The City of Dreaming Books, Paperback
4 out of 5 (5 ratings)


Optimus Yarnspinner, a young Zamonian writer, inherits very little from his beloved godfather apart from an unpublished short story by an unknown author.

This manuscript proves to be such a superb piece of writing that he can't resist the temptation to investigate the mystery surrounding the author's identity.

The trail takes him to the City of Dreaming Books. After falling under the spell of this book-obsessed metropolis; Yarnspinner also falls into the clutches of its evil genius, Pfistomel Smyke, who treacherously maroons him in the city's labyrinthine catacombs.

He finds himself in a subterranean world where reading books can be genuinely dangerous, where ruthless Bookhunters fight to the death for literary gems and the mysterious Shadow King rules a murky realm populated by Booklings, one-eyed beings whose vast library includes live books equipped with teeth and claws.

Walter Moers transports us to a magical world where reading is still a genuine adventure, where books can not only entertain people but also drive them insane or even kill them.

Only those intrepid souls who are prepared to join Optimus Yarnspinner on his perilous journey should read this book. We wish the rest of you a long, safe, unutterably dull and boring life!


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Fantasy
  • ISBN: 9780099490579



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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

This book is dear to my heart. A book about a city of books, book stores, book lovers, editors, authors etcpp. A dream come true.This book takes you on a journey of a wanna-be author searching for the source of his inspiration and ultimately for the answer to the question "what is inspiration anyway". It's about finding your way in life and about appreciating art in a way that has been forgotten in our society. In this book, art is alive. It's on the pages, between the lines and it's talking in the story.You have to be able to follow Moers into a fantasy world to appreciate this book. If you cannot relate to a saurian who wants to write prose, then you'll have a problem... Try to read it anyway, please.

Review by

In the tradition of Jansson's Moomintrolls and Juster's Phantom Tollbooth, here we have a story told by Optimus Yarnspinner, a dinosaurish creature whose entire life revolves around books. As our tale opens, Yarnspinner's authorial godfather, Dancelot Wordwright, is on his deathbed. He gives Yarnspinner a short story that is so good that it caused him to stop writing. Yarnspinner then journeys to Bookholm, a city entirely devoted to writing and bookselling, to track down this amazing writer. This book is a real treat for bibliophiles. The illustrations are darling and the literary references are fun to spot. Not a book I probably would have picked up on my own; I'm glad I gave it a try.

Review by

To be more accurate, The City of Dreaming Books is translated into German by Moers from Optimus Yarnspinner's original Zamonian (and I then read the English translation). This gives an early sense of the fun and fantasy in the Zamonia series.The City of Dreaming Books is the 3rd (or 4th) of the Zamonian fantasy/adventure books, and far and away my favorite; in fact, it is a new favorite book in general. As with the others in the series, this one can be read on its own without having read any of the others. This one recounts the adventures of Optimus Yarnspinner, a young Lindworm dinosaur, a Zamonian species that has a strong appreciation for literature and writing. Each lindworm has an authorial godfather. On his deathbed, Yarnspinner's leaves him an unpublished story, the most incredible piece of writing by an unknown author. Yarnspinner heads off to Bookholm in search of the author, and in search of his own authorial voice. Once in Bookholm, Yarnspinner encounters adventures and dangers both above ground and in the labrynthine catacombs below Bookholm.This is a book about the magic of books and writing. Bookholm, the Catacombs & Unholm are teeming with writers, booksellers, bookhunters, antiquarians, and critics of all stripes. Writing is a mystical, magical art - the best authors rumored to have experienced the "Orm". As with the rest of the series, this is one character's journey of discovery - of new worlds, new creatures, and most importantly of himself. Along the way, I was constantly reminded why I love books - that discovery of new worlds, real or imaginary; the excitement of learning; and the beauty and power of a well-written book.Finally, a brief excerpt which captures how I often feel about reading and language:"I've read and long forgotten many books in my life, but their important features have lodged in my mental net, ready to be rediscovered years or decades later. The incorporeal books of the Weeping Shadows were another matter. They had passed through me like water trickling through a sieve. I thought I'd forgotten them within seconds, but I noticed the next day that some of them had lodged in my mind after all. /I suddenly knew words I'd never read before. I knew, for example, that 'plumose' was an archaic synonym for 'feathered'. Although this knowledge may at first sight seem useless, whenever I visualise a young chick the word plumose strikes me as far more appropriate, somehow, than the humdrum word feathered."

Review by

I think Walter Moers is probably one of the most creative authors I've ever read. After reading 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear, I knew that I had to get my hands on more of his works. The Zamonia series isn't something you have to read in order, so I picked up the fourth one because the premise sounded interesting--what bibliophile wouldn't want to read about a city of books! <br/><br/>While it had it's funny moments, quirky characters, and comical illustrations, I just didn't like this book nearly as much as the first in the series. When the main character, Optimus Yarnspinner, gets stuck in the ancient catacombs filled with books it seems like Moers really drags the story out. I think the book probably could have been 100 pages shorter. I know I say that about several books, and that's because it seems like some authors think that by adding a few chapters to a book to give it some bulk, that somehow, that makes it a better book; this isn't true. <br/>

Review by

Imagine a world where books are valued – not like we appreciate books in our society, but really valued. A place where authors are celebrities, first editions are coveted, people memorize and recite famous excerpts, and even crimes are committed over rare books. This is the world of Zamonia, a mythical lost continent, created by German author Walter Moers. The story features an unlikely hero, Optimus Yarnspinner, a naïve dinosaur-like creature from Lindworm Castle, a self-proclaimed author who has yet to be published. The tale begins with the death of Dancelot Wordwright, Yarnspinner’s authorial godfather. He leaves Yarnspinner his most prized possession, a manuscript that is so well written that it can evoke both tears and laughter from the most stoic critic. It is the most brilliant piece of writing – the absolute best of Zamonian literature with one major flaw … the author is unknown. Yarnspinner goes on a quest to Bookholm, the legendary City of Dreaming Books to find this author and hopefully get inspiration to launch his own masterpiece. In Bookholm, innocent and blundering Yarnspinner is no match for the fast paced and smooth talkers of this city and he quickly falls victim to the cruel and slimy villain Pfistomel Smyke. He is poisoned with a hazardous book and left to an unfortunate fate in the catacombs that lie beneath Bookholm. But in the catacombs, Yarnspinner meets some colorful characters, from dastardly book mercenaries to adorable Booklings, that both help and hinder his journey back to the world of the surface. <br/><br/>If you love to read, then this is the book for you. Moers has created an imaginative vibrant fantasy world that both pays homage and makes fun of books and the literary world. The story is filled with subtle references to all things literary, from creating characters whose names are anagrams of famous authors (Asdrel Chickens is Charles Dickens for example) to making irreverent fun of our book industry. Very fun!