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Thursday, December 9, 2010

What I'm Reading: The Night Bookmobile

The Night BookmobileWhile I was frantically finishing my book, I took a short 1 hour break to enjoy The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger.  Niffenegger is one of my favorite authors.  I had previously read and enjoyed this graphic novel when it was serialized in the Guardian in 2008, but it was even more enjoyable in book format.

The book is short but powerful.  Alexandra has a fight with her boyfriend and takes a walk in the middle of the night.  She comes upon a mysterious bookmobile that seems to have every book she has ever read on it.  So begins Alexandra's relationship with the Night Bookmobile and its librarian.

Alexandra is not happy person, but her encounter with the bookmobile inspires her to a career in libraries.  The problem is, she never knows where and when the bookmobile will appear.  She is happiest when in the bookmobile, but how to stay there?  Alexandra must decide where she belongs.

Appeal:  There are so many appeals here.  First, if you love books, reading, and/or libraries, this is the book for you.  This book is all about the power of reading and how it shapes who we are, who we have been, and who we will become. It is also slightly cautionary, but I will leave that thought there so as not to spoil the bittersweet ending.  This is the perfect book for anyone who has ever ignored the world around them to finish a book.  And if you are reading this blog, chances are you fit this description.

Other appeals include: character-centered, thought-provoking, dreamlike, an ending that is 99% closed, bittersweet, steady pace, mysterious, romantic (in the traditional sense), melancholy, detailed Chicago setting, haunting, sad but hopeful.

This graphic novel is a treasure for readers.  It will haunt you long after you put it down.  I would not say this is a happy book, but it is not sad either.  Read it for yourself to see.

Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, haunting, books

Readalikes:  John at the BPL RA desk mentioned that Niffenegger reminded him of Edward Gorey. I liked this suggestion.

The Night Bookmobile was written before Her Fearful Symmetry and I can see how this graphic novel influenced that wonderful novel.  Click here to read what I thought of Her Fearful Symmetry when I first read it last year including a list of readalikes.

For those looking specifically for more graphic novels, Niffenegger's story most reminded me of Joe Hill's Locke and Key Series and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Christopher Ware. I realize those books are on opposite ends of the spectrum for some readers, but they both capture many of the appeals I discussed above.  Also, this illustrates just how unique Niffenegger's work is.

In terms of authors who are most like Niffenegger, I would suggest Neil Gaiman, Hannah Tinti, Diane Setterfield, and Keith Donohue.

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