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Books for Living

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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?"

288 pages, Hardcover

First published December 27, 2016

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About the author

Will Schwalbe

8 books1,290 followers
Greetings! Since we are both here, I’m guessing you are probably a fellow book-lover. Always great to meet other members of the tribe!

I’ve put a lot about myself in my books, but here are some of the basics. I was born in New York in 1962; grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts; went to boarding school in New Hampshire, and to college in New Haven, Connecticut. So I consider myself a New Englander, even though I’m not one by birth.

I’ve worked as a journalist, in the television business, and even (briefly, in college) as a substitute teacher. But I’ve spent most of my life in publishing: at William Morrow, and then at Hyperion, where I was Editor in Chief. In January 2008, I left Hyperion to found a startup called Cookstr.com and ran that for six years. It’s now part of Macmillan Publishers, where I’ve worked since 2014.

Books have been the constant in my life. From those my mother read me when I was too young to read, to those my father read us when we could read but still liked to be read to. From books I read under the covers, long after I was supposed to be asleep—including every single thriller by the magnificent Alistair Maclean—to books that I found in my teens that helped me imagine all different kinds of lives, and see the world through others’ eyes.

I’ve written four books. The first -- SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better – was written with my friend David Shipley. The second, THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB, is about the books I read with my mother when she was dying. The third is BOOKS FOR LIVING, about the role books can play in our lives and how they can show us how to live each day more fully and with more meaning. And the fourth is WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS: The Story of an Unlikely Friendship that started in college and has enriched my life for forty years and counting.

I live in New York City with my husband. We’ve been together since way back when I first moved to Hong Kong in 1984. We have one African violet, that’s a bit lopsided; books everywhere; and are obsessed with our neighbor’s adorable chow, Lucky. We also have five godchildren, one niece, and four nephews.

I love meeting fellow readers and hearing from readers about all different kinds of book. I answer everyone, though sometimes it can take me a bit of time. My favorite question to ask or be asked is a simple one: “What are you reading?”

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 946 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews11 followers
December 23, 2016
I'm about to begin my 3rd round. I kinda love this book......'lots'!!!!!!

Will Schwalbe is forever the "What Are You Reading" guy....for me.
He brought electric power to the sentence.
To quote The Washington Post....[from when he wrote "The End of Your Life Book Club"]......."Schwalbe... highlights not just how relevant but how Integral literature can be to life".

"Books For Living".....
Will says, "The BOOKS I've written about in this one are a small sampling of the works
that have been my companions: books I've read, misread, reread, and recommended. I've neglected to mention most of my favorites".

As I read this book a second time.... I thought a lot about "becoming".....
'becoming' a sincerely more satisfied person. Making choices in life that fit my own standards -- nobody else's.
I read this excerpt a few times -- each time -- differently.
"When we ask one another, What are you reading?" sometimes we discover the ways we are similar; sometimes the ways we are different. Sometimes we discover things we never knew we shared; other times we open ourselves up to exploring new worlds and ideas. "What are you reading?" isn't a simple question when you asked with genuine curiosity; it's really a way of asking, "Who are you now and who are you becoming?"

So who am I becoming ... as I read 'this' New delightful book about Books?

Ok... I'll share:
It's December 2016. The year is almost up. It's been a wonderful year. I shared with the community on Goodreads - [on my "2016 on Goodreads" page] - that next year I'm going to semi-retire from writing LONG book reviews. Next year - I'll only write a few words - or no more than 3 sentences to a book I read. I NEED and WANT to slow down and have more LOAFING time!!! YET.... I'm not sure what I'm becoming... maybe? hopefully--something I feel proud about.... even if it's invisible to others.
THERE ARE MANY POSITIVE MESSAGES in Will's book...."Books for Living"....that are encouraging to me - supportive in having me look deeper at my purpose for my semi-retirement.
The first BOOK that Will introduces us to after his introduction is a book called
"The Importance of Living", by Lin Yutang. This book makes a great case for "loafing". --- "not striving for too much". OH MY GOD... THESE WORDS COULD NOT FALLEN INTO MY LAP AT A BETTER TIME!!!

I love this excerpt too... [its valuable to me in "becoming"]....
"The Importance of Living" includes a section called "The Importance of LOAFING". .... Here Lin Yutang writes about the horrors of "efficiency, punctuality and the desire for achievement and success." He calls them "Three American Vices". He writes, "They are the things that make Americans so unhappy and so nervous. They steal from them their inalienable right of loafing and cheat them of many a good, idle and beautiful afternoon."
"Happily, these three devices can be kept at bay very simple: Whenever you have a chance, you lie down on your bed and close your eyes".
Cheers for 'napping'.... which is also a theme in the book Will writes about....
"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running", by Haruki Murakami. Murakami talks about the value of 'napping'. Hm??? Something is going on here when people I admire speak about rest, loafing, and napping.

When I read about Will's connection with the book "Giovanni's Room", by James Baldwin, .... I was so moved... I immediately realized I must make some brownies and bring some to the kids next door. ( more relaxing play time -something fun to make which I seldom do anymore). Books support living....( I'm thinking outloud here).
This past year, I'm not 100% sure all the books I read - and reviews I wrote supported me fully 'living'. Just trying to be honest - and consider the possibility- that it's time to
play a little more - loaf a little more next year. It's no accident that I'm reading Will's book at the END of 2016....looking forward into 2017.

Moving on.... more treasures in Will's book:
I've read many reviews on the book "A Little Life", by Hanya Yanagihara.... ( a book I read non stop in 4 days -- and only got out of bed for essential needs) ...but damn, if I wasn't a slopping 'mess' when reading what things Will wrote. The ENTIRE SECTION MOVED me deeply. I COULD QUOTE it ALL....but instead- I'll share one tiny part. My eyes were so wet by the time I came to this part. Will wrote about "A Little Life" soooo beautiful!!!
"We all need space. Some of us need it more than others. For some, like Jude, there's a powerful reason. For others, like me, it's simply the way we're wired, part of who we are". WE ARE THE WAY WE ARE...*WIRED*.... it's simply a part of who we ARE!!!!

Another excerpt....just because I love it... From "Bird by Bird", by Anne Lammott
"Thirty years ago my older brother who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down next to him, put his arm around my brother shoulders, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird".

LAST..... I have a confession.... I've never read "David Copperfield"... and after reading Will's "remembering" section .... I've never wanted to read this book more!!

Thank you Will for the MANY MANY MANY gifts "Books For Living" is to me!!!!Thank you for mailing me a copy. I'm going to treasure it for many years!!!!

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,737 reviews14.1k followers
December 7, 2016
Books about books, I can never resist them Love reading about books others love, the meanings they find in them, books to guide one and book read to gain knowledge. This book covers all this and more. Loved his The End of Your Life Book Club, though sad I found it a special read. He uncovers further relationships and the books that remind him of these. Books that he will never part with and why. He quotes extensively from The Importance of Living, seems to e the book he takes his guiding philosophy from, one he turns to time and rime again.

He discusses why we read and the many ways reading can help. Love his thoughts on fiction and how it teaches us how and how not to act. Our turned on and into world which has pretty much diminished quiet time and solitude. Plus, how could I not love a writer who loves many of the same books I do, including A Little Life?

Divided into sections, each one an essay on its own, and I enjoyed each and every one. He is a clear and concise writer, stating his reasons for each of his chosen books and acknowledges there are many more he did not mention. The biggest problem with reading a book such as this, are more additions to my already overflowing TBR. Brought one home from work yesterday that I hope to read soon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and since he includes a list at books end will certainly be adding more.

ARC from Knopf publishers.
Publication date: December 29th.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,271 followers
April 6, 2017

I read Will Schwalbe’s “The End of Your Life Book Club” in 2012, shortly after it was released. It is one of those books that are still very special to me; it was very close to my life then. Less than two years later my own mother’s health would decline very rapidly for a while, and then at the end she very slowly she slipped away. Reading was one of the things that we both enjoyed, some of the same books, often not, but those last two years she enjoyed being read to. Books had become too heavy for her to hold for long.

Books about books, about bookstores, libraries, about pretty much anything to do with books are ones many of us are drawn to – sometimes that leads to disappointments. After all, shouldn’t one who is writing about books feel the same way about books as we do? A tall order, but I had confidence in Will Schwalbe, and I also wasn’t expecting the same kind of book. What I was expecting, and received time and again was his thoughts on books, which ones were special to him, and why. This is such a personal view on Schwalbe, himself, and there’s something about this that makes it feel as though he is talking to you as a fellow reader, a trusted friend – so of course, you’ll understand.

”Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone; it’s a solitary activity that connects you to others.”

And where can that be truer than here, where we have places like goodreads to not only share our thoughts on these pages we’ve just read?

”’What are you reading?” isn’t a simple question when asked with genuine curiosity; it’s really a way of asking, ‘Who are you now and who are you becoming?’”

There are too many books he discusses in “Books for Living” to include even the titles of them all, but there are a few he discusses and quotes from more than most. Undoubtedly, the most referenced is ”The Importance of Living”

”The Importance of Living is a book that makes a case for loafing, for savoring food and drink, for not striving too much.”

His thoughts on Stuart Little

”Try not to run away but to go in search. Try to remain polite when possible, as Stuart always does, and to accept what can’t be change – even thought you might mourn what you’re losing, the way Stuart did when he was on the garbage scow headed out to sea. Try to dress smartly. (I usually fail miserably on that account: A friend once told me that I ‘wear my clothes well.’ English was his second language; he later clarified he’d meant that I wear them until they are worn out.” Try to be as brave as Stuart, and as resourceful as he was when he piloted the model boat to victory. But more than anything: Try to be as cheerful and optimistic as you can be in the face of whatever comes next.”

And while he talks about some of the books that have meant perhaps the most to him, there is never any sense that he’s insisting you share his opinion. Perhaps his opinion or his thoughts will sway you, or not, but he shares what it is about them that moves him. Sometimes seeing yourself through another author’s words works even for Schwalbe.

”You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

A little surprisingly to me, one of the books he discusses was ”Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. A lovely passage on kindness.

”Much of the wisdom in the book comes from Auggie’s teacher Mr. Browne, who is in the habit of sharing precepts with the class to help them learn how to deal with life’s challenges and dilemmas. But it’s the school’s principal, Mr. Tushman, who, in his middle-school commencement address, sums up best the most important lesson of the year. His instruction to his students is both simple and arduous: Choose kindness. I was surprised and pleased to note that he explains kindness to the fifth- and sixth-graders with references to books. First, he cites a book by J. M. Barrie (not, he tells them, Peter Pan, but a book called ‘The Little White Bird’). He reads the sentence ‘Shall we make a new rule-of-life…always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?’ He explains: ‘What a marvelous line, isn’t it? “Kinder than necessary.” Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.’”

I’ve already added several books from Schwalbe’s list of books, among them:

Gift From the Sea
The Importance of Living
Giovanni’s Room
Zen in the Art of Archery
Song of Solomon
Epitaph of a Small Winner

Likely, I’ll add more in the future.

I don’t think I’ll re-read The Little Prince anytime soon, but maybe, someday, in the future. But I enjoyed reading about Schwalbe’s re-reading of The Little Prince which had him reflect on the loss of an old high-school friend, Lee. He shared that he will now always think of them together, and also shared the dedication on her tribute page of the school yearbook:

Love lives on.
The best of what we mortals are, and
what we create, lives on.
In a spiritual sense. And in other ways,
Think how much poorer the world would
be if, for instance, the words of Shakespeare
or the music of Beethoven were silenced
with their composer’s passing. How
fortunate we are that it doesn’t happen that
Every time a school boy read Hamlet’s
soliloquy…every time a young girl sits at
the piano begins to play the graceful
notes of the Moonlight Sonata… a brilliant
idea of a strong, emotional feeling bursts to
life once again.
Ideas live on. Gifts and talents live on.
Acts of caring live on.
Love lives on.

Books live on, in our hearts, our minds, they become part of us and we become their emissaries, hopefully introducing them to the world, to generations after generations of readers. Of course, not all books will fall into those categories, some will become irrelevant, some will never make the list of those books one must read in a lifetime, but some will.

Included in the Appendix there is a list of “the authors, books, plays, poems, stories, and journal articles discussed or mentioned in” Books for Living is around 12 - 13 pages long (Kindle pages, but nonetheless worth noting)

Profile Image for Carol.
829 reviews483 followers
May 2, 2017
It not so much the books mentioned but the stories told.

In the introduction of Will Schwalbe’s Books For Living he immediately begins relating those stories about books that are important in his life. On a long plane ride he sits next to a nineteen year old West Pont plebe and they are soon book talking which leads to this challenge:

”The cadet said he would trade me a genuine West Point baseball cap for a list of my favorite titles. I can’t remember most of what I wrote down. I love the cap; I hope he liked the books.”

I’m certain like Schwalbe, each of us has a list of favorite books, usually a list that changes and grows over time. As booklover’s we read, we embrace what we read, we take from books what we may, and we use a book’s wisdom to direct our lives. They become our books for living. And they become the books we tell our own stories about. That’s the beauty of this book for me and that is why I love GoodReads. My friends tell their personal experiences about the books they read and review. They are their books for living.

Will Schwalbe entertains me with a discourse about an unreliable narrator, or one that is only possibly unreliable and then goes on to tell us that ”Finding out that you were wrong when you were sure you were right is like that moment in cartoons when a character runs off a cliff and freezes in midair for a few seconds before plummeting. There is a brief instant when you still hold on to the hope that you were right before conceding total wrongness—and it’s only then that the ground falls out from under you.”

There is a heart-warming story about a favorite librarian that just left books for Schwalbe, another about the David’s in his life. One about choosing kindness and another about a teacher who taught him a valuable lesson that it was ok to recognize his own mediocrity. He reminds me that ”Just because someone is gone doesn’t mean that person exits your life.” And the last I’ll mention that ” Fiction doesn’t exist to change us for the better but I believe it almost always does. Fiction opens us up.. For these I could hug Will Schwalbe, if he were a huggable guy.

Books for Living touched me. Perhaps some of the many books Schwalbe talks about in Books For Living will make it to my favorite list, perhaps not. What I do know is that I loved this book and how it brought back memories of what makes a a book special. Thank you Mr. Schwalbe.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,256 reviews451 followers
January 18, 2017
I love Will Schwalbe. I have loved him ever since reading "The End of Your Life Book Club". I love him so much that I actually bought this book in hardback the day it was released because I need it to be on my shelf. I love him because when I finished his previous book, I sent him an email about how much that book meant to me, and he emailed me back with the warmest and friendliest response you can imagine.

This is a book about reading, and loving books, and applying what you read to your life. It is about the importance of words and ideas. It's about some books I've read and some that I haven't, but will. He has such a chatty, personal style that it's like having a conversation with your best friend. How can you not not love an author who admits that beer and donuts derail his diets every time, who loves to nap, loves to cook, whose favorite day is staying home to read for hours.

His chapter on "Death Be Not Proud" had me in tears, and I've never even read the book. He has convinced me that I need to give Murakami a try. But above all, I have to locate and buy a copy of "The Importance of Living" by Lin Yutang. I know I need that book in my life.
Profile Image for Candace.
879 reviews
October 6, 2017
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe is a fascinating and engrossing book. In it Will list books that have meant something to him. He gives his thoughts and opinion such as napping, choosing kindness, hugging, feeling sensitive, traveling and living. He elaborates these with life lessons and memories.

This touching book has broaden my thoughts when asked "What are you reading?" I have often thought of books as elements of fiction--characterization, plot, description, voice, etc.--instead of what that book meant to me emotionally. Books for Living has changed my outlook. Now I just need to open up and have the courage to follow through emotionally.

The author includes a list of authors and books he has mentioned in titles and context in an appendix.
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,649 reviews2,559 followers
March 22, 2017
Will Schwalbe, author of ‘The End of Your Life Book Club‘ has shared with us details of more than twenty books that changed how he perceived the world and his life, in his new book, ‘Books for Living’.

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 by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
615 reviews19.4k followers
September 25, 2017
This is a book about books.

Those books that have inspired the author throughout his life and about the books he was reading during certain periods or events.

I enjoyed some of the books he mentions such as Rebecca, Wonder and The Girl on the Train but also spaced out when he described some books I do not care about or have not read such as 1984, Mobydick and A Little Life.
Profile Image for Sharon Metcalf.
734 reviews163 followers
January 18, 2019
4.5 stars

A word of warning, if you're trying to limit the number of books you add to your TBR folder you should NOT read Books For Living by Will Schwalbe. On the other hand, how fantastic it is to read a book which guides you to many much loved and well respected books. I've made a conscious decision to restrict the number of books I add to my TBR yet in the space of a few days I added 23 titles (yes twenty three) as a direct result of listening to this fabulous audiobook.

In a most engaging and down to earth manner Will Schwalbe talks about all kinds of everyday issues and relates the way certain books spoke to him, the important messages he took from these books, the joys, the memories he associates with them. If you've not already read the books he makes it hard to resist adding them, if only to find out for yourself if they're as good as they sound. For me, when he spoke of books I'd already read and loved I felt a sense of communion. Ah how I love to chat about favourite books and this was the next best thing.

There's no doubt the author is well read but he's not boastful of this fact, smart and eloquent whilst remaining entertaining and at times humorous. What comes across loud and clear is that reading is his passion and he loves books. If you too fit that category I highly recommend Books for Living. I daresay it wont be too long before I read (or listen to) his earlier title The End of Your Life Book Club.
Profile Image for Kaitlin S..
2 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2016
"A book doesn't need to be thick enough to stop bullets. It doesn't need to lower your cholesterol. It doesn't even need to be a force for social good, though it's tremendous when it is. It just needs to be 'an affirmation of life against the transience of life, an essential defiance.' It just needs to be the book you need when you need it."
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,078 reviews711 followers
July 14, 2017
Will Schwalbe has provided readers in this book a series of personal reflections on his reading life and the roles that those books played in his life. Thus it's a combination of memoir, sociological/historical commentary, and multiple book reviews.

Perhaps a descriptive alternative title for this book is "Zen in the Art of Book Selection." I'm not sure I can defend the use of the word of "Zen" in this case, but it's a thought I had while Schwalbe was discussing the book, Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel.

It seems to me that any reader of books who cares enough about their reading to create a Goodreads.com page will find this book of interest. An interesting project for readers of this book to consider is the possibility of writing their own personal version of this book based on their own reading history. We GR members already have our list of books prepared with our reviews that can serve as reminders of the respective reading experiences for each book. All that's needed is to weave some memoir and miscellaneous commentary in between the book reviews.

I appreciated this quotation from the book near its end.
I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book. But I don't say that anymore because I no longer think it's true. I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I've come to believe that the greatest gift you can give people is to take the time to talk with them about a book you've shared. A book is a great gift; the gift of your interest and attention is even greater.
In a manner of speaking, we Goodreads.com members share our thoughts on books everyday online. In other words, we give the greatest gift to others on a regular basis.

Schwalbe may have mentioned too many names and book titles for some people's taste. I've included the following listing of the authors, books, plays, poems, stories and journal articles discussed or mentioned in Books for Living in order to show how extensive his name dropping was. Some were only mentioned in passing and others in more depth, but none are given a thorough review. The following list is taken from the book's Appendix.
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus: Revelations
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Epitaph of a Small Winner(The Postbumous Memoirs Bras Cubas)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room; The Fire Next Time
J. M. Barrie, The Little White Bird; Peter Pan
Joseph Beam
Robert Benchley
Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Cake Bible
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bible
Isabella Bird
Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking: An Introduction
(first published as The Use of Lateral Thinking)
Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves
John Boswell
Jane Bowles
Paul Bowles
Charlotte Bronte
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Rebecca Brown, The Gifts of the Body
Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh
Toby C. Campbell, M.D., “When Minutes Matter,”
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 314, no. 17.
Truman Capote
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
Chang Ch’ao
Bruce Chatwin
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World
Lee Child, Killing Floor
Winston Churchill
John Ciardi, Manner 0f Speaking; The Little That Is All: “East Sixty-seventh Street” and “A Poem for Benn’s Graduation from High School ”; “Washing Your Feet
The Divine Comedy (translation)
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games series
Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking; More Home Cooking
e e Cummings
Dianne Mott Davidson, Sticks & Scones
Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mama
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Isalc Dinesen, “Babette’s Feast”
Melvin Dixon
Hilda “H.D.” Dolittle
John Donne, “Death Be Not Proud”
Rita Dove
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Arthur Conan Doyle
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Albert Einstein
Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine
Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong
Robert Ferro
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
E. M. Forster
Robert Frost
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won't Get You There
Henry Green
John Grisham, The Confession
Michael Grumley
John Gunther, Death Be Not Proud
Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
Essex Hemphill
Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery
James Hilton, Goodbye, Mr. Chips
S. E. Hinton, The Oursiders
Vyvyan Holland, Son of Oscar Wilde
Homer, The Iliad; The Odyssey
Vincent C. Horrigan and Raymond V. Schoder, A Reading Course in Homeric Greek
Marie Howe, What The Living Do: “My Dead Friends”
Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore
Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
William Inge, Tbe Dark of the Top of the Stairs
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Alan; Christopher and His Kind
Arturo Islas
Tbe Jakata (St0ries of the Buddha's Former Births)
William James
Franz Kafka
Yasunari Kawabata
Marie Kondo, Tbe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up
The Koran
Larry Kramer
Milan Kundera
Stephen E. Lahey, John Wolf
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird; Traveling Mercies; Heip, Thanks, Wow; Stitcbes
John Lanchester, The Debt to Pleasure
Nigella Lawson, Feast
Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Stan Leventhal
Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking
Hsiangju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin, Chinese Gastronomy
Lin Yutang, My Country and My People; The Importance 0f Living; Between Tears and Laughter
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Listen! The Wind; Gift from the Sea
Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock
Livy (Titus Livius}
Rosa Luxemburg
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
Xavier de Maistre, A Journey Around My Room, A Nocturnal
Expedition Around My Room

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Mayo Clinic Family Health Book
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, “Bartlehy, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”
Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
Paul Monette
Marianne Moore
Jan Morris
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Mohammed Mrabet
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, IQ84
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
Christopher Nolan, Under the Eye of the Clock
George Orwell, 1984
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
R.J. Palacio, Wonder
Shahrnush Parsipur
Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean
Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Pliny the Younger
Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives
John Preston
Erich Maria Remarque
Faith Ringgold, Tar Beach
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
John Ruskin
Vito Russo
Assotto Saint
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Thing; Are
William Shakespeare, King Lear, Hamlet
George Bernard Shaw, Bernard Shaw: Complete Plays with Prefaces
Randy Shilts
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (with Illustrations of Character and Content)
Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy
William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style
Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls
Sir Wilfred Thesiger
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
A Thousand and One Nights
Monique Truong, The Book of Salt
Mark Twain
John Updike
Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar
Alice Waters
Alec Waugh, The Loom of Youth
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Eudora Welty
E. B. White, Stuart Little; Cbarlotte’s Web; The Trumpet of the Swan; Tbe Element: of Style (with William Strunk Jr.); Letters of E. B. White
Oscar Wilde
Tennessee Williams
Vera B. Williams, “More More More,” Said the Baby
Percival Christopher Wren, Beau Geste
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
Yiian Chunglang
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,691 reviews451 followers
February 26, 2021
Will Schwalbe shares his love of books in a thoughtful, personal way in "Books for Living." He chose a group of books that spoke to him when he needed them, or opened his eyes to see the world and life a little differently. The book that he turns to most often is "The Importance of Living" by Lin Yutang which was written in 1937. It showed him the importance of slowing down, enjoying periods of contemplation, and appreciating literature and nature. He highlighted an essay on the enjoyment of laying in bed thinking, napping, and listening to music.

The children's book, "Stuart Little," taught him about searching and going on a quest. A kind librarian put a copy of "Giovanni's Room" in his hands when he was a gay young man in high school. "The Gifts of the Body" was important when he was losing friends to AIDS. Anne Lamont's "Bird by Bird" is a reminder to break tasks into pieces to avoid being overwhelmed. I had never given any thought that the same author, Herman Melville, wrote both "Bartleby, the Scrivener" about quitting, and "Moby Dick" about Captain Ahab never giving up his pursuit of the whale. Sometimes it is better for our mental health, physical well-being, or financial security to quit and take a new path. Although the author mentions around a hundred books, there are twenty-six essays about an individual book.

"Books for Living" is a memoir as well as a book about books. Will Schwalbe uses a warm conversational tone that draws the reader in. I rarely reread books, but I'm keeping this treasure on my shelf to read again.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books927 followers
January 3, 2017
Sometimes I do the right thing. Often by accident, but I take righteousness wherever I can find it.

In this case, I led off 2017 with a book about books. And it was a good book about books. Nothing meaty. Light. Each chapter dedicated to a different book, and even then discursive at times such that some books get talked up more than others in their allotted chapters. Also, Schwalbe's not above circling back to talk again about a previous book. I like that too, though. By then, the gentle reader is in on the secret.

Why are some books discussed in greater depth than others? Because each book leads author Schwalbe to a discourse on its main theme (or one of them, anyway). Thus the Bird by Bird chapter treats on "Feeling Sensitive." Gift from the Sea talks about "Recharging." He even cheats now and then with a short story getting its own chapter. "Bartleby the Scrivener" leads to an essay on quitting. Society frowns upon it, but Schwalbe argues that quitting is sometimes exactly what you should do and, in fact, that many of the greatest successes had previously quit something else before their accomplishment.

Get the process? At about 10 pp. a chapter, this goes down like bibliophile candy. Granted, I had little interest in the chapters on Stuart Little, The Little Prince, and More, More, More, Said the Baby, but I read them anyway, just to see how the author would ruminate on their themes. Kid books have adult ramifications, don't you know.

The anchor of the book is the first chapter, which is on a little-known book called The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang (penned in the 1930s). Lin Yutang was a proponent of doing less, slowing down, and enjoying life more. Schwalbe himself brought the book back to print when he worked at a previous publisher. To say he is smitten with it is putting it mildly. He rereads it often. And Yutang's life is as interesting as his book, as you'll see.

As you might expect, this added to my "To read" pile in a serious way. Of the 26 books given chapters (he alludes to many, many others, but these get the chapter titles), I had only read seven: The Odyssey, David Copperfield, Wonder, "Bartleby the Scrivener," The Little Prince, Bird by Bird and 1984.

Books I added thanks to this book? They are...

The Importance of Living
Giovanni's Room
Zen in the Art of Archery
Journey Around My Room and a Nocturnal Expedition Around My Room
Song of Solomon
Epitaph of a Small Winner

And books I am considering adding...

The Girl on the Train
The Taste of Country Cooking
Lateral Thinking

About the only minus? Sometimes books get short shrift thanks to the focus on the essay theme, but that's a nit.

Overall, Will's voice will charm you. How couldn't it? He's a man who talks intelligently about books! A Goodreads kind of guy, in other words.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,643 reviews598 followers
October 30, 2016
Author Will Schwabe previously had a huge success with his moving memoir, “The End of Your Life Book Club,” about books he shared with his terminally ill mother. In this volume, he looks at the place of books in the modern world. He is not anti social media, but he says he still feels that reading – that ‘solitary activity that connects you to others’ – is the best way to examine your life and answer all those big questions about life. Here he examines books of importance to him; books that mean a lot to him for various reasons. Not necessarily his own personal favourites, but ones which stand out for various reasons.

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.
Profile Image for Linda Quinn.
1,167 reviews18 followers
November 26, 2016
"I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book. But I don't say that anymore because I no longer think it's true. I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I've come to believe that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you've shared." -Will Schwalbe. I couldn't agree more. And I look forward to sharing this book with friends so that we can take the time to talk about it together.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,608 reviews2,580 followers
March 6, 2017
(2.5) Such a mixed bag. A couple of these chapters are top-notch autobiographical essays worthy of standing alone: the one about Giovanni’s Room telling of how his boarding school librarian helped him accept that he was gay through the books she left out for him reminded me of the best bits of John Irving’s In One Person; another about The Gifts of the Body by Rebecca Brown gives a short history of how AIDS shattered his innocence in the 1980s. I also liked pieces about Gift from the Sea and A Little Life.

But then there are the chapters on Stuart Little and Anne Lamott that never rise about plot summary – always a danger in books about books; the spoilers (he’s ruined the ending of Bartleby, the Scrivener for me); the pure filler (The Girl on the Train – come on!); the pointless adulation (Toni Morrison is brilliant, in case you didn’t know); a couple arguments I simply don’t agree with (The Odyssey calls for us to be content with our mediocrity? Hardly! Bartleby teaches us that it’s okay to be a quitter? Pah!); and the obsession with Lin Yutang’s 1937 self-help book The Importance of Living, which he cites so often that, rather than encouraging me to read it for myself, he makes me perversely want to avoid it entirely.

All of this means that, although I can sympathize with a lot of Schwalbe’s general sentiments about what reading does for us (see the quotes below) and found this to be a quick and cozy read, it’s quite the disappointment after The End of Your Life Book Club and overall smacks of being written and extended in a hurry to meet a deadline. It should never have gone beyond a handful of occasional essays. Or, if it was to be published someday, it should have had a much longer germination period, with only the very best essays selected from a huge crop.
“Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone; it’s a solitary activity that connects you to others.”

“I’m on a search—and have been, I now realize, all my life—to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.”

“‘What are you reading?’ isn’t a simple question when asked with genuine curiosity; it’s really a way of asking, ‘Who are you now and who are you becoming?’”

Yüan Chunglang: “You can leave the books that you don’t like alone, and let other people read them.”

(I won a copy via the blog Linda’s Book Bag.)
Profile Image for Chris.
557 reviews
March 31, 2017
Full disclosure: I am moderating a session with Will Schwalbe at the Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival in April, so this book was read in preparation. But to be honest, I would have picked it up anyways, because I love books about books, and also one of my top five favorite books read in 2012 was The End of Your Life Book Club, Will's memoir and tribute to his beloved mom and the "book club" they form in the last years of her life. His latest book, Books for Living is just that, the life lessons he has learned in books during his lifetime as a reader.

But first, the introduction brings us to his worst nightmare: getting on an overseas flight and being captive for five hours with nothing to read. "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." Amen brother! I've had that dream. Every trip I take, my books (note the plural) are selected first, before clothes and even shoes. And usually I find it the hardest decisions to make! So if you're an avid reader, from the start you know you have a kindred spirit in this author.

The book takes us through 26 books, each that have helped Will with the challenges of life and sometimes the distractions of living in our busy hyperconnected world: David Copperfield, remembering; Giovanni's Room connecting; Gift from the Sea recharging. Will's recounts his own story within each book, who put the book in his hand, what was happening in his own life the first time he read it, sometimes what he thinks of the book as an adult as opposed to as a young reader. While this is a memoir about life and living, there is a fair amount of death in the pages; close friends, classmates, who have passed away through the years. But there are lessons there as well.

One of my favorite things to do ever since I was able to read was to pick up my book first thing in the morning. (Which I also insist is one of the reasons I had to get glasses so early in life, as my nose was literally in a book all the time!) And as a lifelong reader, I struggle with current technology; I now check my email, The New York Times, and Instagram first thing in the morning before picking up my book. Sometimes I go down the Internet's rabbit hole and don't even read a word (from my book) before I have to start my day. Will also struggles with this as well and while this isn't a self-help book, it gave me comfort that I'm not the only one out there with this ongoing struggle.

As with his previous book, there is an appendix that includes every single book and author mentioned in the pages, which is a wonderful and will no doubt add to your TBR.

Ironically, I read this book on the cusp of turning 50(!), so it gave me pause to think of the hundreds of books I've read in my life, the lessons I learned in the pages, and the people who along the way who put books in my hands. This book is a love letter, so to speak, to avid book readers and our reading lives.
Profile Image for Steve Sarner.
Author 2 books341 followers
November 27, 2017
I was pretty skeptical about this book.

I mean, a book about books? Will this be the usual clichés on reading? You know, "opens new worlds", "let’s you live other lives", yada yada yada.

Sure there was a little of that (not much) but, there was so much more and within the first few pages I was hooked.

Reading Books for Living was like sitting in Will Schwalbe’s living room with a nice glass of wine and talking books and how they relate to life with an extraordinarily well-read and respected close friend.

That’s rather remarkable.

I learned more about literature and, yes living, in 270 pages then I had ever expected. I was impressed with how Schwalbe weaved modern life examples into some obscure (to me anyway) books. For instance, he accurately drew parallels of 19th century Brazilian author Machdo de Assis’s description of playing games as a child during Napoleon’s downfall to the use of social media by many people today (including himself and me).

The book finishes with an outstanding list of the authors and books referenced throughout which is now driving my want to read list on Goodreads even higher!

As Schwalbe writes: “Good books often answer questions you didn't even know you wanted to ask”.

I agree and, that makes this a very, very, good book.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews132 followers
April 5, 2017
I became a fan of Will Schwalbe when I read his book The End of Your Life Book Club, a book he wrote as a tribute of sorts to his mother, who had inspired and encouraged his love of books. This particular book came about as a result of the many hours Will and his mother spent reading together while she was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The books they read together provided encouragement to talk about difficult subjects.. subjects their hearts yearned to talk about but for which they had never before found the time or the courage. This book, 'Books for Living' didn't provide the emotional punch that 'The End of Your Life Book Club' did; but I still found it entertaining and even inspiring.

In this book, Will Schwalbe writes about books that have been recommended to him and books he has recommended to others; and he shares what these particular titles meant to him and how they inspired and implored him to be a better person or to look at the world with a broader and more compassionate view. I have also read and loved some of the books he mentions. One book in particular , 'Stuart Little' written by E.B. White was one of the first books I remember reading on my own as a child. Will remembers it as teaching him to be brave and to not be afraid to seek out the world.. as Stuart did when he ventured far from home and outside of his comfort zone.

Will also writes about an annual tradition he has adopted at the beginning of each new year. He resolves to eat better, live better and of course, to take off a few stubborn extra pounds. He discusses being inspired by reading big, beautiful cookbooks. Who ISN'T inspired by the beautiful photographs of each delectable dish? These cookbooks, which Will admits to reading while lying in bed each night, encourage him to treat himself to better quality meals. Inevitably each year, he breaks this promise to himself to eat better; but I could definitely relate to his love of cookbooks.

Another book Will writes about is one that I have NOT read... 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' written by Haruki Murakami. I'm NOT a runner but my husband is so I read this particular section with him in mind and I immediately passed the title suggestion onto him... although I do suspect that Mr. Murakami was perhaps using running as a sort of metaphor to discuss a point he was trying to make about his life. But maybe I'm wrong and this book really IS about running.

Each chapter in this delightful book is devoted to a particular title which Will Schwalbe describes in his unique and charming conversational style. I could easily imagine myself sitting across from him.. perhaps in a cafe... and talking about the books which have meant the most in our lives.

So as Will Schwalbe would certainly ask.... what are YOU reading?
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
March 21, 2017
3 stars

Using Will Schwalbe's genuinely moving and heartfelt The End of Your Life Book Club as a yardstick, his second offering of books that have inspired him, Books for Living, doesn't quite measure up. There's nothing inherently bad about his commentaries on this motley assortment of books (ranging from children's picture books to classics (Dickens' David Copperfield and Homer's Odyssey), middle grade charmers (RJ Palacio's Wonder) to contemporary fiction (Yanagihara's A Little Life and Hawkins' Girl on a Train), offbeat memoirs (Murakami's What I Think About When I Think About Running), obscure, ancient quirk (Machado de Assis' Epitaph of a Small Winner) to obscure cookbooks (Edna Lewis' The Taste of Country Cooking), among dozens of other books). It's just that this assemblage evokes more shrugs than empathy.

As you'd expect from someone who works in the publishing biz, Schwalbe is a voracious reader. He's also an optimistic reader, and embarks upon each reading venture with the hopes that he will take away something, if not profound then at least meaningful to his life experience. I admire his enthusiasm for books; I'm just not sure I totally 'get' what he gets out of these titles he's written about here. For instance, the biggest takeaway it seems Schwalbe got from Murakami's marathon-running memoir is the importance of napping. (Huh?) Or, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: of all the frightening things to be gleaned from the dystopian classic, Schwalbe's lesson learned? Not to be such a slave to his smartphone and social media. (Um, yeah, but duh.)

There are a few truly moving instances provided of how books have helped him overcome obstacles and heartbreak, like how James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room facilitated his teenage 'coming out' trials, or how Rebecca Brown's The Gifts of the Body provided a much needed companion when so many of his friends' lives in the '80s were cut short by the AIDS epidemic. But mostly, Schwalbe's essays seem to accentuate how differently people (he and I, anyway) read and process books. That's not at all a bad thing; it's just self-evident. I applaud, though, any effort to get people to read, and I think Books for Living does succeed in that regard, just nowhere near as movingly as The End of of Your Life Book Club.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,469 reviews564 followers
July 7, 2018
Books for Living is a thoughtful book about the power of reading and how books have added meaning to the author's life. Schwalbe is a likable, enthusiastic writer and I related personally to several of these essays, enjoying each of them.
Profile Image for DeB.
984 reviews246 followers
March 5, 2017
In "Books for Living", we are offered another look into the personality, preferences and personal history of Will Schwalbe with his latest memoir. Where in his warm and moving first book, "The End of Your Life Book Club", the books he shared with his dying mother were a touchstone in their relationship, "Books for Living" has a more cerebral tone, a sense of careful analysis and Will's self-taught philosophy of life, found in the books he goes on to describe.

He's chosen a motley arrangement to present as hallowed gifts to his audience: The Iliad, David Copperfield, modern classics like Gift from the Sea, Rebecca, Reading Lolita in Tehran, a head's up to the wonderful Annie Lamott and many more as well as a couple of his dearest favourites which are no longer in print. As I hopped from chapter to chapter, a series of stepping stones describing Scwalbe's moments of enlightenment, the realization dawned that it didn't matter whether I EVER could access any of these BOOKS. The author was writing about books to share HIS experiences, discoveries, his insights. It was his methodology which he wanted us to grasp.

Will Schwalbe has the unfortunate habit of stating the obvious in his latest work. Who but readers will be excited to open its pages? Whom among them hasn't thought and likely said some of these words?

"Throughout my life I've looked to books for all kinds of reasons: to comfort me, to amuse me, to distract me and to educate me." Yeah, duh.

"I live to read. I read to live."

"Books can attach themselves to memories in unexpected ways."

"A cookbook can do far more than give recipes for tasty dishes: it can introduce us to new places, help us celebrate life, comfort us in life and show us how to live."

Schwalbe loves details. It shows in his writing style. (In the chapter Bird by Bird, he not only generously quotes Anne Lamott on the subject of the "overly sensitive child", he then goes on to analyze himself precisely supported by her words for more than a page.) He also likes order. Each chapter tidily supports and is neatly tied up, its life's purpose robustly intact. Apparently he struggles with boredom - a chapter details that- and has found many insights in "The Importance of Living", written in 1937 by the autodidactic philosopher, Lin Yutang. Will Schwalbe refers to him often in his own book, Lin being a proponent of contemplative loafing, a waking nap... Haruki Murakami is a runner as well as a prodigious writer- and he too naps. Naps, apparently, are good.

"...they are all books that I found (or that found me) when I needed them, or that prompted me to remember something, realize something, or see the world differently.
Every reader can construct a list like this; ... Compiling and constantly reviewing this kind of book list is an exercise I highly recommend: it's a path to creating your own practical philosophy."

Books find me too. CHECK. Books have changed me. CHECK. Compile a list, constantly review it and create "my own practical philosophy"? Order, detail, a tidy summary - "Books for Living"? Not likely. I feel irritated just thinking about it.

I almost did not finish this memoir, dry with its overwritten anecdotes and somehow detached aura. It has to get better, I thought, but it became a longer version of the same. I thought that I'd take his advice, though, about boredom - quickly find a different book to awaken my brain cells. Sorry, Schwalbe is a competent writer but I found him so uninteresting.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,714 reviews2,310 followers
February 6, 2017
Every time you read, you are learning how to read.

Each book - each new author - is a refining of this process of learning how to read.

I've been mulling over this concept, from Schwalbe's essay on Zen and the Art of Archery and "mastering the art of reading", since I read it last night. I know it's true for me, and I presume many of you as well.

One of my friends read this book last year and I enjoyed her review, putting it on my hold list at the library. It came in and I flipped through it, happy to see an essay on James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, a book that I read a few weeks ago. I started the Introduction and was so taken by Schwalbe's style and passion that I read over 100 pages in one evening.

Schwalbe frames the book in small essays surrounding titles he has read: some share special memories, sometimes related to the book, and other times completely tangential but nonetheless profound. Many of the essays mentioned the deaths of loved ones - the most poignant and heart-rending for me was the essay on du Maurier's Rebecca and his friend Terry. There's an undercurrent in many of the stories/memories about true connections, enduring friendships, and turning off the damn screens/phones to LIVE, and in this essay on Terry, Schwalbe expresses the sadness he felt when it was too late to connect with a friend who passed. It's a stark reminder of how short life is, and how we spend so little time "experiencing" the now, always thinking about something else.

He selected 20+ books in the essays, but one specific book is mentioned again and again as the one that most changed his life. It likely influenced the title of this collection: The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang. I've never heard of this book, but I ordered it right after reading Schwalbe's high praise. Looking forward to that!

He quotes Lin Yutang's work (while Lin is actually quoting a 17th-century Chinese writer Chang Ch'ao):
Reading books in one's youth is like looking at the moon through a crevice; reading books in middle age is like looking at the moon in one's courtyard; and reading books in old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace.

I am grateful to have Goodreads and this forum to share with others who are as passionate about reading as I am. I also love the personal archive nature of this site, as I realize that in my middle age, I am only viewing things from my courtyard... with the words I've shared here, and second/third readings of later books, I hope to see the moon from an open terrace in my old age.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
February 27, 2017
I started this book in audio and knew I needed to switch to print. Too many book titles to take note of, too many pages I might need to mark.

I appreciate that this book on books does not to be comprehensive and catalog every book Will Schwalbe has ever written, nor does it mention Proust, not even once! He examines books that had particular meaning to him from the perspective of examining literature to reflect on life.

My favorite chapter is on Giovanni's Room, and is one I will have my reading class read, because it simultaneously discusses the importance of characters in literature like you, and the extraordinary role a school librarian can play in a person's life. That is my five-star read-again chapter. Other chapters were a bit of a skim for me, and I felt that some of the books he references get a bit repetitive, particularly The Importance of Living.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1,367 reviews61 followers
May 14, 2017
I really enjoy books about books. Will Schwabe had a recurring nightmare for people who love to read...having to board a flight with no reading material!

I personally tend to overpack books for travel. "I know I have the e-reader but what if something goes wrong with it? I better pack a book? I know it's only one night. Maybe two books?"

A few years back I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with my family. One of the family members who doesn't read said he was bored (the rest of us were just laying around drinking diet cokes and reading while looking at the Caribbean). My wife asked him if he packed a book, no. She said I've brought nine books, you can borrow one of mine. Give me strength non-readers! I am so lucky to be married to a reader!

I digress...Will Scwalbe takes us on a journey of the books he read that have changed his life. He gives many examples of what affected him most. Great ideas of different authors to try.

This book really made me think about what books have influenced me most...a bit terrifying as I've read a lot of Stephen King.
Profile Image for Kate.
821 reviews50 followers
March 9, 2017
I loved The End of your Life Book Club and also really enjoyed this book. Will Schwalbe is a wonderful writer and I have a hard time putting his books down; I just want to keep reading. This book is a compilation of books that have influenced his life, helping him to be a better person through lessons learned in literature. It also helps to explain life and parts of every day life that we don't always understand. I added several books to my TBR, especially after Will explained how relevant they were personally. Of all the chapters, the one on hugging spoke to me most. I can't wait to meet Mr. Schwalbe and shake his hand in May!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
748 reviews87 followers
April 16, 2017
This was a delightful read - it was like chatting with a friend about all your favorite books. My TBR grew with almost every chapter.
Profile Image for Karen.
505 reviews49 followers
March 11, 2017
My head is swirling with so many thoughts right now having just finished this wonderful book! First let me say that I love books about books. I considered books my friends, I have bookshelves crammed full, not willing to part with them! I also have books stacked on nightstands, coffee tables and yes the floor! When reading this book I found myself thinking I do this too! I take great pleasure in reading and napping on leisurely Sundays, enjoying that pause to close my eyes and ponder the story while I drift to sleep for 30 minutes. I too love to have complete silence, I love the sound of silence! I love a vacation day to have the house to myself and just be alone with my books and my thoughts. I enjoy browsing my book shelves and visting books I read years ago and the memories that come flooding back of what was going on in my life at the time.

Here are a few chapters that touched me the most: The Importance of Living, The Gift of the Body, Rebecca, A Little Life and Reading Lolita in Tehran. This book also gave me some wonderful recommendation for new books to add to my TBR stack. This author also wrote The End of Your Life Bookclub which I adored and highly recommend. I'm looking forward to meeting this author in May. If you like books about books or just love to read I recommend this book!
Profile Image for Deb.
619 reviews29 followers
April 8, 2017
I kept hearing so much talk about Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club. You have to read it prodded friends. Nope. It'll be too sad. I'm just not up for this book.
Booktopia authors were announced and I ordered Books for the Living. I was overtaken by this book. Will described so much of me and what makes me - me by the books that I read and carried me through life. I love the books he writes about. Some I have read and some I have not. All in all its the books that help me find answers, guide me through, make me laugh and mold me into who I am.
Will has won me over. I intend to pick up The End of Your Life Book Club and take all it has to offer.
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