The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

“Why read at all? Why does anyone do it in the first place? Why do I? There is the element of escape, which is real enough—that’s a real-enough comfort. But also we read as a way to come to grips with the randomness of our being alive. To read a book by an observant, sympathetic mind is to see the human landscape in all its odd detail, and the reader says to him or herself, Yes, that’s how it is, only I didn’t know it to describe it. There’s a fraternity achieved, then: we are not alone. Sometimes an author’s voice is familiar to us from the first page, first paragraph, even if the author lived in another country, in another century.” Bob held up his stack of Russians. “How can you account for this familiarity? I do believe that, at our best, there is a link connecting us.”
― Patrick deWitt, The Librarianist

In celebration of National Library Week in April, I was on a hunt for a book about librarians that I had not read yet. Enter The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, a novel that combines my love of senior citizens with my love of librarians. Bob Comet is a retired librarian. He’s spending his retirement surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Oregon. Bob has his small comforts and his routines. On his daily walk one morning, Bob stumbles upon a confused elderly woman standing lost in a market. She’s staring into the cold sections with a lost look on her face. Lucky for Bob, and the clerk working behind the counter, the lost woman has a note secured around her neck letting people know where she lives. Bob volunteers to escort this lost woman home to the senior center. Once they arrive, Bob is intrigued by the people he meets. He decides to volunteer at the senior center, a decision that changes his whole life. The more Bob interacts with the people at the senior center, the more parts of his past and character are revealed to the reader.

This book felt like a warm hug from a close friend. The characters were charming, full of quirks and colors. Every person Bob met ended up shaping his life in some way. Even though this book was charming and cheerful, it was also full of melancholy and bittersweet with a bit of darkness under the surface. Bob’s past is colorful and complicated. He has a knack for finding bizarre and full-of-life people that he welcomes into his life. The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt reads like a love story to loners, to the outcasts in life who aren’t sure where they fit, to the introverts who want to be left alone amongst the fast-paced world they live in. People’s pasts are a mystery and this book is a prime example to never judge a person by the calm front they present.

This title is also available in large print or CD audiobook.

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