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Books for Living

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Will Schwalbe, the author of The End of Your Life Book Club, has once again given life to his love of books and reading. Books for Living would be a great book club pick. It is a book for every-day-living and a pure pleasure to recommend.

There are as many reasons for reading as there are readers. Schwalbe’s introductory pages contain his inventory of reasons for picking up a book. “I’m 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. So, I like to ask: How is this book changing mine?”

The author takes us back to some of the books he read in his youth, into the reading of his middle years, and now in his maturity. Each chapter captures not only a singular title, but his reasons for reading the book at the time it was picked up, and how the book may have changed him. His first chapter bears not only the book’s title: The Importance of Living, but also its life lesson of  “Slowing Down.” I’ve reread this chapter several times and have already ordered a copy of Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living. It is a book first published in 1937, and I suspect its mantra of slowing down is more important today than it was in its popularity all those years ago. It is still in print.

For those readers who love books about books, Schwalbe’s latest is a treasure. The reader sees which books have made a difference in the author’s life, and the chance to measure, and often re-measure, our own association with those titles. We may not begin a novel expecting to discover something within its plot or characters that will change our lives, but it can happen and often unexpectedly does. David Copperfield becomes a lifelong hero of sorts for Schwalbe, which is another reason for recommending Books for Living — without becoming preachy about the books that were or are important to him, Schwalbe invites us to remember our favorite books, and maybe discover that they, too, taught us something about living.

You will love his appendix of authors and titles, and I would bet even money that you will see some book titles that you’d forgotten you’d read. Schwalbe’s books range from novels (literary and popular) to history, to self-help, including essay collections, and “how to” books (Bird by Bird), and yes, even cookbooks. I was slow to get into Books for Living, but when Schwalbe described his careless housekeeping due to the number of books scattered everywhere and that he owned, at one time, a Kaypro computer (my very first computer), he won my heart.

Books for Living is the perfect winter read. And if you missed a Valentine gift for that special reader in your life, better late than never, and you could do a lot worse. Maybe Schwalbe’s book and some See’s raspberry chocolate truffles? Books for Living is the sort of book that can be read straight through or by skipping around by chapters that strike your fancy. – Sunny Solomon

Also available by Will Schwalbe: The End of Your Life Book Club.

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