Thursday, December 9, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser

Every once in a while I like to read a book about reading books. This time, I chose Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser. Her credentials for this sort of work are outstanding. She’s a professional reviewer, the founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, and has authored several (mostly nonfiction) books.

The chapters are broken down into 1. Character and Plot; 2. The Space Between; 3. Novelty; 4. Authority; 5. Grandeur and Intimacy; 6. Elsewhere; and 7. Inconclusions. She discusses some of her favorite authors and favorite works and how they fit under each of these interwoven categories. It’s primarily a literary critic chatting about how she approaches reading. My favorite part was actually the Prologue, titled “Why I Read.” The crux of her answer was that she reads for pleasure. Considering that reading is her job, it’s wonderful that she still finds it a pleasure!

She writes the book as a conversation, inviting the reader to silently engage with her. To some extent, that engagement came about naturally as I either fervently agreed with her or thought: I’m not sure I agree, or I don’t quite understand. But some chapters were more engaging than others. 

The book ends with a list of 100 books to read for pleasure, some of which were discussed in the text and others which were not. This is both a great jumping off point for more reading and a bit of a burden for someone whose TBR pile is already heaped up and tottering over.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but I didn’t feel it lived up to the promise of the prologue.

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