Book Review: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (3/5)

14 Mar

A few years ago, my book club introduced me to WIll Schwalbe and his love for books. I was excited to see that Schwalbe was going to be at the Midwest Literary Walk in 2018 and I had a chance to hear him talk about books and how they can change lives. I got a copy of his newest book, Books for Living, signed. I told him honestly that I was a little afraid to read his book because it would make my TBR so long. He responded, “That makes me very happy.”

Cover image via Goodreads

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Other books by Schwalbe reviewed on this blog:

The End of Your Life Book Club (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

“I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heartfelt, and inspiring new book about books.

In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book – or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of finding ourselves and connecting with one another; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to making friends; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting.

Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Haruki Murakami, Edna Lewis, E. B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”

This book reads like a list of book recommendations and Schwalbe does include an appendix of all books mentioned in the book. It’s an amazing ode to books that we love and that have changed us. I didn’t look at the list of books in advance and I got really excited when a book I’d read was mentioned. Of the 26 Schwalbe talked about, I’d read five and I’m in the process of reading another. There were countless references to other books I’ve read and loved and ones I’ve never heard of. And, surprisingly, I only added one book to my TBR. I know, I’m shocked.

My copy.

Schwalbe is very open and honest about himself and how these books have changed him. He talks about his life when he encountered the book and how it changed his view of the world and the trajectory of his life. He doesn’t sugar coat parts of his life and his faults. I felt like I knew him a bit after his first book, even more after hearing him speak, and now well enough to have a conversation because of this one. I wish he’d read the book, but nothing is perfect.

When I read the sections on books I’d read, I could relate to how they’d affected me and how they’d affected Schwalbe. Reading Lolita in Tehran y Azar Nafisi was a very emotional book and Schwalbe talks about the emotional impact it made on him. I remember I bought the book as part of a bartering agreement at a garage sale. I really wanted an end table and I’d pay the slightly higher price they wanted if they threw in a book. I read the book a few months later and I wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster that would come with it. Schwalbe is relatable in his reaction to books and how emotional he becomes when experiencing them. I’ve always been moved by books and it was wonderful to find out I’m not alone.

The one book Schwalbe encouraged me to add to my TBR was Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono. I was intrigued by the stories Schwalbe imparted about this book and how it helped him see the world differently. Sometimes, I’d like to come up with the magical option ‘e’ and find another solution where I didn’t think one existed before. Who knows, maybe it will help me in fiction writing.

Will Schwalbe at the Midwest Literary Walk on 10-March-18

I felt there were a few more recent selections than I would have liked. Of course, the book you just read has the largest impact on you for a time, but it’s not always lasting. I was a bit disappointed by this and tuned out a bit when he spoke about these titles. I’m sure this book would have some different selections if Schwalbe wrote it ten years from now. I guess I was looking for a bit more lasting impact.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeff Harding. I got over my disappointment that Schwalbe didn’t narrate very quickly because Harding was a great narrator. There were no characters to portray in this book, but Harding kept things interesting and kept me entertained throughout the book.

Books about books are for readers. This isn’t a book for someone who casually picks up four books per year. This one was for someone who can’t seem to live without a book in their hands and shelves full of stories.  People who love books are changed by them. Schwalbe isn’t’ unusual in this respect and that’s part of what made his story strong. I’m just like him and I could write a list of 26 books that impacted me. It would be completely different and if we had any overlapping books, they would be for completely different reasons. And that’s totally fine. We can all love books and disagree on which ones or why. That’s part of being a reader.

Writer’s Takeaway: Readers talk about books. If someone is a reader, it’s unlikely that they’ll go through their day without mentioning something they are reading or have read. Schwalbe is a character in his own book. Characters that read need to talk about it. This applies to fiction, too.

Overall enjoyable but lacking great depth because of its format. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Will Schwalbe Finds Books for Living: What Are You Reading? | Narrative Species
BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe: A Review (Subtitled “Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life”) | powerfulwomanreaders
I Feel the Need, the Need to Read | Borden’s Blog

6 Responses to “Book Review: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (3/5)”

  1. Book Admirer March 14, 2019 at 2:48 PM #

    I love books about books! I just read Dear Fahrenheit 451 which is written by a librarian and half of the book is letters she writes to the books in her life. The other half of the book consists of lists. I loved it. Now I want to read this. Great review!


    • Sam March 14, 2019 at 5:24 PM #

      Thanks! I think you’d enjoy this then, it’s quite similar. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rae Longest March 14, 2019 at 8:59 PM #

    Thanks for the mention, Sam, Rae.



  1. WWW Wednesday, 20-March-2019 | Taking on a World of Words - March 20, 2019

    […] so many reviews as well! I was first able to review Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. This one was really touching and a great book for book lovers. The post went up […]


  2. Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (4/5) | Taking on a World of Words - April 9, 2019

    […] during his appearance at the Midwest Literary Walk last year. The book also appears in his book, Books for Living, which I read recently and was reminded that I needed to read this […]


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