CPL 150: Fiction Featuring Libraries

This year Chicago Public Library turns 150. We’ll be celebrating our anniversary all year long, but to kick things off, let’s get meta and highlight fiction featuring libraries. There is something oddly satisfying about checking a book out from the library... about the library.

The Shadow of the Wind is set in Francoist, post-civil war Spain. A boy visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and finds solace in one of its volumes, only to discover that the author’s other works are being systematically destroyed. This one is particularly relevant to those interested in conversations on censorship.

Jenny Offill's sparse and poignant novel Weather is narrated by a college librarian whose musings on climate change and political dysphoria are broken up by students’ reference questions.

Ficciones is a collection of short stories by beloved Argentine author (and librarian!) Jorge Luis Borges. In his famous story “The Library of Babel,” Borges constructs a library of books containing every possible permutation of letters. While all the world's wisdom is said to be contained in the library, the sheer volume of information renders it unusable. Did Borges predict the internet in 1941?

In The Midnight Library, a woman suffering from depression is transported to a library where each book allows her to try out one in a series of lives she could have lived, had she made different choices.

The dark comedy Meiselman details the workplace maneuverings of an aggrieved librarian as he attempts to finally gain recognition by hosting a controversial author for a book talk. Bonus points for being set in Chicago’s suburbs.

Here's something completely different: in A Discovery of Witches, a witch-librarian discovers an enchanted manuscript and attracts the attention of various vampires and demons. Fun!

For more recommendations, check out Libraries in Fiction and Out of the Stacks: Fantastical Library Adventures.

 If you could visit any fictional library, which would it be?