cover image Books for Living

Books for Living

Will Schwalbe. Knopf, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-35354-0

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. [em]Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Dec.) [/em]