While the book publishing profession might have something of a genteel reputation, and magazine publishing is seen as being cut-throat and super-competitive (thanks, The Devil Wears Prada!), the reality is somewhat different, and less clearly defined. Indeed, a whopping range of experiences and themes, genres and storylines are revealed in this collection of the best books about publishing.

Ranging from all-out thrillers, to hard-hitting, vital explorations of racism in the industry, to charming stories that reinforce the notion that publishing is, in fact, a cosy(ish) profession, there’s plenty here for all tastes. What’s more, a stack of these reads are among our recent favourites, with several of them deemed Star Books by our Editorial Experts.

Kicking off in (kind-of!) cosier style, AJ Pearce’s Mrs Porter Calling, the third book in the Emmy Lake Chronicles, is centred on the agony aunt for successful magazine Woman’s Friend. Set in London in 1943, it sees Emmy doing her bit to help readers handle Home Front life during very difficult times. Everything changes when a new owner, glamorous Honourable Mrs Cressida Porter, sweeps in with plans to uproot everything the magazine is supposed to stand for. 

In the words of LoveReading MD, Deborah Maclaren, this is a “celebration of female friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of supporting each other, even in the most challenging of times”. It also sees Emmy have to handle The Devil Wears Prada style trials — a novel that’s also made it into our best books about publishing.

Remaining in the magazine realm for the time being, fans of entertaining non-fiction will love Nicholas Coleridge’s The Glossy Years, which sparkles with insights into the life of the author’s days as a magazine kingpin. Or, if you’re into music, try Animal House by James Brown. Written by the founder of Loaded magazine, this book is every bit as rock and roll as the magazine (and the man).

Moving now across the pond, and to an era of style and glamour, Suzanne Rindell’s Three Martini Lunch tells a thrilling story of ambition, secrecy and striving for success in 1950s New York as its enthralling cast of characters connect with the publishing world. While privileged Cliff, son of an editor at a publishing house, has dropped out to live like he’s the next Kerouac, Eden is driven to make it as an editor, and bike messenger Mike aspires to be a writer. With three distinct narratives, it’s an engaging read that sheds light on big social issues — class, anti-Semitism, equality for women, and racism. 

Racism is a prominent theme in several of the recent best books about publishing, many of which have also been selected as our top reads. For example, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris exposes the industry’s unpleasant underbelly — elitism, nepotism, poor pay, petty power-play, and white privilege — through its unforgettable twenty-six-year-old protagonist, Nella. An editorial assistant at New York’s prestigious Wagner Books, Nella is the company’s the only Black employee, and subject to racist micro-aggressions. Matters only worsen when the “Other Black Girl” starts working next to her. It’s a gripping, vital novel.

The same is true of Rebecca Kuang’s Yellowface, which presents a whip-smart exposé of publishing and writers from pretty much every angle. Cultural appropriation, cancel culture, envy, and the minefield that is social media are all unpacked in a thriller that busts genre boundaries and keeps readers guessing to the very end. 

Staying with thrillers, if you’re in the market for meaty page-turners set in the world of books, try I Know It's You. It sees wealthy, successful publisher Marina forced to face her past when an esteemed literary agent sends her instalments of a novel by a shot-calling new writer. Reeling with revenge and the threat of over-spilling secrets, you’ll race through the pages to find out what the anonymous writer knows, and what she wants from Marina. 

We’ll end this overview of the best books about publishing with a few slices of escapist entertainment. If you love enemies-to-lovers storylines, with the added tension of an office setting, try The Hating Game. You might also want to browse our collection of the best books set in offices.

The tantalising promise of happy endings is also offered by Marion Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story. Can a literary agent whose star is on the rise sort out the messy aftermath of sleeping with her boss? Can a new client get her career back on track after blowing her advance, and finding herself thwarted by writer’s block? Read the novel to find out, and be swept up in an emotional page-turner.

Finally, readers who love the idea of quaint, old-fashioned publishing houses should dive into The House of Marvellous Books. This effortlessly witty, bittersweet story of desperate hope sees a cast of eccentric co-workers thrown together to form a curious dysfunctional family.