- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1 Feb. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374289204
- ISBN-13: 978-0374289201
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.3 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,174,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Why I Read Hardcover – 1 Feb 2014
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The rare and marvelous pleasure of meeting a fellow reader, the sort of person who, in childhood, automatically turned the cereal box so her eyes could rest on words at all times, is here given new form. Wendy Lesser is candid, democratic, brisk, passionate, stubborn, fiercely exact; as in all memorable conversations, I found myself sometimes wishing to debate, and often bursting into private festivals of concurrence. This is a book of rich provocations and rich delights. More than most contemporary critics, Lesser trusts her instinct: what a joy it is to listen, through these pages, to her bold assessments and charismatic opinions. --Louise Gluck, author of Poems 1962-2012 Reading Why I Read delivers all the pleasure of discussing one's favorite books with a marvelously articulate, intelligent, opinionated friend. It's like joining the book club of your dreams, one in which you don't have to do any of the work or think up intelligent things to say, but can simply enjoy reading about books you've read or want to read. --Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer Wendy Lesser has read just about everything, and proves a wonderfully companionable guide to books high and low. Rather than attempting anything ponderously encyclopedic, she follows her hunches, asking good, probing questions, voicing cultivated, intelligent opinions and surprising judgments, and doing it all with humor, dash, and skeptical humility. The result is a treat for all who love reading. --Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction Wendy Lesser's extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America's most significant cultural critics. --Stephen GreenblattAn intellectual of unflinching dignity and gravitas, founder of The Threepenny Review and author of nine previous books--including literary memoir, cultural criticism --Various
About the Author
Wendy Lesser is the founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, which Adam Zagajewski has called one of the most original literary magazines not only in the U.S. but also on the entire planet. She is the author of eight previous books of nonfiction and one novel. Her most recent book is the prizewinning Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen String Quartets. She has written for The New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She divides her time between Berkeley, California, and New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
Although much of this book has a scholarly feel and Lesser has an obvious admiration for Russian literature, she does not only examine reading from the viewpoint of the classics. Modern novels, such as “Wolf Hall,” are used as examples; as are Scandinavian crime fiction, science fiction and poetry. Other issues close to the heart of readers, such as translations and, of course, the advent of the paperless book, are all covered. Lastly, there is a list of 100 books recommended by the author.
This was an enjoyable read and it has led me to add many books and authors to my wish list.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Since I’m being honest here, a second dose: I am well disposed towards books about books no matter who the author is. Having few people in my life who like to discuss books as much as I do, I enjoy having this, granted, one-sided conversation with someone who clearly loves reading. She has decided to frame her conversation around topics like “character and plot”, “novelty”, “authority”, and “grandeur and intimacy”. Though there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about this, it works well enough and gives her views some depth.
Of course, what I’m really after here is what books make a reader tick. Ms. Lesser covers quite a bit of ground but it’s also clear that she’s got certain books on her radar right now (as she admits). In particular, she seems enamored of the classic Russian writers as well as Henry James, who gets a lot of talk time. Though I’ve dipped into these writers over the years, I can’t say they rank as personal favorites but that’s just as well. One thing I am always looking for in a book is that it will lead me to another book that I might not have decided to read. Ms. Lesser does that for me here.
Ironically, despite her passion for the Russians and James, the book she has led me to is Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. After being left fairly cold by my previous experiences of Lawrence—The Lost Girl and Lady Chatterley’s Lover—I decided to give Sons and Lover a try. Now, a little over halfway through the novel, I have finally found a Lawrence that moves me and speaks to his reputation as a great writer. And, as I read, Ms. Lesser’s words come back to me: “But wait—never trust the artist, trust the tale. David Herbert Lawrence the person may have had it in for his father, but the novel Sons and Lovers knows enough to allow for our sympathy for Walter Morel. The book wouldn’t work without it.” (p. 107) From what I’ve read so far as I devour this novel, she’s right on target.
I expect I will try some other of her suggestions that I haven’t read yet. Hopefully, they will work out as well as the Lawrence. In the end, I couldn’t ask for much more.