Friday, January 13, 2017

BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

In response to requests for another book similar in vein to his bestselling The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe has written another collection of essays, this time about books which, for him, have given guidance along the road of life. Through the lens of a certain book, each essay addresses a certain life skill or emotional challenge.
One very important thing to keep in mind as you read this collection is that these essays are very personal to Will but in all likelihood you as his reader will not relate to many, many things he addresses. While there are some topics that are universal--such as the idea that napping is something from which we can all benefit--many of the issues that he, as a gay man, faces are simply not identifiable for me as a straight woman. He also speaks of personal issues, such as not liking to be hugged, which might or might not touch a nerve with his readers.

The fact that his essays are very deeply personal did not, for me, affect my enjoyment of this collection. I was so thoroughly absorbed in his ability to share so completely of himself that I ceased to see all the things that made us different and began to see only this emotional avenue that he so readily opened up to bring his readers into his perspective. Through his eyes I understood what it felt like to be a gay man in the 1980s, in the early days of AIDS. Suddenly, I didn't need to be a gay man to identify with those things of which he wrote. His wide-open soul, expressed through his beautifully chosen prose, made it all so perfectly clear. 

I think that how a reader feels about this book is going to depend largely upon what you are expecting or looking for as you begin to read. If you seek a collection of essays, every one of which will be universally identifiable to every reader, you will be disappointed. If you are interested in viewing how one man chose the books which meant the most to him and why, perhaps with the intent to use this collection as a model for a similar set of essays that pertain specifically to you, you will likely enjoy the book.

Although I was very drawn in to most of the essays, there were, as is almost always the case with books of this nature, some that didn't seem to fit quite as well. In several cases, I felt that the book the essay was supposed to be centered upon did not really seem to have a strong correlation with the point Will was trying to make. This was a bit disappointing, as it weakened the structure of the collection.

As long as the reader knows what to expect and is looking forward to reading the essays under those terms, I definitely recommend reading this book. I cannot imagine a single reader who wouldn't gain emotionally from the experience.

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