Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Intro -- Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books


Prologue: WHY I READ
It's not a question I can completely answer. There are abundant reasons, some of them worse than others and many of them mutually contradictory. To pass the time. To savor the existence of time. To escape from myself into someone else's world. To find myself in someone else's words. To exercise my critical capacities. To flee from the need for rational explanations. 
And even the obvious reasons may not be the real ones. My motives remain obscure to me because reading is, to a certain extent, a compulsion. As with all compulsions, its sources prefer to stay hidden.
Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
by Wendy Lesser

After reading about this book over at Jill's new blog, I picked up a copy at the library yesterday afternoon. Like many readers, I have a weakness for books about books and reading and I have high hopes for this one. The goodreads summary sounds encouraging:
“Wendy Lesser’s extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America’s most significant cultural critics,” writes Stephen Greenblatt. In Why I Read, Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country, The Threepenny Review, to describe her love of literature. As Lesser writes in her prologue, “Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it.” 
Here the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. As she examines these works from such perspectives as “Character and Plot,” “Novelty,” “Grandeur and Intimacy,” and “Authority,” Why I Read  sparks an overwhelming desire to put aside quotidian tasks in favor of reading. Lesser’s passion for this pursuit resonates on every page, whether she is discussing the book as a physical object or a particular work’s influence. “Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different,” she writes. “It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else’s past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times.” 
A book in the spirit of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel  and Elizabeth Hardwick’s A View of My Own, Why I Read  is iconoclastic, conversational, and full of insight. It will delight those who are already avid readers as well as neophytes in search of sheer literary fun.
I think I'm going to  enjoy this one. What do you think? Would you keep reading?


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

19 comments:

  1. I would check it out to see how it 'reads.' I hope you enjoy it.

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  2. I'm not sure about this one. It has really caught my interest.
    Today I'm featuring Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer.

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  3. This is not the type of book I usually read, but it does sound good. I may have to make an exception. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  4. It's definitely not the kind of non-fiction I usually read but if I hear enough good things about it, I'd give it a try.

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  5. This does sound like the kind of read you could settle into and immerse yourself in its depths. Fascinating! I want to know more...will be watching for your review.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  6. I can see myself right from the start. LOL I would keep reading. I really like books like this too.

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  7. I would love to read an essay of the main gist of the book, but not sure if I would read the whole thing, though I might... I do read non-fiction. I agree that while I read for pleasure, it is my compulsion, my obsession, no doubt.

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  8. "...how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it." Those words resonate with me! Seems like I have to be in the mood to enjoy a certain book at a certain time. Although I rarely read nonfiction, this sounds like a good one.
    Today I’m featuring THE MERMAID GARDEN.

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  9. The title grabs my attention, I'd pick it up and give it a try.

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  10. I love books about books, so I would definitely keep reading.

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  11. This grabbed my interest right away. I'd keep reading.

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  12. The title certainly grabs me. I often wonder why I have always loved reading as much as I do. This might be an interesting book to read. kelley—the road goes ever ever on

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  13. I'm definitely interested in this one! I like the idea of exploring the reasons behind reading. I'll be looking for your review of this one.

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  14. I'm definitely interested in this book. I'm like you in that I like books about books. The last sentence about compulsions is so true for me. I can't go a day without time spent reading.

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  15. I wouldn't have considered this previously, but now you have me curious.

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  16. I'm not sure about this one. I like books about books, but sometimes I feel this type of thing is too self-congratulatory. Sort of like asking why do I breathe? I think for me the simple answer is that it's part of my DNA.

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