13. Books for Living (Will Schwalbe)

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-9-57-09-pm“People who write books generally read books, and most books carry with them the traces of some of the hundreds or thousands of books the writer read before attempting the one at hand”.

Clearly, I love books.  I read them.  I talk about them.  I recommend them.  I like to buy them, to touch them and to look at them on my shelves.  I also like to read books about books!  It gives me ideas of what I might need to read next and Books for Living feels like a conversation with a friend, a comfortable exploration of prose and life lessons.

My friend, May sent me her copy of Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (author of The End of Your Life Book club which I would like to reread sometime).  She kept raving about it and peaked my interest.  She described it as “the booster juice for my soul, why I love books and reading!”  I have been savouring it, reading only a couple of chapters each day, making it last and pondering the books which I would like to read.

“I am not the same reader when I finish a book as I was when I started.  Brains are tangles of pathways, and reading creates new ones.  Every book changes your life”.

Schwalbe shares 26 chapters including specific books and life lessons that he learned from reading and experience.  He often includes comments about The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang which he first read in his twenties and felt was full of “profound wisdom and a radical rejection of the philosophy of ambition, which is so much a part of our culture”.  The book, written in the 1930s was out of print and “makes a  case for loafing, for savouring food and drink, for not striving too much”  and calming “the frenetic activity he saw all around him”.

Some of the books he talks about, I have already read including:  The Girl on the Train, Wonder and 1984.  Many recommendations are being added to my TBR pile… err….mountain!  He not only makes suggestions but he provides context, description and benefits for reading that particular book.  He even shares a cook book saying that “I live to eat.  Think about food all day long.  By the time I finish dinner each evening, I’m already excited pondering what I’ll eat the next morning, noon and night”. Some of us can relate to that!  He even shared that Canadian novel, “A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of the greatest books of all time”.  This book has been sitting on my shelf for far too long and needs to be read in 2017!

“But there’s one question I think we should ask one another a lot more often, and that’s ‘What are you reading’?  It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives, creating a shared universe for people who are otherwise separate by culture and by age and by time and space.”

Schwalbe is an author, journalist and founder of the Cookstr recipe website.  He lives in New York and is the publisher of 3 books.  His website says:  “I love meeting fellow readers and hearing from readers about all different kinds of books. I answer everyone, though sometimes it can take me a bit of time”.  I will likely take him up on that!

“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 is 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 you interest and attention is even greater”.

Thank you Will Schwalbe, for sharing your book recommendations and life lessons.  Thank you May, for mailing your copy so that we could share in the enjoyment of this book!!  I am certainly looking forward to sharing our day at the Canada Reads Finale with you, Kim and  Alison where we can talk about books and listen to great authors and defenders speak about their books!

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