The Very Best Books About Books and Stories Within Stories

orangutan list

One of my absolute favourite tropes in books is stories within stories and today I’m gonna share some of my faves!


The Neverending Story– I don’t talk about how much I *love* this book often enough. This fantasy does more than take the reader on a journey through a story- it brings life to the idea of falling in love with reading.


Fahrenheit 451– starting with a sizzling read about how books can set you free, this is easily one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– this heartfelt story tells of how books can bring people together in the darkest times.

book thief

The Book Thief– clue’s in the title 😉 One thing I love about this book (and there’s a lot to love) is how it shows the redemptive power of books. What starts as book thievery soon becomes so much more- it becomes a reversal of the quote: “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too”.

shadow of the wind

Shadow of the Wind– this is more than a mystery- it’s a mystery that revolves around a book. A love affair with a book that starts in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, this is an utterly unique tale that’s perfect for any reader.

broken things

Broken Things– likewise, this is a mystery. Yet, in this case it’s a fundamentally personal story of how you can be bonded through a shared narrative and how you can grow up with an idea. The book itself is woven so tightly with the fictional novel that you’ll scarcely know where one begins and the other ends.

hazel wood

Hazel Wood– another case of a fictional collection of stories, here we get to explore these complex gothic fairy tales. Though written for this book, the Hinterland stories have their own authenticity. They are, in their own right, cleverly constructed and rich in meaning.

ten thousand doors of january

Ten Thousand Doors of January- here, the book within the book has a special purpose. It opens up worlds within worlds. What’s special here is how it adds another layer to an already layered tale. Ultimately, these stories mean more than you might first realise.

eliza and her monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters– I’m changing things up with a web comic that marries fantasy and reality. Eliza is a special book for many reasons- not least the fun illustrations. What I really liked was how this comic allows more themes to enter the story- including mental health awareness and how the internet can collide with the outside world.

radio silence

Radio Silence– in this generation defining book, the fictional show brings thematic depths and creates conflict. It’s a brilliant way to use a story within a story.

words in deep blue

Words in Deep Blue– I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is so much more than a regular contemporary. Using references to books, characters grow and connect within the story… leading us to connect with them in turn.

reading lolita in tehran

Bonus: Reading Lolita in Tehran– thinking of other books that bring people together, this memoir talks about a book club in Tehran. I read this recently and really liked both the analyses and how the books can intersect with life experience.

And that’s all for now! What are your favourite stories within stories? What books within books have a special meaning for you? Let me know in the comments!


76 thoughts on “The Very Best Books About Books and Stories Within Stories

  1. I love books about books! My favourites are probably The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, and a new edition to the list that I finished reading this afternoon, Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James 😊 Great post!!

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  2. Haha, when I saw the headline of your post I immediately thought of Neverending Story and had to read the post to see if you included it. Of course you did! I loved it as a kid – metaphysics for youngsters! Fahrenheit and The Book Thief are great examples as well.

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  3. Oooo, some favourites of mine on here, and some I’ve not read at all.
    So happy to see Reading Lolita in Tehran on your list, a book that blew me away when I first read it. 😍

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  4. Fab topic, and many here that I’ve not read. The Book Thief is of course a longtime favourite. Cornelia Funke’s “Inkheart” series is another I loved when I was growing up. My top pick for this theme would have to be Italo Calvino’s metafictional masterpiece “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller”. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I love Words in Deep Blue! I also wrote a similar post about my favourite books about books. Aaah I just love those, I feel like it makes u connect to the characters even more cuz both the reader AND the characters have a shared hobby, no?
    It’s not a book, but this is one of the main reasons I love Gilmore girls – the literary references!

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  6. Great list with a lot of my favorites on here. I love books about books (must give The Neverending Story a reread at some point!) and Guernsey Literary, The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind, and Reading Lolita in Tehran are all wonderful. I’ll have to check out the others.

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  7. I love books about books, and these are all great! I’ve read some good ones in the fantasy genre, including The Magicians, A Discovery of Witches, and The Historian. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is great too.

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  8. So many people have recommended Words in Deep Blue to me and I can’t believe I haven’t picked it up yet. The Book Thief has got to be up there with the best. I think it’s such a testament to the power of books and the comfort they bring in such horrid circumstances. I’ve only seen the movie for the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which I adored, but I need to get my hand on the book to see how it compares.

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    1. Oh I definitely have to recommend that as well! Oh it’s brilliant! And absolutely! Oh really recommend reading the book version of guernsey- imo, it was better! (and they’re pretty different tbh)


  9. The Book Thief broke me (well me and just about everyone) but I truly and absolutely adore The Shadow of the Wind. My brother lent it to me years ago and although I was initially ‘meh’ about it I was off on holiday – in Barcelona of all timely places – and thought it would be a way to pass the time on the plane. Holy moly – it was fantastic on all levels & I knew that CRZ was a writer for me. Such a haunting tale and I loved it.

    Weirdly, I didn’t enjoy The Hazel Wood as much as I wanted to but my favourite bit of it was the stories within the story. The writer has a real knack for creepy little fairy tales. That, or I just really like creepy little fairy tales!

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