REMARKABLE READS: 34 Writers and Their Adventures in Reading

J. Peder Zane, Author, J. Peder Zane, Editor . Norton $15.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-32540-9

"Adventures in reading" may sound like an oxymoronic proposition, but Zane's collection points out that a wild journey or a bold feat can be inspired by a great piece of writing. Zane has culled a series of essays from the Raleigh News & Observer (where he is book review editor) in which authors assign superlatives ("the most enchanting," "the wisest," "the classiest") to their (usually) favorite books (there is also "the most dangerous" and "the most disappointing"). The results are occasionally surprising and enlightening: Clyde Edgerton's "most technically elegant" book—a flying manual—proves that good writing can be found in unlikely places. Jonathan Lethem's "loneliest" book (i.e., "I've still never met anyone else who's read it") is an obscure children's story by 1960s pop psychologist Eric Berne called The Happy Valley . Nasdijj chooses Louis L'Amour's To Tame a Land as his "saddest," for its inaccurate portrayal of cowboys and Native Americans. Some of the essays are anecdotal; others read like critical analysis, such as Doris Betts's examination of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho (she concludes that her "most unpleasant" book has no artistic merit). At times, the rigid short format constricts the depth of the writing, and there are a few pat "aha" moments—Brett Lott's essay on The Catcher in the Rye , for one. At its best, this volume offers easily digestible nuggets of insight about why the written word matters. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/05/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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