Big Issue Vendor

Top 5 libraries in books

Stuart Kells, author of The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, records the finest libraries in books.

The Library of Babel

by Jorge Luis Borges

In this captivating short story, Borges describes an infinite library whose interconnected rooms are all the same size, and whose randomly composed books contain every book ever written, and every book that might ever be written. Whole civilisations search the library, until they are driven to despair.

The Name of the Rose

by Umberto Eco

Modelled in part on Borges’ infinite library, the abbey library of Eco’s medieval mystery novel is designed as a labyrinth whose books whisper and murmur to each other over
the centuries. Many of the books contain heresies and other deviations. Access to the labyrinth is closely guarded.

The Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In Zafón’s baroque novel, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a vast, secret library in the heart of old Barcelona. Daniel Sempere is allowed to take a book from the library, but only if he promises to protect it for his whole life.

The Light Fantastic

by Terry Pratchett

At Unseen University on Pratchett’s Discworld, the orangutan librarian is a temperamental but formidable protector of the library’s rules, and the physical properties of the universe. The library’s magical and mischievous books struggle against their chains.

The Night Bookmobile

by Audrey Niffenegger

Every person is assigned a Tardis-like Bookmobile that is carefully curated by a departed soul and that contains every book the person has ever read or grazed or dipped into.

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells is out now (Text Publishing, £12.99)