Books for Living

Originally published February 2017

A book about books. That’s my kind of read.

And as soon as I finished “Books for Living” I pestered a local library to help set up an interview, because after all, Will Schwalbe is my brother from another mother.

I love Schwalbe’s outlook and this book about books for so many reasons, but mostly because I felt as if someone had put into words the feelings I have about books and the reason I write this very blog. His introduction, and discovering we share similar thoughts on travesties such as airplane travel without a suitable read, or that every book has something to say to someone, as enough for me to know he gets me.

And thanks to this book, I now have another half-dozen or so on my bucket list—titles like “The Importance of Living” which taught Schwalbe about slowing down, or “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” which schooled him on the art of napping. The point being, there are life lessons in just about everything we read, and some of those reads? They are lessons that alter us forever, in the very best of ways.

Schwalbe, an editor, founder of, lifelong reader and author best known for his previous bestselling memoir about reading books with his dying mother, “The End of Your Life Book Club,” was gracious enough to answer a few questions:

It feels as if books have been a lifelong passion for you. Is this true or did you grow into it?

As a very small child, I was one of those kids lucky enough to have parents that read to me. It’s impossible to overstate everything great that comes from a parent that takes the time to read. And then, I just became that kid that had to be told a million times to turn out the light. Some of my earliest memories come from the discussions (with my parents) that come from the books. I love that experience—conversations that take place around the book are so special. It’s really deepening a relationship with someone.

In our current political climate, regardless of what side of the line anyone stands on, how much more important is reading to the cause for an open mind?

I think reading is more important now than it’s ever been. One of the great things about reading is that when you read a book, you have to be quiet for a little while. I call reading radical listening—you can interrupt, you can scribble in the margins, but you can’t change the words on the page. At some point you are going to have to be quiet and encounter the words on the page. And with that, capactity for empathy grows.

Will Schwalbe is appearing at Highland Park Library, 494 Laurel Ave., on March 7 at 7 p.m. A great time to talk books with other book lovers!

My guess is that if you do host a book club, the food and drink are pretty amazing. What is it about food and books that make the two such comfortable companions?

Food is such a powerful aid to memory—the smell of certain foods and taste of certain foods bring back certain times in your life and, so, books can do that too. A phrase, an image … you remember something you haven’t thought of in ages. (By combining them) not only do you sort of double the opportunity for that experience, you weave them together. I love my book club.

What are your reading?

The Dry, by Jane Harper. I’m enjoying it a lot, it’s extremely good. Next up is Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry. I love to ask librarians and book sellers for suggestions.

What’s the last best book you’ve read?

A Little Life (by Hanya Yanagihara).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s