Jo’s Pick of the Week: Two books about books

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’’ said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.’’
–George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons, and the epigraph in Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Ann Hood

I happily suffer from bibliophilia, which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “a great or excessive love of books’’. My desk and shelves at home are stacked with books I long to read, if only I had enough time.

I recently enjoyed two books about books from authors with very different backgrounds. Ann Hood, a popular novelist, recalls the books that changed her life in her memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up with Books. Will Schwalbe, who spent most of his career in book publishing, reflects on how books can change us and help with big and small challenges with his offering, Books for Living.

Hood grew up in a mill town of Rhode Island in the 1960s and ‘70s. Reading was a low priority in her family, yet she devoured books as a child. She was one of the few

Will Schwalbe

graduating seniors who went on to college instead of finding a job in her hometown. She eventually achieved her dream of becoming a writer. In Hood’s latest novel, The Book that Matters Most, the women of a book club present what book matters most to them. Hood’s own characters made her think about what books mattered most to her while she was growing up.

Unlike Ann Hood, Will Schwalbe grew up in a house filled with books as well as family members who were avid readers. I was fortunate to meet Schwalbe when he visited our library to talk about his previous book, The End of Your Life Book Club, which tells how he and his dying mother form a book club and become even closer while sharing their reading experiences. He is the kind of person I would enjoy talking about books for hours. In Books for Living, he notes, “Every book changes your life. So I like to ask, how is this book changing mine?’’

I have read and enjoyed some of the books both authors mention and I will put others on my never-ending reading list. However, what I enjoyed most were the writers’ anecdotes and thoughts about reading. Schwalbe recalled a friend who decided to cull his extensive library down to 100 essential books. This anecdote really got me thinking. What 100 books would make my cut? If you are a book lover, and agree with Schwalbe that “reading is an art we practice our whole lives’’, check out Books for Living and Morningstar for inspiration.

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