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Books for Living: a reader’s guide to life Hardcover – 12 Jan 2017
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I very much enjoyed it . . . inspiring and charming . . . Books, to Schwalbe, are our last great hope to keep us from spiralling into the abyss. It's an old-fashioned thesis-that this ancient medium can save civilization-but I happen to agree. Books build compassion, they inspire reform. They remain, Schwalbe writes, 'one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny.' And man, do we need bulwarks right now. Lots of bulwarks . . . Read Schwalbe's book. (A.J. Jacobs, The New York Times)
Schwalbe's book challenges the notion of reading-on-the-run. It does not offer bullet-pointed highlights so that you can dip in, find the solution and emerge thinking 'There, I've done Copperfield'. Schwalbe expects the readers to read. His own observations are certainly not the fruit of skim-reading... One of the key elements of Books for Living [is] clear: the boundary between our reading and our lives is often so porous. (Times Literary Supplement)
Instead of trying to dust off some forgotten tome and convince us of its value, [Schwalbe] focuses on its pressing relevance at some critical juncture in his life. He isn't arguing - and certainly not shilling - on behalf of a book or author; he's passing on his own experience and leaving us to identify with it or not. Of course we do identify with it, typically, in large part because Schwalbe presents himself so convincingly as an Everyman. He doesn't pretend, or even aspire, to the scholarly expertise of Denby and Dirda, or to Gottlieb's breezy insider status. He conveys this humility with his easygoing, egalitarian tone and his high-low eclecticism, which ranges from Homer's The Odyssey and Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener to E.B. White's Stuart Little and Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train....Books for Living is [a] gift, and one that keeps giving. (USA Today)
Moving... Schwalbe truly shines... It should convince even reluctant readers to pick up a book. (Boston Globe)
Each chapter about a beloved book-Stuart Little, David Copperfield, Song of Solomon, Bird by Bird-is a finely crafted, generously candid, and affecting personal essay, none more moving than the homage to his boarding-school librarian, who subtly steered him to James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, having 'realized that I was gay at just about the same time I did.' 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 (Booklist *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. (Publishers Weekly *starred review*)
Schwalbe's 'manifesto for readers' is not about his favorite books but those that helped him when he had a need. Written in a chatty, conversational style, the book is thematically organized by a wide variety of needs: slowing down, searching, trusting, napping, praying, etc.... In an age when the number of readers is declining, a delightful book like this might just snare a few new recruits. (Kirkus Reviews)
A sweet and utterly restorative series of vignettes about how books - the right books, at the right times - can not only deepen a life but save it. (The Christian Science Monitor)
In Books for Living the brilliant Will Schwalbe takes us on a personal journey through a life of reading. But like any great journey, it is far more than an accumulation of miles, or words. 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 favourite reads of all time, and I know I will revisit it over and over. But be warned. It's also quite an expensive book to read since I kept calling my local bookseller and ordering the volumes Will mentions in each chapter. This is a beautiful, powerful, warm, funny, awe-inspiring odyssey. An absolutely astonishing gift to all of us who have spent our lives loving books. (Louise Penny, author of the C. I. Gamache crime series)
***PRAISE FOR WILL SCHWALBE'S THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB***
I was so moved by this marvellous book. Schwalbe has done something extraordinary: made a personal journey public in the most engaging, funny and revealing way possible. It is a true meditation on what books can do.
Will Schwalbe gives us two love stories in one: That of his relationship with his dynamo of a mother as her horizons shrink, and that of their mutual devotion to the printed word, infinitely and insistently engaging. Tender and touching and beautifully done. (Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Cleopatra)
A perfect book-club book about books and the community they create that also portrays the love between mother and son.(Library Journal)
Will Schwalbe's brave and soulful elegy to his remarkable mother, his recollection of their sparklingly literate conversations, is a timely reminder that one exceptional person, or one exceptional book, can be a torch in the darkness. You'll turn the last page wishing you'd met Mary Anne Schwalbe, vowing to be worthy of her incandescent example - and promising yourself to read more. (J. R. Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar)
A wonderful book about wonderful books and mothers and sons and the enduring braid between them. Like the printed volumes it celebrates, this story will stay with you long after the last page. (Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Time Keeper)
At last a book that celebrates the role books play within our own story. Will Schwalbe has created a tender, moving and honest portrayal of the precious relationship between a mother and son - an ode to that beautiful thing called love. (Cecilia Ahern, author of PS, I Love You)
an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work. (Publishers Weekly starred review)
An extraordinarily wise, witty, and quietly wrenching book about parental love, filial love, profound grief, and literature's great consolations. How wonderful to encounter a writer who combines erudition with great emotional honesty, and who isn't afraid of addressing life's most profound and baffling questions. (Douglas Kennedy, author of Leaving the World and The Pursuit of Happiness)
This touching and insightful memoir about the slow process of dying will appeal to readers of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Last Lecture, but also to people who love delving into books and book discussions. Like Mary Anne, who reads the ending first, you know how this book is going to end, but while it is a story about death, it is mostly a celebration of life and of the way books can enrich it. (Booklist (starred review))
a moving and inspiring story (Choice Magazine)
What self-respecting reader isn't a sucker for a great book about other great books? The End of Your Life Book Club is that much and more. (BookPage)
a graceful, affecting testament to a mother and a life well lived. (Entertainment Weekly)
a tribute to a remarkable woman and an exemplary reader.(Salon)
Literature bridges generations in Will Schwalbe's thoughtful tribute to his late mother (Vogue.com)
A truly poignant read . . . a moving tribute to a wonderful-sounding mum and the power of fiction. (Good Housekeeping)
It helps of course if you are a book lover and can relate to the passion for reading, but even prolific readers will find that the book teaches them not only about life and death but about the power of a really good book to move you and peel off the onion skin layers of "what you already know" and reveal truths. (Curious Book Fans)
a life-enhancing celebration of the power of books and reading, very much in the vein of Tuesdays with Morrie (Independent)
Bestselling author Will Schwalbe's new book about books. An exploration of how reading guides us, comforts us and helps us make sense of the world and our place in it, through books as diverse as The Girl on the Train, The Little Prince and Reading Lolita in Tehran.See all Product description
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Schwalbe takes a book as the starting point for each short chapter and explains, describes, ruminates on what it has meant or revealed to him; they amount to biographical essays, some humorous, others quite moving – especially those dealing with memories evoked by particular books for friends and acquaintances, or episodes in the author's life.
Each chapter is headed by a book title then subtitled to reflect the subject of his narrative; his writing is eloquent and insightful, the books he has chosen are eclectic, wide-ranging, fiction and non-fiction, a mixture of the well-known and popular or some - admittedly - quite obscure. It isn't necessary to have read them in order to enjoy his text – it is the process of conveying the thoughts or the personal meanings the writings have given him that he gives back to his own readers through memories, thoughts and feelings.
If there is a book he recommends it is the one he covers in his opening chapter “The Importance of Living” by Lin Yutang; this seems to serve as a touchstone for him, referencing it often in later chapters by way of comparison or explanation.
I enjoyed and was frequently moved by this little gem of a book; by revealing his personal experience of reading, Schwalbe extols the pleasure and significance that books can have on our lives and like music, can effect us deeply in ways we don't always realise; I'm sure after reading this, you'll be considering which books have held similar sway in your own life-experience.
In these 20+ books that have made the cut, you will find old classics, new books, and some books that you wouldn’t of thought would of made the cut, ‘Stuart Little’ springs to mind.
Each chapter/book tells you about what that particular book taught the author, from finding friends through the story of ‘The Little Prince’, to feeling sensitive via ‘Bird by Bird’.
The book is totally fascinating, and I can honestly say that I have never really looked at the way books can affect you beyond giving you that escapism, or that heart pounding moment, and even those times that you feel the need to sleep at night with the lights on after reading a particularly scary story.
I was intrigued by what Will had to share, and the way that he looks at books in the same manner in which people look at the real world. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read any of the books on Will’s list, so I couldn’t look back and see if, subconsciously, the same book had made me feel the same way.
If you are a book lover then I would thoroughly recommend you read this book. It will open your eyes and make you understand that a book can give you so much more than just a wonderful plot with believable, interesting characters, it can change the way you look at the world, and quite possibly yourself.
Reviewed on Whispering Stories Book Blog
*I received a free copy of this book, which I voluntarily reviewed
He describes the circuitous route which led him to various books, why they are important to him and how they made him think differently. This certainly has huge appeal to book lovers, as well as being an entertaining memoir. Schwabe discusses everything from his schooldays, books that bring back memories, of overcoming boredom, empathy and even the joys of napping!
Each chapter is headed by a piece of writing which has meant a lot to the author and this very eclectic list includes classics such as David Copperfield, The Odyssey, 1984 and Rebecca, books about books, such as the brilliant, Reading Lolita in Tehran, thrillers, such as The Girl on the Train and children’s books, such as Stuart Little. This includes stories, poems and novels which have inspired, motivated or changed the author in some way. This really is a joyous, tender and thoughtful read – sure to appeal to all bookworms, like me, as well as adding to the never ending list of books that I want to read, or re-read.
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