Summary and book reviews of Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Books for Living

by Will Schwalbe

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Dec 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of the best-selling and beloved The End of Your Life Book Club - a wonderfully engaging new book: both a celebration of reading in general and an impassioned recommendation of specific books that can help guide us through our daily lives.

"I've always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book," writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heartfelt, and inspiring new book about books.

In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book - or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room to the power of finding ourselves and connecting with one another; Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to making friends; Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train to trusting.

Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Haruki Murakami, Edna Lewis, E. B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: "What are you reading?"

The Importance of Living
Slowing Down

Every now and then the universe tells you what book you need to read; it does this by placing the name of that book and author in front of you in various contexts, until you can't help but take note. You ignore book recommendations from the universe at your peril. So when I was in my thirties, after a decade of sporadically encountering the name Lin Yutang but still knowing nothing about him, I decided to investigate.

Starting in my teens, I had become obsessed with the writers of the 1930s, prompted initially by my fascination with the 1972 movie Cabaret and its boyishly handsome star, Michael York. Cabaret was based on two novellas by Christopher Isherwood, thinly fictionalizing his life in pre-­Nazi Berlin. I read everything I could by Isherwood and about Berlin and about that decade and its writers; and the more I read, the more I came across the name Lin Yutang, alongside mentions of his second book, The Importance of Living.

So, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the significance of the George R. R. Martin epigraph that opens Books for Living. How does it set the tone for the book?
  2. In the introduction to the book, Schwalbe discusses the Internet's limitations in helping to answer the big questions: "the problem of pain, meaning, purpose, happiness." How does Schwalbe's discussion of modern-day living and technology act as a structuring element throughout Books for Living? Discuss the message of "slowing down" and savoring the printed word (and life itself) that Schwalbe champions. Did this message resonate with you?
  3. On page 7, Schwalbe points out how reading has a tremendous influence on a person's worldview and how "every book changes your life." Do you agree with this ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Books for Living isn’t as emotional or consuming as The End of Your Life Book Club, but few books are. What we have, instead, is a book asking us to think – yes, to think about what we are reading – but more specific than that, begging us to think about how what we are reading can make us better people and lead richer lives. And that’s something to celebrate.   (Reviewed by Bradley Sides).

Full Review Members Only (673 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

In an age when the number of readers is declining, a delightful book like this might just snare a few new recruits

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Schwalbe's tremendous experience with reading and his stellar taste make for a fine guide to the varied and idiosyncratic list of books for which he advocates. By the end of the book, all serious readers will have added some titles to their to-read lists.

Booklist

Starred Review. In this warmly engaging, enlightening, and stirring memoir-in-books and literary celebration, Schwalbe reminds us that reading 'isn't just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination; it's one of the world's greatest joys.

Author Blurb Louise Penny
Books for Living is a map, a chart, to the places deep inside ourselves where books can take us. It's about how stories, how characters, inspire us, guide us, reveal us. Books For Living is now one of my favorite reads of all time, and I know I will revisit it over and over.

Author Blurb Nikki Giovanni
Books for Living encourages us to pull those quilts up to warm us and to teach us to express our hopes and dreams…with a kind universe smiling on us this will only be our first…not our last lesson in comforting…exciting…exploring words.

Author Blurb Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Schwalbe uncovers lessons in and around books, including lessons that have nothing to do with the content of the reading. A profound, engaging exploration of the uses to which we put the books of our lives.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Alexander, author of The Light of the World
Each great book we read is an encounter with another human soul, and in this shimmering gem of a book Will Schwalbe miraculously enables his readers to truly experience that depth of different human connections.

Author Blurb Mary Oliver
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe lives wonderfully up to its title ... He reminds me of a diviner who walks the open fields, taps, and reveals something rarely talked about, or perhaps never noticed, in one story or another, but is important.

Reader Reviews

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Books About Empathy

Empathy seemed to take a huge hit in 2016. I can't think of many weeks that went by where blatant hate or some form of intolerance wasn't at the forefront of the news. I got to a point where I decided to disconnect from media. I couldn't take it anymore.

When Will Schwalbe's Books for Living arrived on my doorstep, it couldn't have come at a better time. I opened the cover and was taken away to a happier and more thoughtful world – the one of books. I was smiling before I could finish the introduction. In each chapter, Schwalbe picks one book and talks about the one value he most draws from it. Among other things, he writes about the value of hugging when discussing Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, the...

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