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 favorite 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.
There are many folks we love…but the first are in books we took to bed when we were sneaking our flashlights under our blankets to enjoy the last few words. These will probably not be our last love under blankets but the first to teach us to trust. 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.
Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living is a scintillating look at the places books take us. And the books! From The Odyssey to The Girl on the Train, The Little Prince to Reading Lolita in Tehran, with stops in places well-traveled and completely unexpected, 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.
Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Why do we read and what is to be found there? Reading itself is Will Schwalbe’s great topic, and there is no one better to bring alive the nourishing, challenging intimacy of entering the worlds that books offer us. 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. Along the road we get an accidental memoir with the storied Schwalbe a quietly compelling hero at the center. If we truly need books, as Schwalbe shows us we do, it is because we need each other.
Elizabeth Alexander, author of The Light of the World
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe lives wonderfully up to its title. He offers an easy tone, sections chapter by chapter of his chosen stories and their affiliations to our own lives. 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. That’s a thrill! I can’t imagine a person who loves books not being grateful. Any season of the year, this book is a gift.
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 ReviewsRead full review
We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: ‘What are you reading?’ It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives.
The Wall Street Journal, "The Need To Read" (excerpt from the book)Read full review
Will Schwalbe speaks to book-lovers with Books for Living. He looks at works that have impacted his life, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and beyond. If you love to read, you’ll relate.
Bustle, "The 13 Best Nonfiction Books Due Out In December 2016"Read full review
You better not pout: Will Schwalbe and his great taste are coming to town with Books for Living (Knopf).
Vanity Fair, "The Must-Read Books of the Holiday Season"Read full review
I very much enjoyed it . . . inspiring and charming . . . Books, to Schwalbe, are our last great hope to keep us from spiraling 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, "Lessons on How to Live, in 26 Books"Read full review