A fictional book is a book (created specifically for a work of fiction) that sometimes provides the basis of the plot of a story, a common thread in a series of books, or the works of a particular writer or canon of work. A fictional book may also be used as a mode of conceit to illustrate a story within a story.
Prominent fictional books
- The Necronomicon in H. P. Lovecraft's books serves as a repository of recondite and evil knowledge in many of his works and the work of others. Despite the evident tongue-in-cheek origin of the book, supposedly written by the "Mad Arab Abdul al-Hazred," who was supposed to have died by being torn apart by an invisible being in an Arab marketplace in broad daylight, many have been led to believe that the book is real.
- William Goldman's The Princess Bride is presented as an abridgment of The Princess Bride by "S. Morgenstern".
- The story of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle revolves around another mysterious and forbidden book, written by the title character (Hawthorne Abendsen), named The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Dick's book describes an alternate history where the Axis Powers were victorious in World War II and the United States has been divided between Japan and Nazi Germany. The book-within-a-book is an alternate history itself, depicting a world in which the Allies won the war but which is nonetheless different from our own world in several important respects. Towards the end of the story, Abendsen admits to writing The Grasshopper Lies Heavy under the direction of the I Ching (which influenced The Man in the High Castle as well).
- All of the stories in Robert W. Chambers' 1895 collection The King in Yellow feature a fictional play of the same name, which drives all readers mad and/or shows them another reality. Very little of the play is transcribed in the stories, although it is shown to be set in the kingdom of Carcosa, created by Ambrose Bierce.
- Guillaume Apollinaire's short fiction "L'Hérésiarque" ("The Heresiarch" or "The Heretic") describes two heretical Christian gospels written by the excommunicated Catholic cardinal Benedetto Orfei. Orfei's heresy is that the three figures of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—were incarnate in Jesus' time, and were crucified alongside him. Orfei's first work is The True Gospel, describing the human life of God the Father, an embodiment of virtue about whom little is known. Orfei's second work describes the human life of God the Holy Spirit; the title of this work is not mentioned, but is referred to only as his 'second gospel'. In this 'gospel,' the Holy Spirit is a thief who willfully indulges in all manner of vice, including violating a sleeping virgin who then gives birth to Jesus Christ, or God the Son. Later, both the Holy Spirit and the Father are arrested as thieves and crucified, the latter unjustly. Orfei's heresy is intended to illustrate man's contradictory but coexistent aspects of sinner and martyr.
- Fictional books and authors figure prominently in several short stories by the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. A few of Borges's fictional creations include The Book of Sand, Herbert Quain (author of April March, The Secret Mirror, etc.), Ts'ui Pen (author of The Garden of Forking Paths), Mir Bahadur Ali (author of The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim), as well as the imaginary Encyclopædia Britannica of the story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius". In "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", a fictional poet named Pierre Menard attempts to recreate Don Quixote exactly as Miguel de Cervantes wrote it.
- In Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby, the characters are searching for all the remaining copies of the book Poems and Rhymes Around the World, which contains a poem that can kill anyone who hears it spoken or has it thought in their direction.
- The text of Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves consists largely of the fictional book The Navidson Record by Zampanò (possibly based on Jorge Luis Borges) , and commentary upon it by its discoverer and editor Johnny Truant. The Navidson Record is itself an academic critique of an apparently nonexistent or fictional documentary film of the same name, which may or may not exist in the world of House of Leaves.
- Bill Watterson placed fictional children's books in his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, saying that he could never reveal their contents for they were surely more outrageous in the reader's imagination. For several years, Calvin (perpetually six years old) demands that his father read him Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie as a bedtime story. Occasionally, his father's patience snaps and he introduces new variations, which at least reveal what the original story is not: "Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?" An "actual" Hamster Huey book was written by Mabel Barr in 2004, years after the strip's conclusion.
- Paul Levinson's novel The Plot To Save Socrates features a fictional ancient Platonic Dialogue, without title, that begins "PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates; Andros, a visitor. SCENE: The Prison of Socrates".
- The literary journal Underneath the Bunker (the title of which may refer to a song left off the tracklisting for the R.E.M. album Lifes Rich Pageant), founded in 2002 and online since 2005, has followed Stanislav Lem and Borges in publishing reviews of books that have never existed, such as Tosca Calbirro's 'Under An Unquiet Sun', or 'Receding Rainfall' by the eccentric Bosnian novelist Hoçe.
- The Book of Counted Sorrows is a book invented by horror author Dean Koontz to add verisimilitude to some of his novels. "Quotations" from this fictional book were often used to set the tone of chapters of the novels. Koontz ultimately published a version of the book.
- The twelve-volume opus Life by Unspiek, Baron Bodissey is an oft-quoted imaginary work referred to in various novels by Jack Vance.
- Juan de Mairena is an apocryphal author, invented by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. According to Machado, Juan de Mairena is the author of several books about aesthetic theory, one of which is called Arte Poética (Poetic Art). Machado devotes several essays to analyze the aesthetic ideas exposed by Mairena in Arte Poética.
Lists of fictional books