy.
This book is also part of Reese’s book club.
If this whole librarians on horses thing is your wheelhouse, we also have a whole article with 10 books featuring horseback riding librarians.
The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Belle da Costa Green was far more than a librarian. She was hired by J.P. Morgan to curate his collection of books, manuscripts and artworks, which were housed in the newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. She became a formidable collector and curator, and a captivating fixture on the New York society scene. However, Belle was hiding a secret. She was not the White woman that New York (and Morgan) saw, but rather, Belle was Black. Her family had moved to New York, hoping to pass as White in order to gain a more secure economic life.
This book is a fictionalized account of her life as an extraordinary librarian, curator, lover and “passing” person of Color at a time when it was quite dangerous to do so.
If you chose to recommend it for your book club, we also have a discussion guide for The Personal Librarian.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue, by Fiona Davis
This historical mystery is set in the same timeframe as the Personal Librarian. The lead character Laura Lyon, also chafes against strict societal roles by striking out for an education at Columbia and a role in an underground feminist suffragette organization. Things get complicated when some rare books are stolen from the New York main branch library where her husband works.
In the modern-day timeframe, Laura’s grandaughter Sadie is a curator at the NYPL when yet more books and manuscripts go missing. Her investigation turns up some old family secrets.
The book has a great mix of library setting, female empowerment and mystery.
The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe
(Translated by Lilit Thwaites.)
The protagonist, 14 year-old Dita Kraus, is another librarian in fiction who is based upon an actual person. The setting is WWII Auschwitz. Some of the prisoners have managed to sneak in precious books. And Freddy, the man in charge of keeping an eye on the children, entrusts Dita to be the librarian of the forbidden books.
“They are holding something that is absolutely forbidden in Auschwitz. These items, so dangerous that their mere possession is a death sentence, cannot be fired, nor do they have a sharp point, a blade, or a heavy end. These items, which the relentless guards of the Reich fear so much, are nothing more than books: old, unbound, with missing pages, and in tatters.”
And yet, Dita took her job seriously and shared the books under the most dangerous of circumstances.
The Library of Lost and Found, by Phaedra Patrick
The title of this book is a bit deceiving because it’s really more about the librarian, than the library. Librarian Martha Storm is very stuck in life. She’s so focused on helping other people (who don’t appreciate her), that she has lost herself. But then she finds a book that houses her dead grandmother’s fantastical stories. And there’s a clue in the book that leads Martha to believe that her grandmother is still alive.
She goes on a quest to find her grandmother, and finds herself in the process. The book delivers on lots of good feels, while also not flinching away from fraught family dynamics and depression.
The Paris Library, Janet Skeslein Charles
The Paris Library is a crossover between WWII fiction and bibliophilic fiction. Although it’s based upon real people who worked in the library.
In the book, Odile is a librarian at the American Library in Paris. The library comes under attack for housing the (long) list of banned books and also providing subscription services for people that the Nazis disapprove of. Odile and her co-worker resist and while they survive the war, she bears scars.
We meet Odile again in 1983, where she is now living in Montana. She and her neighbor Lily become friends and Odile begins to trust Lily with her story.
The book’s theme cover love, loss, longing and (always) the love of books.
Check out our list of books set in Paris, it also includes fiction set in Parisian bookstores.
Close Enough to Touch, by Coleen Oakley
Librarian Jubilee Jenkins has a rare allergy to human touch and any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. Because of this, she retreats into a life of solitude. But when her mother dies, she has to head out into the world and seek gainful employment– which she finds at the local library.
While there, she meets recently divorced Eric and his troubled young son. What follows are some lessons on love, friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone. This book is full of all the feels.
What You Wish For, by Katherine Center
Samantha loves her job as a school librarian. But, she is surprised when Duncan is hired as the new school Principal. She knew (and obsessively loved) him in a previous life, but it was unrequited. Now, he’s taken over at her school, and is hell-bent on bringing stricter policies (and subsequently less joy). And Sam is going to fight him on it.
The book has heartwarming themes of community, second chances and finding joy.
Checked Out (#1 Village Library), by Elizabeth Spann Craig
There is a whole sub-genre of librarian books that feature murder in the stacks and crime solving cats.
Craig’s Village Library series is one of the more well-rated of these cozy mystery books. In Checked Out, librarian Ann Beckett rescues a drowning cat, which ultimately becomes part of the library. Her blind date however, doesn’t fare so well. When he missed the date, Ann finds out that he’s been murdered. She puts on her Nancy Drew hat to figure what happened.
If you like it, there are 4 in the series to keep you busy.
Murder Past Due (#1 Cat in the Stacks), by Miranda James
But wait…we have more library cats for you. This one is Diesel, and he lives and works with librarian Charlie Harris. When Charlie’s frenemy (a bestselling author) comes to town for an event, things take a dark turn when the author turns up dead. There are way too many suspects and Charlie and Diesel wade in to try to find the murderer.
There are 14 total books in this kind-hearted (but deadly) series.
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (#1 Magical Cats Mystery), by Sofie Kelly
This genre-bender combines a cozy cat librarian murder mystery series (like the two above) with a fantasy element (more of those below). In this series, the cats are two strays who moved in with librarian Kathleen. But rather than simply providing support and companionship (like the cats above), these magical felines actually help her solve murders.
In this first of 13 books, Kathleen finds herself the prime suspect when she discovers the body of a local musical conductor. She decides to take matters into her own hands by going sleuthing with the aid of her magical cats. The cats seems to really know what’s what and they provide helpful guidance for Kathleen.
Spec Fic, Magical & Fantasy Librarian Books
Because of course libraries are a portal to another dimension. They are dangerous places–full of life-changing knowledge, portals to alternative dimensions and keepers of lore. So, obvs, there are lots of books featuring librarians who are magical and fantastical.
The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
Haig’s book takes an unflinching look at all of the “what ifs” of our lives. The main character Nora lands in the library after an attempted suicide. The Librarian, offers Nora a series of second (third, fourth etc) chances to choose another version of her life. What if Nora had become a competitive swimmer? What if she had remained in the band? The library’s books give her that opportunity to explore those options…but Nora has to make a choice.
Mrs. Elm is the librarian of the story and she is the perfect guide, nudge and somewhat cranky enigmatic mother figure for Nora.
If you want to suggest it for book club, we’ve also got a Midnight Library discussion guide for it. The bottom of that article also includes three suggested readalikes for the book.
The Librarian (#1 The Librarian Chronicles), by Christy Sloat
This book is like Outlander but less swordplay, more books, and a more manageable page count. But you still get the time travel element, a hunky gent and lots of “will they, won’t they”.
When Emme inherits the role of librarian from her Gran, little does she know that the library holds a cache of ancient magical books (and also a magical librarian ring, because why not). When Emme looks into one of the books, she finds herself transported to England in 1892, where she meets the handsome Jack Ridgewell. A memorable adventure ensues…and sparks fly.
This is the first in a series of books that feature stories of different librarians who each have a similar time-traveling power.
The Invisible Library (Invisible Library #1), by Genevieve Cogman
In this fun series, we meet Irene, who is a librarian-slash-international spy sent out by the Invisible Library to retrieve dangerous books that have been lost or stolen. Visualize a librarian hell bent on getting back that overdue book. But also with magical shenanigans, steampunk machinery, a dastardly villain and a (literally) hot assistant, all set in a Victorian(ish) London.
If you say “yes please” to that, then clear your calendar because there are 8 books in the series.
Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey
How about some gun-toting, lesbian librarians running an underground railroad for women who don’t fit into a straightjacketed life designed for “chaste and morally upright women”.
This speculative fiction book imagines a near future Southern US that looks a lot like the Old West. There’s a great deal of poverty, fascist control over reading materials, toxic patriarchy and queer-phobia. The lead character Esther runs away from an impending arranged marriage and she stows away in the Librarian’s wagon.
The book has plenty of gunfights, but it’s also a moving and painful account of coming to terms with who you are in a world where your very existence is outlawed.
Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1), by Laini Taylor
“He wasn’t an alchemist, or a hero. He was a librarian, and a dreamer. He was a reader, and the unsung expert on a long-lost city no one cared a thing about.”
Meet Lazlo Strange, a junior librarian who dreams of the mythical, long forgotten lost city of Weep. He’s obsessed with finding out what happened to the city. He spends time researching Weep and he longs to visit some day. He’s a bold dreamer and he hopes to go on a magical journey that will makes his dreams come true.
The book is rich with world-building and has themes of romance, guilt, race and acceptance, how we aren’t the sum of our parent’s mistakes and how it’s never too late to do good.
If you like the book, there is a second in the series.
Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1), by Jim C. Hines
Johannes Gutenberg not only invented the printing press, but apparently he also founded a secret society of magical librarians called Libriomancers, who can reach into books and pull out objects.
Protagonist Isaac Vainio gets more than he bargained for when he realizes that a dark force has been pulling vampires out of books. Isaac and the dryad Lena are tasked with solving the mystery of the vampire attacks, while also trying to find the kidnapped Gutenberg.
The Dragon Librarian (Scrolls of Fire #1), Marc Secchia
According to the author, “If you ever want to see what a dragon gets up to in a library, look no further!”. This dragon library houses, Arkurion the Mercury Blue, who is a librarian of the draconic scrolls. And the protagonist is Auli-Ambar, a blind orphan who works in the stacks.
When she unwittingly breaches the protective wards in the library, Arkurion finds out that Auli-Ambar has a very rare and special power. Throughout the story, she transforms from an abused girl into a young lady who has a remarkable influence in the dragon world. But she develops some enemies along the way.
The book is a long, chewy read and if you like it, there is another in the series.
Non-Fiction Books About Librarians
The fictitious librarians above are great, but real librarians are heroes. Here are 2 books about real librarians who kick ass, are true to themselves and hold their own against some pretty strong odds.
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer
This is one of the most amazing true books about librarians that you’ll find. These librarians were not quietly shelving books and helping old ladies learn how to use a computer. Rather, they were roaming around the desert of northwestern Africa, chasing down ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity.
In 2012, when thousands of Al Qaeda militants took over Mali and Timbuktu, they threatened to destroy 350,000 precious manuscripts. Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara led an effort to smuggle the works out of Timbuktu. Visualize a bunch of manuscripts on donkeys and hidden in the trunks of cars and you’ll get the picture.
The book covers that effort and also gives a broader overview of the affect that the Al Qaeda invasion had on the region.
The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Book Lover’s Adventures, by Josh Hanagarne
Josh Hanagarne is a librarian in Salt Lake City (which bytheway has a very lovely downtown main branch, should you find yourself in town). He’s also afflicted with a serious case of Tourette’s Syndrome, which is characterized by physical tics, twitching and vocal outbursts. When his symptoms escalated in his 20’s, he tried all manner of remedy to tame it.
It wasn’t until he was advised by an eccentric, Autistic strongman to take up weight training, that Hanagarne got his symptoms under control. He delivers his memoir of strength and librarianship with great humor and self-deprecation.
NEED BOOK CLUB IDEAS?
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More Book Ideas
We have a whole series of book lists that will help you fill your TBR. Here are a few recent one:
- 20 imminently listenable audiobook memoirs, read by the author.
- 20 bewitching books about magical schools.
- 18 books about elephants.
- 20 chilly books set in the winter.
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