by Andy Miller
About the book: An editor and writer's vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, chronicle of his year-long adventure with fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones)—a true story about reading that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books. Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he's not nearly as well read as he'd like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life—including his own—and to the define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he'd always wanted to read; books he'd previously started but hadn't finished; and books he'd lied about having read to impress people. Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller's heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.
by Susan Hill
About the book: In pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, in order to get to know her own collection again.
by Ammon Shea
About the book: 'If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on. I have read the OED so you don't have to...' Weighing in at 137 pounds, the Oxford English Dictionary is the word lover's Everest and the world's most exhaustive and exhausting dictionary - for instance, there are over 60,000 words on the various meanings of set and un- goes on for 451 pages. Like a lexicographical Edmund Hillary, Ammon Shea set out to boldly read, where no reader has gone before - from cover to cover.Reading the OED gives a very funny account of his coffee-fuelled twelve months lost inside its 20 volumes. Divided into 26 chapters, one per letter of the alphabet, this book is part personal narrative (exploring everything from love to glasses to the superiority of books over computers) and part a collection of Shea's favourite discoveries. These span from the oddly useful (parabore - a defence against bores) to the downright bizarre (natiform - shaped like buttocks) and takes in Nashe's eight different kinds of drunkenness and all kinds of other strangely memorable information along the way. Filled with curiosities, delights and surprises, Reading the OED is a feast for language obsessives, from a man who loves words (perhaps a little too much).
by Michael Dirda
About the book: From Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda comes a collection of his most personal and engaging essays on the literary life—the perfect companion for any lover of books.
by Sasha Abramsky
About the book: Named one of Kirkus's Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 The House of Twenty Thousand Books is the story of Chimen Abramsky, an extraordinary polymath and bibliophile who amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. For more than fifty years Chimen and his wife, Miriam, hosted epic gatherings in their house of books that brought together many of the age’s greatest thinkers. The atheist son of one of the century’s most important rabbis, Chimen was born in 1916 near Minsk, spent his early teenage years in Moscow while his father served time in a Siberian labor camp for religious proselytizing, and then immigrated to London, where he discovered the writings of Karl Marx and became involved in left-wing politics. He briefly attended the newly established Hebrew University in Jerusalem, until World War II interrupted his studies. Back in England, he married, and for many years he and Miriam ran a respected Jewish bookshop in London’s East End. When the Nazis invaded Russia in June 1941, Chimen joined the Communist Party, becoming a leading figure in the party’s National Jewish Committee. He remained a member until 1958, when, shockingly late in the day, he finally acknowledged the atrocities committed by Stalin. In middle age, Chimen reinvented himself once more, this time as a liberal thinker, humanist, professor, and manuscripts’ expert for Sotheby’s auction house. Journalist Sasha Abramsky re-creates here a lost world, bringing to life the people, the books, and the ideas that filled his grandparents’ house, from gatherings that included Eric Hobsbawm and Isaiah Berlin to books with Marx’s handwritten notes, William Morris manuscripts and woodcuts, an early sixteenth-century Bomberg Bible, and a first edition of Descartes’s Meditations. The House of Twenty Thousand Books is a wondrous journey through our times, from the vanished worlds of Eastern European Jewry to the cacophonous politics of modernity. The House of Twenty Thousand Books includes 43 photos.
by Robert Gottlieb
About the book: A spirited and revealing memoir by the most celebrated editor of his time After editing The Columbia Review, staging plays at Cambridge, and a stint in the greeting-card department of Macy's, Robert Gottlieb stumbled into a job at Simon and Schuster. By the time he left to run Alfred A. Knopf a dozen years later, he was the editor in chief, having discovered and edited Catch-22 and The American Way of Death, among other bestsellers. At Knopf, Gottlieb edited an astonishing list of authors, including Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Doris Lessing, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Graham, Robert Caro, Nora Ephron, and Bill Clinton--not to mention Bruno Bettelheim and Miss Piggy. In Avid Reader, Gottlieb writes with wit and candor about succeeding William Shawn as the editor of The New Yorker, and the challenges and satisfactions of running America's preeminent magazine. Sixty years after joining Simon and Schuster, Gottlieb is still at it--editing, anthologizing, and, to his surprise, writing. But this account of a life founded upon reading is about more than the arc of a singular career--one that also includes a lifelong involvement with the world of dance. It's about transcendent friendships and collaborations, "elective affinities" and family, psychoanalysis and Bakelite purses, the alchemical relationship between writer and editor, the glory days of publishing, and--always--the sheer exhilaration of work. Photograph of Bob Gottlieb © by Jill Krementz
by Samantha Ellis
About the book: While debating literature’s greatest heroines with her best friend, thirtysomething playwright Samantha Ellis has a revelation—her whole life, she's been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre. With this discovery, she embarks on a retrospective look at the literary ladies—the characters and the writers—whom she has loved since childhood. From early obsessions with the March sisters to her later idolization of Sylvia Plath, Ellis evaluates how her heroines stack up today. And, just as she excavates the stories of her favorite characters, Ellis also shares a frank, often humorous account of her own life growing up in a tight-knit Iraqi Jewish community in London. Here a life-long reader explores how heroines shape all our lives. From the Trade Paperback edition.
by Roger Grenier
About the book: As a book editor for five decades and himself a prolific author, Roger Grenier has known some of the twentieth century's greatest writers, from his mentor Albert Camus to Romain Gary and Jean-Paul Sartre. Here, inPalace of Books, he offers a witty and profound set of essays around the question of literature in the broadest sense of the term. Teeming with anecdote and elegant flashes of insight, the essays reflect on the ways we hold our favorite writers dear, almost like members of the family. Like a modern Montaigne, Grenier wears his vast culture lightly and with a sense of humor, and discusses the craft of writing with disarming modesty. He addresses writers' anxieties, such as the perennial Do I Have Anything Left To Say?” while also taking on related themes, like the experience of waiting, be it in the army, before eternity, or in the dentist's office. Grenier brings the reader closer to all the writers he evokes, and they are many:, Rousseau, Stendhal, Flaubert, Camus, Proust, Beckett, Barthes, Conrad, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, O'Flannery, Tolstoy, and Musil. It is like a wonderful literary party hosted by Roger Grenier and to which we have all been invited.
by R M Leonard
About the book: This volume of over five hundred epigrams, poems, and longer musings in prose and verse from over two hundred writers from across the ages will delight and educate any book lover, transporting them into the company of the wisest and wittiest. How to choose a book: The three practical rules, then, which I have to offer, are, 1. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2. Never read any but famed books. 3. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakespeare's phrase, No profit goes where is no pleasure ta'en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect. R. W. Emerson On the sometimes dubious value of reading: If I had read as much as other men, I should have been as ignorant as they. Thomas Hobbes Furthermore, do beware: Much reading is like much eating, wholly useless without digestion. Robert South On novels: The novel, in its best form, I regard as one of the most powerful engines of civilization ever invented . Sir J. Herschel. On buying versus reading books: If people bought no more books than they intended to read, and no more swords than they intended to use, the two worst trades in Europe would be a bookseller's and a sword-cutler's; but luckily for both they are reckoned genteel ornaments . Lord Chesterfield. Is there any such thing as a bad book? What makes a good author? Do bibliomaniacs actually read? Are book bindings important? This unique collection contains thoughts on these and many other questions the bibliophile may ask. Of course there is also a good dose on the pleasant company of books, and the virtue to be found therein, but there is space for plenty of light-hearted wit, and amongst it all, a good measure of true wisdom. The writers selected include novelists, memoirists, playwrights, scholars, thinkers and statesmen: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift, Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Emerson, Amos Alcott, and John Donne, John Ruskin, Dante, and Cervantes. This edition is indexed by author and by title/key phrase so you can easily find the text you are looking for. An appendix of extensive notes, interesting in their own right, is provided. (Paperback: 978-1-78139-448-9. Hardback: 978-1-78139-449-6.)