The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Books Symbol Analysis

Books Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel, books—especially exchanging books as gifts—symbolize the unifying power of stories. Books become important when Bill gives Charlie extra books to read outside of class. Though Charlie doesn’t realize it at first, this is a gesture of investment in Charlie’s development and an overture towards building a close mentorship and even friendship. Charlie’s mom also gives him her favorite books for his birthday, which establishes a bond between them that didn’t exist before. Charlie deepens his relationships with others by giving them books, because knowing which stories others would like to read is an act of care—it shows that Charlie has been paying enough attention to them to choose a book for them. At the end of the story, Charlie gives Patrick and Sam the books he read for Bill over the school year. By giving Patrick and Sam his personal copies, Charlie also is giving them pieces of himself and his journey. The book giving pattern doesn’t always go well, however, especially when Mary Elizabeth gives Charlie an e.e. cummings book and then wants to tell him how to feel about it. Sometimes, the stories are a method by which the giver is trying to impose a way of thinking onto the receiver. However, overall, sharing books is a gesture of kindness and unity: although they live through different experiences, sharing books helps the characters build overlapping frames of reference so that they can better understand and communicate with one another.

Books Quotes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The The Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes below all refer to the symbol of Books. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Gallery Books edition of The Perks of Being a Wallflower published in 1999.
Part 1 Quotes

My advanced English teacher asked me to call him “Bill” when we’re not in class, and he gave me another book to read. He says that I have great skill at reading and understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about To Kill a Mockingbird.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Bill
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2  Quotes

I have decided that maybe I want to write when I grow up. I just don’t know what I would write.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Bill
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3 Quotes

I don't know what it was, and I know we didn't really accomplish

anything, but it felt great to sit there and talk about our place in things. It was like when Bill told me to “participate.” I went to the homecoming dance like I told you before, but this was much more fun. It was especially fun to think that people all over the world were having similar conversations in their equivalent of the Big Boy.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 105-106
Explanation and Analysis:
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Books Symbol Timeline in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The timeline below shows where the symbol Books appears in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
Charlie’s Aunt Helen, who used to give him books to read, was his favorite person in the world. She lived with their family for... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...Charlie explains that Bill says the classes are all basically the same, just with different books. (full context)
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...he often spends his time thinking about himself in relation to the characters in the books he reads or thinking about what he writes in his letters. Bill gave him Peter... (full context)
Part 2 
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
...girl who wears a lot of sweaters and drinks cocoa” with whom he can discuss books. But, his brother has posters of cars, beer, and supermodels on his walls, he never... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...of Patrick’s gifts, Charlie gives a magnetic poetry set, watercolor paints, a harmonica, and a book about Harvey Milk. After Patrick told him he was gay, Charlie did research on the... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...gave him The Catcher in the Rye to read over break, which was Bill’s favorite book. (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...gifts: music from his sister and dad, a signed football poster from his brother, and books from his mom that used to be her favorites. Reading his mom’s copy of The... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...mind races through disconnected thoughts, memories, and hallucinations. Eventually, he thinks about how all the books he’s read have been read by other people and the music he likes has also... (full context)
Part 3
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...in the Rye his best yet and praises Charlie’s rapid development. He gives him another book, On the Road, as a reward. Charlie starts smoking more regularly. (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...something he read in one of the magazines to a quote from one of Bill’s books, This Side of Paradise: “This is not a time for heroes because nobody will let... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...he might leave teaching to write plays in New York, and he gives Charlies another book to read, Naked Lunch, which Charlie finds confusing. Though he tries to find ways to... (full context)
Part 4
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...a movie, but she says they want to be alone. Charlie starts reading his next book assignment from Bill to distract himself. (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...gives Charlie a list of movies to watch and write about and the last extra book of the year, The Fountainhead.  He tells Charlie to be a “filter” and not a... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...house with Bill and his girlfriend, Charlie describes their house as comfortable and filled with books. They listen to jazz music throughout lunch. After chatting for a while, Bill thanks Charlie... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...of which are for Sam and Patrick. To them he gives his copies of the books that Bill assigned throughout the year with a note written on his typewriter telling them... (full context)