Monday, April 20, 2015

Writing About Reading

I'm always interested in reading about the connections people make with books and the impact that a favourite book can have on a person’s life. Following is a brief sampling of the library’s collection of books about books.

The Shelf: from LEQ to LES by Phyllis Rose:

Tired of reading only authors who had been pre-selected by the literary cannon, Phyllis Rose decided to experiment with reading randomly by working her way through the LEQ to LES shelf in the New York Society Library. The Shelf is a record of her literary adventure and a detailed examination of what it means to engage with a book.

Rose’s reaction to the books she reads is rooted in her knowledge of literary history and criticism. However, her voice is very engaging and she describes her personal responses to the books on her shelf with wonderful specificity. The Shelf is a fascinating book that explores the complicated act of reading and acknowledges that the relationship between a reader and a book is the product of a wide array of factors, from the reader’s personal history to the quality of the paper to the translator’s footnotes.

My Ideal Bookshelf – art by Jane Mount; edited by Thessaly La Force:

My Ideal Bookshelf balances words and pictures perfectly. The creators asked well-known people which books they would include if they were to put together a shelf of titles that were particularly meaningful to them. Each person’s ideal shelf gets a two-page spread. One page features an illustration of the chosen books while the opposite page provides a written account of why those books made the cut.

My Ideal Bookshelf is beautifully put together and a lot of fun to read. It’s fascinating to find out why people love the books they do and how those books have played a role in their lives. There is an impressive range of people whose ideal shelves are featured, from James Franco to James Patterson. This is a very browsable book that can easily be dipped into for five or ten minutes at a time.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin:

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry celebrates books and human connection. Perhaps most of all, it celebrates those moments when people connect through books. As the novel opens, A.J. Fikry is the lonely owner of a small New England bookstore whose prickly demeanor keeps people at bay and does nothing for his book sales. Things begin to change for A.J. when he returns to his bookstore one day to find a small child has been left among the stacks.

Books are at the heart of this novel. Characters talk about books, argue over books, and bond through books. Best of all, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry isn’t just about great books – it’s about the art of finding the best book for a particular reader. I loved reading about the reasoning behind A.J.’s book recommendations for different people in his community, and finding out why one book was a hit in a book club for law enforcement officers while another book flopped. Witty, quick-moving, and full of very likeable characters, this novel was a pleasure to read.

Other books about books that readers might enjoy include

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead, The End of the Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and The Republic of Imagination: America in three books by Azar Nafisi.

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