Review: The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Bookmobile

Audrey Niffenegger

40 pages

Publication Date: September 1, 2010

Publisher: Abrams ComicArt

Source: Library copy

After a fight with her boyfriend, Alexandria is walking the streets of Chicago when she finds a bookmobile and Mr. Openshaw. Mr. Openshaw is the librarian of this particular bookmobile which is housed in an old ratty Winnebago. During her first visit, Alexandria realizes that what’s so special about the bookmobile is that it exclusively houses everything she has ever read: from Pat the Bunny which she read as a child to The Complete Stories of H.G. Wells. Over the years, the bookmobile changes with each visit just as Alexandria changes. Now she’s single and a librarian herself but the real job that she desires is to be a librarian for the bookmobile.

I really enjoyed reading this. The Night Bookmobile contains some beautiful passages about reading and being readers.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

After reading this book I wondered how my own bookmobile would look like, what books would fill the shelves. Just the thought of it makes me want to read more, to fill those shelves with more books. I love the imagery that Niffenegger uses and also the questions she ask. In the afterword the author asks “what is it we desire from the hours, weeks, lifetimes we devote to books? ” Alexandria gave up human companionship for books, looking for something that could only be found between pages. I think for each reader the answer is different.

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39 thoughts on “Review: The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

  1. I think this book sounds fantastic, and I would love to come across one of these types of bookmobiles, though mainly because I would finally be able to put my hands on a few titles that I have been lost to the sands of time. Great review on this one. I am going to have to check it out!

  2. You know, for some reason I thought this was a creepy book. Your review makes it sound nothing at all like what I was imagining, and now I’d really like to read it! Thanks for providing pages — I think they really helped me get a sense of the book.

    1. Did you think it was a creepy book because of the author? There’s a little bit of a shock toward the middle of the book but that’s it.

  3. Ohhh: I wanted to read this after Chris’ review, but my CO library didn’t have it. You reminded me to check my new library, and it has this and Incestuous Sisters! I’m going to read the Sisters one first, and then this one. :D

  4. I really enjoyed this one too :) It made me wonder the same thing…what my own bookmobile would look like…Such a neat concept, huh?

  5. This looks wonderful, and a bit calmer than some of Niffenegger’s other books. :p I feel like I read one of her other graphic novels but I can’t now recall which one it was or anything about it.

  6. I just read this one recently and loved it, too. Of course, part of my love for it is tied up with my love of Chicago. :) The ending did take me by surprise, even though, in retrospect, it really shouldn’t have.

  7. I also really liked this book. Definitely a lot of beautiful ideas for such a small work. But I do think there is a creepy element to it (the part that you called a surprised towards the ending) as she could have chosen other paths to get to the conclusions. However, it wouldn’t be Niffinegger if she didn’t do something dramatic and a little off kilter like that.

    1. I was thinking about why Niffenegger made that element so surprising. We don’t get a chance to really know why Alexandria shuns human companionship for books which makes that so unexpected. I noticed that Alexandria didn’t quite understand what the librarian was trying to tell her about working for the Bookmobile. She just thought it was a job she couldn’t have without really wondering why. I haven’t read anything else by the author but after watching the movie version of Time Traveler’s Wife, I want to read it now.

      1. I didn’t see the movie, but enjoyed the book. And Her Fearful Symmetry was a bit dark and surprising, which some people didn’t like. I think it’s just her style.

  8. This book sounds really interesting; I’ll add it to my list.

    Looking at the books on your nightstand, I wonder if you’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna? I think you enjoy Kingsolver, and it’s also an interesting look at Frieda.

  9. Oh wow. I had this one in mind, but you’ve made me really want to read it. I’m hoping to get to the library today. I’ll have to see if it’s in the stacks.

  10. i’ve never had any experience with a bookmobile but did read another book (the uncommon reader) and enjoyed it. i’m not much into graphic novels-i’ve read one and while i enjoyed it, i prefer traditional books. interesting to see such a popular fiction writer venturing into this arena.

  11. It’s interesting how different reviewers see this book. In my review I thought the book was dark and dissapointing: “Lexi’s obsession with books should be read as a cautionary tale of lusts and addiction gone awry. However, since Niffenegger ends the book on such a positive note she seems to undermine that moral leaving the reader with an almost too positive outlook on obsession: obsession as an ultimate reward in itself.”

    Check mine out and let me know if I missed something.

    1. Scott, I didn’t see this book as a tale of a lust for books because Alexandria was already a reader and it’s only after the second meeting with the librarian, that reading or maybe the bookmobile itself becomes an obsession. What’s missing from the story is the answer to why the character was so willing to give up human companionship for books. What’s also notably missing from the character’s life is human contact with anyone besides the librarian and her boyfriend. No friends, teachers, or classmates make an appearance in the book.

  12. I was wondering about this book, I’m glad you liked it. And what a great idea, to have your own bookmobile. Actually, wouldn’t that be cool if GoodReads or such could let us create our own virtual bookmobiles? :) e

  13. I really loved the concept behind this book, but I had a hard time with the decision she made. I wish I could just love it unreservedly, but I can’t. I’m not even sure why it bothered me so much. Maybe I just didn’t know enough about her life to understand that decision? Maybe I’m reading too much into it? I don’t know!

  14. I picked this book up after reading your review, and loved it. Thank you! You can find my review at my blog, I linked back to you for the awesome recommendation.

  15. My mom gave this book to me over the holidays, and I can’t wait to read it! I’m hoping to read it when I get in a reading rut–the best way to read graphic novels. I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and I wonder what my bookmobile might look like, too.

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