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
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.
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).
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