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Books for Living
Cover of Books for Living
Books for Living
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From the author of the beloved New York Times best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring and magical exploration of the power of books to shape our lives in an era of constant...
From the author of the beloved New York Times best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring and magical exploration of the power of books to shape our lives in an era of constant...
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Description-

  • From the author of the beloved New York Times best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring and magical exploration of the power of books to shape our lives in an era of constant connectivity.

    Why is it that we read? Is it to pass time? To learn something new? To escape from reality? For Will Schwalbe, reading is a way to entertain himself but also to make sense of the world, to become a better person, and to find the answers to the big (and small) questions about how to live his life. In this delightful celebration of reading, Schwalbe invites us along on his quest for books that speak to the specific challenges of living in our modern world, with all its noise and distractions. In each chapter, he discusses a particular book—what brought him to it (or vice versa), the people in his life he associates with it, and how it became a part of his understanding of himself in the world. These books span centuries and genres (from classic works of adult and children's literature to contemporary thrillers and even cookbooks), and each one relates to the questions and concerns we all share. Throughout, Schwalbe focuses on the way certain books can help us honor those we've loved and lost, and also figure out how to live each day more fully. Rich with stories and recommendations, Books for Living is a treasure for everyone who loves books and loves to hear the answer to the question: "What are you reading?"
    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Introduction

    From time to time I have a terrifying dream. I call it the Reader's Nightmare.

    I'm in a busy airport, and they've announced my flight. There is an epic walk to the gate, and I know I have only a few minutes before they will close the door to the jetway and my plane will leave without me. Suddenly, I realize that I don't have a book to read on the flight. Not one single book. I spin around, my eyes searching frantically for a bookstore. I see none. I run through the airport, past the duty-free counters selling liquor and perfume, past the luggage stores and fashion boutiques, past the place that offers neck massage. Still, I can't find an airport bookstore. Now, over the loudspeakers, comes the final call for my flight. "Flight ninety-seven to Perth is ready for departure. All passengers must be on board at this time." They even call me by name. Panic sets in as I realize that I am almost certainly going to miss my flight. But the idea of hours on a plane without a book? Intolerable. So I run and run, searching for that bookstore—or at least a newsstand with a rack of paperbacks. I can't find a single book anywhere in the airport. I start to scream.

    Then I wake up.

    I don't have this dream about food or television or movies or music. My unconscious is largely untroubled by the idea of spending hours in a metal tube hurtling through the sky without something to eat or a program to watch or tunes in my ears. It's the thought of being bookless for hours that jolts me awake in a cold sweat.

    Throughout my life I've looked to books for all sorts of reasons: to comfort me, to amuse me, to distract me, and to educate me. But just because you know that you can find anything you need in a book doesn't mean you can easily find your way to the right book at the right time, the one that tells you what you need to know or feel when you need to know or feel it.

    A few years ago, I wrote a book about the books I read with my mother when she was dying of pancreatic cancer. During this time we read casually, promiscuously, and whimsically, allowing one book to lead us to the next. We read books we were given and books that had sat on our shelves for decades, waiting to be noticed; books we had stumbled across, and books we had chosen to reread simply because we felt like it. Were we looking for anything in particular? Usually not. At times, the books gave us something to talk about when we wanted to talk about anything rather than her illness. But they also gave us a way to talk about subjects that were too painful to address directly. They helped guide and prompt our conversations, so that I could learn as much as I could from my mother while she was still here to teach me.

    At other times throughout my life, though, I've felt a very specific need and have searched for a book to answer it. It hasn't always been easy to find the right book. Sure, when that burning need was to learn how to make a pineapple upside-down cake, I turned to The Cake Bible. Or when it was a need to find a place to eat in Chicago, the Zagat guide. Or when I wanted to self-diagnose that angry rash, to the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. More and more, when I need this kind of information, my first line of attack isn't a book at all—it's the Internet, or social media, where I quiz the ubiquitous "hive mind" to find, say, good Malaysian food near Union Square.

    There are, however, questions that the Internet and the hive mind are spectacularly unable to answer to my satisfaction. These are the big ones, the ones that writers have been tackling for thousands of years: the problem of pain, meaning, purpose,...

About the Author-

  • WILL SCHWALBE has worked in publishing; digital media, as the founder and CEO of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for various publications, including The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is the author of the New York Times best seller The End of Your Life Book Club and coauthor, with David Shipley, of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 17, 2016
    The right book at the right time can change your life, Schwalbe (The End of Your Life Book Club) argues as he distills a lifetime of reading recommendations down to this personal list of books for many moods and occasions. The first book that Schwalbe recommends is Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, an interesting work of practical philosophy that Schwalbe returns to over and over. Schwalbe also includes essays on children’s books, YA, classics, and recent book such as A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 novel. He uses these brief essays as springboards into other topics, such as worry over our Orwellian addiction to smartphones, the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and why napping should be deemed a human right. His experience taking a class in ancient Greek and reading The Odyssey turns into a memoir about a teacher who inspired him. When he reflects on Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, he thinks of the high school librarian who subtly provided him with books by gay writers. 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. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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