The Night Bookmobile

I sat with my son at Barnes and Noble this afternoon; it’s one of our favorite things to do together. We’ve drunk coffee, written in leather journals, and sat reading silently across the table from each other for almost twenty years.

As I perused the fiction aisles, with only gift cards to Borders in my pocket, I saw Audrey Niffenegger’s visual book, The Night Bookmobile. As eerie as you would suspect from someone who wears mahogany lipstick without mascara, calls Chicago home, and can credit The Time Traveler’s Wife to her imagination, this story is about a girl who encounters the bookmobile at four o’clock one morning while wandering from Irving Park to Ravenswood.

Inside, is every book she’s ever read.

But, she’s not allowed to be a librarian there because it’s only for the living…

In the After Words, I found this passage:

When I began writing The Night Bookmobile, it was a story about a woman’s secret life as a reader. As I worked it also became a story about the claims that books place on their readers, the imbalance between our inner and outer lives, a cautionary tale of the seductions of the written world. It became a vision of the afterlife as a library, of heaven as a funky old camper filled with everything you’ve ever read. What is this heaven? What is it we desire from the hours, weeks, lifetimes we devote to books? What would you sacrifice to sit in that comfy chair with perfect light for an afternoon in eternity, reading the perfect book, forever? ~Audrey Niffenegger

29 thoughts on “The Night Bookmobile

  1. I loved the Night Bookmobile as well as Time Traveler and Her Fearful Symmetry. Ms. Audrey was an author who truly surprises me because she writes stories about subjects I tend not to like, time travel and ghosts, but I really did like hers.


  2. The first time I walked inside a library (and I was only about 3 at the time) I clearly remember thinking "I hope this is what heaven is like." 50 years later, I still do 🙂


  3. My son and I restore our souls by walking around in bookstores. There was one time, when we were in Alaska, that he was tired, cranky and hungry and my husband was trying to calm him but not succeeding. I said, "Let's go to the bookstore. It's restorative." We let Kiddo roam a little, bought him a drink and a snack and just sat flipping through books, sipping our coffees while he recovered. By the time we left, he was his normal, angelic self. It was almost as magical as whale watching. 🙂


  4. I loved the Book Mobile when I was a kid and have lamented its demise, as I do with anything that takes focus off of books in the lives of children. It meant the world to me.The book sounds like an interesting one that I'll have to check out. Hopefully my library has it.


  5. Oh, COOL!!! (I envision Harry Potter's Night Bus with books). I enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife mostly because of all the Rilke in it–otherwise it was a bit predictable. But I do remember the bookmobile and what fun it was. Will have to check this out (when I'm through with C.B.'s dare).Thank you.


  6. A quote from Neil Gaiman, also found in this book, which I meant to include in my post:"The Night Bookmobile is a love letter, both elegiac and heartbreaking, to the things we have read, and to the readers we are. It says that what we read makes us who we are. It's a graphic short story, beautifully drawn and perfectly told, a cautionary fantasia for anyone who has ever loved books, and I hope the story of Alexandra finds its place on the shelves of the night bookmobiles of all of us who'd care. It's a treasure."Two fantastic authors bring up such interesting discussion points about us as readers, and the power that books hold over us. I feel I could think about them for quite a long time…


  7. This does sound wonderful, although I'm a little wary as I absolutely hated "The Time Traveller's Wife". And there's something creepy about Niffenegger …


  8. My youngest and I are due for a "date" and you just reminded me of that….we love to go to the bookstore together too. I am figuratively putting my fingers in my ears and saying "lalalalalala" because my TBR list is SO long right now it is almost overwhelming….ugh!


  9. The only thing, Sara, is that you could read this book in fifteen minutes. Seriously, it's that short. It's just the content which is so compelling. Have a good "latte" with your son! You, Bookfool and I all have boys so dear to our hearts.


  10. How in the world did I ever miss this book?!?! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. And what a marvelous quote. But the best part of you post was reading the following:I sat with my son at Barnes and Noble this afternoon; it's one of our favorite things to do together. We've drunk coffee, written in leather journals, and sat reading silently across the table from each other for almost twenty years.As a mother of a twenty-something-year-old, who doesn't share my passion for reading, this mades my heart sing. You are truly blessed.


  11. Lesley, my son and I read together, but there were a few years when we were not perfectly "simpatico". I tended to over-mother him due to his father's death when he was five; he had to rebel in High School, but we're in a good place now. Thank God! We've both learned a lot, as one does in the relationships which really matter.


  12. That quote from the afterword is beautiful. As for Audrey Niffenegger, I never knew she dressed a little excentric & I haven't read anything besides her Time Traveler's Wife, but I think I would prefer this to Her Fearful Symmetry.


  13. Oh, my. I've been keeping something in my files, and now I know where it belongs.The compulsion of books, the lure of the written word, the utter delight of the concept of a bookmobile – all are caught up in this photograph of bayou women coming by pirogue to meet their bookmobile on Bayou Dularge, Louisiana, c. 1920.


  14. My local pub has a bookcase, that you can take books from (or add to). Recently I noticed it had The Time Travellers Wife on its shelf, and on the rare (?) occasion I go in the said premises, I keep meaning to pick it up. But at least it gives me the excuse to go in and try again (lol).


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