I love museums! So its no surprise I’m after the books set in museums. Whenever I visit a new city, the first thing I see is its most significant and most beautiful museum. And then, I plan my days to see most of its museums while enjoying the new environment. And I think the biggest reason I’m still living in a busy city instead of the countryside is that I know I’ll miss the museums too much.
Museums are magical places (and so are books set in museums!). I like exploring them by myself. And if they are huge, like the British Museum, it is a joy to be lost in them. Exploring unexpected pieces and learning about them feels almost like a spiritual moment. And why everything tastes better in the museum cafes? Is it the people watching or the happiness coming from the newly acquired items from the museum shop that makes the food delicious? I still have no idea.
In most of the museums, one gets a feeling of mystery. I think this feeling is present in the books set in museums as well. Why is that? Is it the grand architecture, the neverending murmur of people or the extraordinary pieces that surround us? Whatever the reason, it’s a pleasure to read books set in museums. I tried to include as many genres as possible, and I hope you’ll find a book to your liking. Maybe one day, you can visit the museum you read about (that is, of course, if it is not fictional) and enjoy its beauty.
Top 10 Interesting Books Set In Museums
1- Metropolitan Stories – Christine Coulson
“Only someone who deeply loves and understands the Metropolitan Museum could deliver such madcap, funny, magical, tender, intimate fables and stories.” —Maira Kalman, artist and bestselling author of The Principles of Uncertainty
From a writer who worked at the Metropolitan Museum for more than twenty-five years, an enchanting novel that shows us the Met that the public doesn’t see.
Hidden behind the Picassos and Vermeers, the Temple of Dendur and the American Wing, exists another world: the hallways and offices, conservation studios, storerooms, and cafeteria that are home to the museum’s devoted and peculiar staff of 2,200 people–along with a few ghosts.
A surreal love letter to this private side of the Met, Metropolitan Stories unfolds in a series of amusing and poignant vignettes in which we discover larger-than-life characters, the downside of survival, and the powerful voices of the art itself. The result is a novel bursting with magic, humour, and energetic detail, but also a beautiful book about introspection, an ode to lives lived for art, ultimately building a powerful collage of human experience and the world of the imagination. One of the most important books set in museums.
2- Cats of the Louvre – Taiyo Matsumoto
A surreal tale of the secret world of the cats of the Louvre, told by Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto.
The world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris contains more than just the most famous works of art in history. At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive—a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic. Until now… One of the most adorable books set in museums!
Translated by Tekkonkinkreet film director Michael Arias.
3- Relic – Preston & Child
If you are looking for excitement, choose this one among books set in museums. When a team of archaeologists is savagely massacred in the Amazon Basin, all that survives are several boxes of relics and plant specimens. From boat to boat, from port to port, the battered crates drift. They finally reach New York City – only to be locked away in the basement of a museum, lost and forgotten.
But the black heart of the Amazon never forgets. Just days before the Museum’s massive new exhibition opens someone or something other than tourists and school children is roaming the echoing halls and dusty galleries. And people are turning up savagely murdered.
Forensic evidence points to a killer of terrifying strength and ferocity. Rumours of a “Museum Beast,” never far from the surface, rise again among the Museum staff. But then Margo Green, a graduate student working in the Museum, uncovers a link between the killings, the failed Amazonian expedition, and an odd figurine that will be displayed for the first time. Will she be able to put the pieces together and stop the deadly menace before terror strikes again? One of the most exciting books set in museums.
4- The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose
A mesmerising literary novel about a lost man in search of connection – a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. If you like contemporary fiction, choose this one among books set in museums.
‘This is a weirdly beautiful book.’ David Walsh founder and curator, MONA
‘Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.’ Stella Adler
‘Art will wake you up. Art will break your heart. There will be glorious days. If you want eternity you must be fearless.’ From The Museum of Modern Love
She watched as the final hours of The Artist is Present passed by, sitter after sitter in a gaze with the woman across the table. Jane felt she had witnessed a thing of inexplicable beauty among humans who had been drawn to this art and had found the reflection of a great mystery. What are we? How should we live?
If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.
Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.
This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them. One of the most interesting books set in museums, this is an uplifting book.
5- Alena – Rachel Pastan
In an inspired restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor. A good choice of books set in museums for mystery lovers.
At the Venice Biennale, an aspiring assistant curator from the Midwest meets Bernard Augustin, the wealthy, enigmatic founder of the Nauk, a cutting-edge art museum on Cape Cod. It’s been two years since the tragic death of the Nauk’s chief curator, Augustin’s childhood friend and muse, Alena. When Augustin offers the position to our heroine (who, like du Maurier’s original, remains nameless) she dives at the chance—and quickly finds herself well out of her depth.
The Nauk echoes with phantoms of the past—a past obsessively preserved by the museum’s business manager and the rest of the staff. Their devotion to the memory of the charismatic Alena threatens to stifle the new curator’s efforts to realize her own creative vision, and her every move mires her more deeply in artistic, erotic, and emotional entanglements. When new evidence calls into question the circumstances of Alena’s death, her loyalty, integrity, and courage are put to the test, and shattering secrets surface.
Stirring and provocative, Alena is the result of a delicious visitation of one of the most popular novels of the twentieth century on a brilliant and inventive novelist of the twenty-first. This is one of the most interesting books set in museums.
6- Meet Me at the Museum – Anne Youngson
If you are looking for an uplifting title among books set in museums, this one is for you.
Please be aware I am writing to you to make sense of myself…
When the curator of a Danish museum responds to a query about ancient exhibits, he doesn’t expect a reply.
When Tina Hopgood first wrote it, nor did she.
Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. He does not know that a query from a Mrs Tina Hopgood about world-famous antiquity in his museum is about to alter the course of his life.
Oceans apart, an unexpected correspondence flourishes as they discover shared passions: for history and nature; for useless objects left behind by loved ones; for the ancient and modern world, what is lost in time, what is gained and what has stayed the same. Through intimate stories of joy, anguish, and discovery, each one bares their soul to the other. But when Tina’s letters suddenly cease, Anders is thrown into despair. Can this unlikely friendship survive? An uplifting choice among books set in museums.
7- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L. Konigsburg
The million-selling, award-winning classic novel – finally available again in the UK! The most popular title among books set in museums.
New York City girl Claudia, a mere month shy of being a twelve-year-old, has resolved to run away from home with her younger brother, Jamie. She knows that she could never pull off the classic spur-of-the-moment departure without a destination (inevitably involving having to eat outside with the insects, and cupcakes melting in the sun); so she plans everything to perfection, including their destination: the grand, elegant, beautiful, all-encompassing Metropolitan Museum of Art.
However, no sooner have Claudia and Jamie settled into their new home, than they are caught up in the mystery of an angel statue bought by the museum for the bargain price of $225. Is it in fact an as yet undiscovered work by Michelangelo, worth millions? Claudia is determined to find out, and her quest leads her to the remarkable, secretive Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum – and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.
Since its first appearance nearly 50 years ago, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler has gained a place in the hearts of generations of readers – and has rightly become one of the most celebrated and beloved children’s books of all time. When it comes to books set in museums this book comes to mind and children aside, adults would love it too!
8- Night at the Museum – Milan Trenc
If you like books set in museums and films-Here is the original inspiration for the blockbuster “Night At The Museum” movies–starring Ben Stiller–from 20th Century Fox. In this charming, funny picture book that started it all, Larry becomes a night guard at New York’s Museum of Natural History. He thinks it’s going to be an easy job, but is he in for a surprise. After dozing off, he wakes up to find the most amazing vanishing act in the museum’s history.
The museum’s entire collection of dinosaur skeletons has disappeared! In a panic, Larry rushes from one room to the next–then dashes outside into Central Park, and then next door into the planetarium. Where did the skeletons go? Who is the dinosaur thief? How in the world will Larry ever get those dinosaur bones back? Originally published by Barron’s in 1993, this mystery-comedy picture book features the author’s original captivating, hilarious, full-color illustrations on every page. This is one of the most popular books set in museums.
9- Dark Museum – Melanie Surani
Looking for scary books set in museums, you’ll enjoy this. Office worker Sophia Stewart wakes in an eerie art museum exhibit. She comes to believe someone’s kidnapped and abandoned her. And she isn’t the only one…
As Sophia and four others struggle to piece together their new reality, they discover the museum has no obvious exit. Who left them in there and why? How can they escape? The only link binding them is a mysterious woman named Blair, who they each encountered before blacking out.
Sophia unexpectedly finds herself drawn to one of the other captives, an opera singer named Josh. Their attraction plunges the group into a dark pool of suspicion. When allegiances shift and pieces connect, the strangers are forced to reassess their situation.
Is the real danger inside or outside the museum?
If you want to read books set in museums and thriller, this is a good choice.
10- The Art Forger – Barbara A. Shapiro
One of the popular titles among books set in museums. On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas. One of the most popular books set in museums.
Check out my other lists about books!
Are there any books set in museums that you love and not on this list? Please share in the comments section. Happy reading everyone!