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Top 5 books about books as chosen by MJ Nicholls

Novels on composition from the world's insatiable readers

Mulligan Stew
Gilbert Sorrentino

A rigorously hilarious handbook on writing and writers in the form of an acerbic, innovative comic novel. The intricately hewn novel-within-the-novel is a parodic masterclass of bad writing. An education in itself that outclasses most ‘how to’ writing guides.

My Back Pages
Steven Moore

One of the finest American critics and a voraciously insatiable reader. In this collection of essays and reviews spanning several decades, Moore champions original and challenging literature – from William Gaddis and Alexander Theroux to neglected marginals Chandler Brossard and Brigid Brophy – with unstinting exuberance.   

A Temple of Texts
William H Gass

A master of the melodic sentence, novelist and essayist Gass brings a swinging, sensuous style to illuminate the efforts of others. Gass stands up for attentive, exuberant language and playful forms, showcasing a vast range of Latin American, Scottish, and American über-brains.

The Book of Lost Books
Stuart Kelly

An act of rabid and loving bibliophilia, Kelly tells the tales of unfinished manuscripts, most interrupted by death in a witty and pellucid manner. From Homer to Georges Perec this is an epic sweep of encyclopaedic references and old-world scholarship.

Double or Nothing
Raymond Federman

Perhaps the finest novel on the composition of itself, Federman’s work is a blueprint for bold and fresh approaches to telling stories, without sacrificing humour, emotional intensity or formal ambition. This noodle-obsessed novel is one of the few universally accessible ‘avant-garde’ texts in existence.

The 1002nd Book to Read Before You Die by MJ Nicholls
The 1002nd Book to Read Before You Die by MJ Nicholls is out now (Sagging Meniscus Press, £12.99)