BOOKS CHECKED OUT
The joy and power of reading is a common theme among writers. As editor and author Sara Nelson writes, “Part of the appeal of books, of course, is that they’re the cheapest and easiest way to transport you from the world you know into one you don’t.” There are numerous reasons for reading; here is a sample of titles about books and literature that expand on some of those reasons.
by Sara Nelson
Nelson decided to read one book per week for a full year and write about her experience. “What I am doing, I think, is trying to get down on paper what I’ve been doing for years in my mind: matching up the reading experience with the personal one and watching where they intersect — or don’t. If a particular book I mention makes you want to head off to the nearest bookstore, great; if not, maybe what I say about it will spark a memory or suggest a topic that seems honest or interesting or true.” She begins her year in Vermont, where she plans to read the novel “Funnymen,” by Ted Heller, but instead, inspired by her surroundings at the Solzhenitsyn’s Cavendish home, she delves into a biography of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. As a result, she determines that “(1) Choosing a book is not all that different from choosing a house. There are really only three rules: location, location, and location. And (2) In reading, as in life, even if you know what you’re doing, you really kind of don’t.”
by Michael Dirda
Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Dirda provides numerous quotes and ideas as he considers life and literature. “For ‘Book by Book,’ I’ve set down some of what I’ve learned about life from my reading. In its character the result is a florilegium: a ‘bouquet’ of insightful or provocative quotations from favorite authors, surrounded by some of my own observations, several lists, the occasional anecdote, and a series of mini-essays on aspects of life, love, work, education, art, the self, death.” In the chapter titled “Work and Leisure,” he describes the clutter on his own desk and suggests that “The best book ever written about the relationship between work and leisure remains ‘Walden,’ by Henry David Thoreau. (If you’ve never read it, read it now).”
by Richard Lederer and Michael Gilleland
“We wrote ‘Literary Trivia’ to show just how much fun the study of great — and sometimes more-popular-than-great — literature can be.” Match titles and authors, pair Greek and Roman gods, list literary works with colors in their names, and much more in this book filled with bookish questions and answers.
by Wendy Lesser
Writer Lesser muses on literature and life. “I suppose if I had to give a one-word answer to the question of why I read, that word would be pleasure. The kind of pleasure you can get from reading is like no other in the world…Because reading is such an individual act, the pleasures we derive from literature — even which books we are willing to call ‘literature’ — will not be identical.” Referencing many books of various types, Lesser discusses character, authority, translations, and other aspects of reading and writing to explain why she reads, as well as what a unique experience each book is for the reader. “For my own part, I cannot think of a book I have loved that is completely without imperfections of any kind…The problems, in fact, are what seem to make the books I love not only inviting but discussable, with myself and with you. It is in worrying at the knot of a question, a question no doubt suggested to me by those little wrinkles and flaws, that I come to realize what I think about a written work.”
by Azar Nafisi
Professor Nafisi recounts her experiences with a group of female students studying literature at her home in Iran. “The theme of the class was the relation between fiction and reality. We read Persian classical literature, such as the tales of our own lady of fiction, Scheherazade, from ‘A Thousand and One Nights,’ along with Western classics — ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘Madame Bovary,’ ‘Daisy Miller,’ ‘The Dean’s December,’ and, yes, ‘Lolita.’ As I write the title of each book, memories whirl in with the wind to disturb the quiet of this fall day in another room in another country.” Nafisi weaves together recollections of teaching in revolutionary Iran with the discussions of literature that encourage the students to share their thoughts and feelings. “For those few precious hours we felt free to discuss our pains and our joys, our personal hang-ups and weaknesses; for that suspended time we abdicated our responsibilities to our parents, relatives and friends, and to the Islamic Republic.”
The Rutland Free Library has thousands of books for you to contemplate.