Here are libraries modest, mobile, mystical (Borges of course) and magical (Helen Oyeyemi’s enchanting ‘Books and Roses’); public and private, provincial and prestigious. Little that happen in Elizabeth McCracken’s eccentric library did not happen in real life – even down to the murder; and it is rumoured that on 3 June 1997 the British Museum Reading Room really was visited by the ghost of Max Beerbohm’s obscurest of poets, Enoch Soames…
Fiction and reality merge in Cortazar’s ‘A Continuity of Parks’. Characters step out of their books in Fay Weldon’s ‘Lily Bart’s Hat Shop’, while Jasper Fforde’s Jurisfiction operatives enter Wuthering Heights to deliver a Rage-Counselling session. Charles Lamb muses on the annoying book-borrowing habits of Samuel Taylor Coleridge; the teenage Teffi is overawed by Tolstoy; Helene Hanff in Manhattan launches her famous correspondence with a London antiquarian bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road.
Reading, as the Queen informs an appalled private secretary, is ‘untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting’. And also, of course, a lot of fun. Sit comfortably, then, and begin.