Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.
When I was young, the weekly trip to the library was the highlight of my existence. Probably because my greatest fear was running out of things to read! So I’ve always loved libraries and the access to books they offer to readers everywhere. I know there are a lot of you out there who agree.
Now imagine a world where you can’t own books. Where knowledge is regulated and controlled. Where an all-powerful organization decides which discoveries and inventions we know about, and which are buried, never to see the light of day. This is the world of Rachel Caine’s Great Library series, and it’s by turns marvelous, fascinating, and utterly terrifying.
When Rachel came to me with the idea for this Young Adult series, I was intrigued by this alternate world where the Great Library of Alexandria never fell—and now, through its control of knowledge, essentially rules the world. Through alchemy, the text of any book can be borrowed from the library and recreated on your own personal codex. But here’s the rub: how do you know if the Library has made any changes to that book? Or whether knowledge of something that might threaten the Library’s power has been suppressed? You don’t. You wouldn’t.
And that’s why black market book smugglers, like Jess Brightwell and his family, exist. You see, some people HAVE to own books. Some are collectors, some desire knowledge, and some hunger for . . . well, I’ll let you find out about that for yourself. The Brightwell family business is dangerous, but more than that, Jess is troubled by what happens to some of the books they sell.
Soon Jess’s father decides he would be better suited to entering the service of the Library—officially to train for a life as a Scholar, and unofficially, to spy.
And the story’s just getting started! But I don’t want to spoil this utterly readable and engaging series for you. Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire are the ultimate “books about books”, a series for readers everywhere.
A story that revolves around books and libraries, that blends alternate history with magic, adventure, and romance—about the power of knowledge and the power of friendship and love? Sign me up!
Learn more about the books below!
Hop in the Backlist Time Machine! This feature is where Penguin Random House staff members recommend their favorite backlist titles – instead of the next best thing, these are the best old things. Sometimes we peer into the past on our own, to give a little extra attention to a book that still holds up today.
We asked one of our employees, Linda Cowen: SVP, Associate General Counsel in the Legal department, to share a favorite backlist book. She’s even memorized the first few lines of the book – see what she wrote below.
“The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the invention of Spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes.”
Why this book/lines?
I love fiction that doesn’t have a straight narrative/chronological plot. For instance, I love books of linked short stories where you don’t realize how the characters are connected until several stories in. Justine is the first book in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, which consists of four linked novels. They all tell a version of the same events from the points of view of four different characters, and in a slightly different style. You can’t get the whole picture unless you read all four, but also each stands on its own. And for Durrell, the city itself was the most important character. It’s quite magical, especially because pre-WWII Alexandria simply doesn’t exist in the same way anymore.
Of the four books Justine is the most lyrical, which makes sense because Justine herself is the most inscrutable character. These books also bring me back to when I first read them, in my early 20s, traveling for six weeks in Greece, a completely improvised trip. Even in the mid-1980s you could still go somewhere not too far away but be very remote, almost like time travel. I like to revisit them every few years, like visiting old friends, and also my own past. With that first line I’m immediately transported. My favorite edition is the Penguin Ink edition, with cover art by Robert Ryan. It’s just gorgeous and so evocative of the time. Just looking at it makes me want to start reading. I have a copy in my office.
– Linda F. Cowen
SVP, Associate General Counsel
Inspired by Justine? If you’re starting to dream of Egypt, Fodor’s has a great guide to Alexandria.