Author and Scarborough Resident Bob Minzesheimer's Top Five Books About Books

The Scarborough bibliophile on his five favorite books about books




Bob Minzesheimer, who writes about books and their authors for USA Today, has a literary address: he lives on Revolutionary Road in Scarborough, the same street Revolutionary Road author Richard Yates lived on as a kid. Here, Minzesheimer describes his five favorites books about books.


1) The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)
This “hilarious and pointed” novella imagines a modern-day queen of England who happens upon a mobile library and becomes a serious reader, much to the consternation of her aides and the prime minister. “It’s a political and literary satire,” Minzesheimer says, “as well as a lovely lesson in the redemptive and subversive power of reading.”


2) Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (Anne Fadiman)
Minzesheimer says this “delightful” collection of 18 essays has much to recommend it. Penned by the daughter of “one of the great old men of books,” Clifton Fadiman—he was among the first judges for the Book-of-the-Month Club—it “celebrates her family’s love affair with books and words.”

 


3) 84 Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff)
Adapted as a play and movie, 84 Charing Cross Road recreates the author’s 20-year correspondence with Frank Doel, a London bookseller. While the two never met, they became the best of friends, with Doel shipping scores of old books to Hanff in New York. “Amazon.com may have low prices and computerized reading recommendations,” Minzesheimer says, “but I would never consider it a real friend.”


4) Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (Mark Garvey)
“After fifty years,” says Minzesheimer, “The Elements of Style remains the best little guidebook to writing.” (The guide’s most useful—and ignored—piece of advice? “Omit needless words,” he opines.) Minzesheimer describes Garvey’s anecdotal history as a love letter to the book and its co-authors, Cornell professor William Strunk, Jr., and his former student E.B. White, the great essayist and children’s novelist who grew up in Mount Vernon.

5) Scout, Atticus and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird (Mary McDonagh Murphy)
Yes, Minzesheimer says, this favorite happens to be by his wife. Murphy has written a social history of Harper Lee’s first and only novel through interviews with what Minzesheimer calls the “ultimate book club,” including Anna Quindlen, Wally Lamb, Oprah Winfrey, and Tom Brokaw. “Scout, Atticus and Boo celebrates the novel’s grace, humor, and value,” he adds.

 

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