Short Stories About Books, Reading or Libraries

Books, reading, or libraries play an important part in these stories, or they are important to a main character.

As a reading fan, I’m a bit of a sucker for stories that feature books or libraries. If you are too, you’re sure to find something interesting here. Hope you enjoy!

Baxter’s Procrustes | Charles W. Chesnutt

The Bodleian Club contains mementos from famous authors and rare books, many of which it printed itself. Its members are avid book collectors. The narrator tells us the story of the book that brought the highest price at auction in the club’s history. It was Procrustes, written by one of their own members, Baxter.

This story can be read in the preview of Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature(Pg 4)

Exchange | Ray Bradbury

Miss Adams, the head librarian, stays late to get everything in order. She hears knocking at the front door; a man in uniform wants to come in. She tells him they’re closed. He asks her if she remembers him.

Read “Exchange” (Pg. 159)

An Hour with Abuelo | Judith Ortiz Cofer

Arturo doesn’t want to visit his grandfather in a nursing home during his summer vacation, but he gives in to his mother’s urging. His grandfather’s body is giving out but his mind is sharp. He tells Arturo the story of his life, which included teaching, the army, farming, and a love of books and learning.

Read “An Hour with Abuelo”

Ed Has His Mind Improved | Walter R. Brooks

The narrator tells the story of Willie Pope, who told everyone he had a talking horse, Ed. Of course no one believed him. Willie soon teaches Ed to read. Willie likes things that improve the mind; Ed likes more entertaining stories. Ed becomes a voracious reader. When Willie has to go away on business, Ed runs out of books.

The Kugelmass Episode | Woody Allen

An unhappily married humanities professor, making no progress with his analyst, seeks help from a magician / entertainer. The magician says he can send the man into the world of any book he wants.

Read “The kugelmass Episode”

The Public Library | Isaac Babel

The narrator describes some of the employees and patrons of a public library where books reign supreme.

Read “The Public Library”

“One feels right away that this is the kingdom of books.”

—The Public Library

The Library of Babel | Jorge Luis Borges

The narrator’s universe is a room containing every possible book. Most of them are complete nonsense, but it must also contain all the world’s wisdom and accurate prophecy.

Read “The Library of Babel”

A Continuity of Parks | Julio Cortazar

A man relaxes with a novel that he had started earlier. In it a woman and her lover are scheming against her husband. The man reading becomes immersed in the story.

Read “A Continuity of Parks”

A General in the Library | Italo Calvino

Officials in Panduria decide that books are a threat because they might point out that generals make mistakes and war isn’t always glorious. General Fedina is sent to examine all the books in Panduria’s biggest library. The librarian, Signor Crispino, helps the General and his staff go through the books.

Read “A General in the Library”

“Its cold rooms were crammed to bursting with books, and in parts inaccessible, with some corners only mice could explore. Weighed down by huge military expenditures, Panduria’s state budget was unable to offer any assistance.”

—A General in the Library

Community Life | Lorrie Moore

Olena, a librarian, meets Nick, a political campaigner, and they start a relationship. She misses her parents who were killed in a car crash. Olena keeps to herself a lot, while Nick interacts with many people.

Forewarned | Saki

Alethia has limited interaction with others. Her ideas about life and people were acquired through reading novels. She is going to visit her aunt and cousin. She uses her knowledge from novels to make assumptions about the people she will meet.

Read “Forewarned”

The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository | John Connolly

Mr. Berger leads a dull life. He does his job, has a few interactions with coworkers, and reads. He spends his time enjoying the many books he has. There is a shakeup at work which coincides with the death of his mother. Mr. Berger uses the changes to pursue his desire to write.

Cosmic Corkscrew | Michael A. Burstein

The narrator is sent back to 1938 to make a copy of a rejected story by an unnamed writer. Unknown to Dr. Scheihagen, the narrator adjusts his arrival to three days earlier. He wants to make contact with the writer.

Read “Cosmic Corkscrew”

“. . . despite Scheihagen’s warnings, I wanted to make contact with the subject. When he was alive, whenever I had met him, I had always been a fan; by the time I had made a name for myself in his field, he was long gone.”

—Cosmic Corkscrew

The Bookbinder’s Apprentice | Martin Edwards

Joly, a visitor in Venice, is reading when he is approached by an older man, Sanborn, who admires the book. He invites Joly for a drink where he is introduced to another man, Zuichini, a skilled bookbinder. Joly is leery of his companions but accepts their hospitality.

Read “The Bookbinder’s Apprentice” (scroll down over halfway)

Time Enough At Last | Lynn Venable

Henry Bemis wants to read a whole book. He hasn’t been able to because he just doesn’t have the time. His wife and his work at Eastside Bank & Trust take up every moment. One day at work, he sneaks away to the vault with a magazine in his pocket. His timing turns out to be fortuitous, as he hears a thunderous crash from above.

Read “Time Enough At Last”

“. . . all the noise in the world crashed in upon his ear-drums. . .  Then the concrete floor was rising up at him and the ceiling came slanting down toward him . . .”

—Time Enough at Last