Mad about books about books: a reading list

Paperbacks USA back - britishNot only do we love reading books, but also like reading books about books—from literary biographies to books about book design, and those occasional gems: books by and about publishers.

Here’s a list of the ‘books about books’ sitting our bookshelves.

Feel free to share your own favourites in the comments section below!

  • The Adventure of Publishing by Michael Joseph (Allan Wingate, 1959)
  • All Authors are Equal by Fredric Warburg (Hutchinson & Co, 1973)
  • The Art and Science of Book Publishing by Herbert S. Bailey (Ohio University Press, 1990)
  • Binding and finishing by Geoff Potter (Blueprint, 1988)
  • Bloomsbury: a house of lions by Leon Edel (The Hogarth Press, 1979)
  • The Book of Paperbacks: a visual history of the paperback book by Piet Schreuders (Virgin Books, 1981)
  • The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petrovski (Vintage, 1999)
  • The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: letters between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952–73 edited by John Saumarez Smith (Frances Lincoln, 2005)
  • Business_of_books_PB-6b4f6fcb6cf86615a733893dfa59e024

    A must-read if you want to understand the modern trade

    The Business of Books: how the international conglomerates took over publishing and changed the way we read by André Schiffrin (Verso, 2001)

  • A Certain Style: Beatrice Davis, a literary life by Jacqueline Kent (Penguin Books, 2001)
  • The Censor’s Library: Uncovering the lost history of Australia’s banned books by Nicole Moore (UQP, 2012)
  • A Feeling for Books: the Book-of-the-Month Club, literary taste, and middle-class desire by Janice A Radway (The University of North Carolina Press, 1997)
  • The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France by Robert Darnton (HarperCollins, 1996)
  • Foyles: a celebration by Penny Mountain with Christopher Foyle (Foyles Books, 2003)
  • Gaston Gallimard: a half century of French publishing by Pierre Assouline (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988)
  • A Gentleman Publisher’s Commonplace Book by John G. Murray (John Murray, 1996)
  • George Robertson: a publishing life in letters by Anthony Barker (UQP, 1993)
  • The Girl in the Fiction Department: a portrait of Sonia Orwell by Hilary Spurling (Penguin, 2003)
  • Gluttony, Pride and Lust and other sins from the world of books compiled by Michael Turner and Michael Geare (Collins, 1984)
  • One of our favourites – the story of the Olympia Press, which published Nabokov’s Lolita and a lot of other ‘dirty books’ is a riot.

    The Good Ship  Venus: the erotic adventures of the Olympia Press by John de St Jorre (Pimlico, 1995)

  •  Grub Street Stripped Bare: the scandalous lives sand pornographic works of the original Grub Street writers by Philip Pinkus (Constable & Company, 1968)
  • The Hill of Content: books, art, music, people by A. H. Spencer (Angus & Robertson, 1959)
  • The House of Harper: the making of a modern publisher by Eugene Exman (Harper Perennial, 2010)
  • How to Market Books (4th ed.) by Alison Baverstock (Kogan Page, 2008)
  • The Invisible Art: the pursuit of book making by Christopher Hurst (C. Hurst & Co, 2002)
  • Jonathan Cape, Publisher by Michael S. Howard (Jonathan Cape, 1971)
  • The KGB’s Literary Archive by Vitaly Shentalinsky (The Harvill Press, 1995)
  • Left Bank Waltz: the Australian bookshop in Paris by Elaine Lewis (Vintage, 2006)
  • The Little Bookroom: gift years with children’s books by Jeffrey Prentice (Braidwood press, 2010)
  • The Making of a Publisher: a life in the twentieth century book revolution by Victor Weybright (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968)
  • Max Perkins: editor of genius by A. Scott Berg (Hamish Hamilton, 1979)
  • Memoirs of a Libel Lawyer by Peter Carter-Ruck (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1990)
  • Michael Joseph: master of words by Richard Joseph (Ashford Press Publishing, 1986)
  • Milli Milli Wangka: the Indigenous Literature of Australia by Mudrooroo (Hyland House, 1997)
  • My Life in Print by Michael Zifcak (Lothian Books, 2006)
  • Now, Barabbas by William Jovanovich (Longmans, 1965)
  • Warburg was publisher of George Orwell’s greatest works.

    An Occupation for Gentlemen by Fredric Warburg (Hutchinson & Co, 1959)

  • Oscar’s Books by Thomas Wright (Chatto & Windus, 2008)
  • Paper Empires: a history of the book in Australia 1946–2005 edited by Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahn-Bright (UQP, 2005)
  • Passion’s Fortune: the story of Mills and Boon by Joseph McAleer (OUP, 1999)
  • Penguin by Design: a cover story 1935–2005 by Phil Baines (Penguin/Allen Lane, 2005)
  • Penguin Portrait: Allen Lane and the Penguin editors 1935–1970 edited by Steve Hare (Penguin, 1995)
  • Philip Larkin, the Marvell Press and Me by Jean Hartley (The Sumach Press, 1993)
  • The Secret Life of Words: How English became English by Henry Hitchings (John Murray, 2009)
  • Stet: an editor’s life by Diana Anthill (Granta Books, 2001)
  • The Story of Writing by Andrew Robinson (Thames & Hudson, 1995)
  • Trafficking in Old Books by Anthony Marshall (Lost Domain, 1998)
  • The Trial of Lady Chatterly: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited, edited by C. H. Rolph (Penguin, 1961)
  • Sir Stanley Unwin’s memoir is one of the great publishing stories.

    The Truth about a Publisher by Sir Stanley Unwin (George Allen & Unwin, 1960)

  • The Truth About Publishing by Sir Stanley Unwin (George Allen & Unwin, 1960)
  • UQP: the writers’ press 1948–1998 edited by Craig Munro (UQP, 1998)
  • Victor Gollancz: a biography by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Gollancz, 1987)