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