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Introduction by Susan Orlean Twenty-three of today's living literary legends, including Donna Tartt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Andrew Sean Greer, Laila Lalami, and Michael Chabon, reveal the books that made them think, brought them joy, and changed their lives in this intimate, moving, and insightful collection from "American's Librarian" Nancy Pearl and noted playwright Jeff Schw Introduction by Susan Orlean Twenty-three of today's living literary legends, including Donna Tartt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Andrew Sean Greer, Laila Lalami, and Michael Chabon, reveal the books that made them think, brought them joy, and changed their lives in this intimate, moving, and insightful collection from "American's Librarian" Nancy Pearl and noted playwright Jeff Schwager that celebrates the power of literature and reading to connect us all. Before Jennifer Egan, Louise Erdrich, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Jonathan Lethem became revered authors, they were readers. In this ebullient book, America’s favorite librarian Nancy Pearl and noted-playwright Jeff Schwager interview a diverse range of America's most notable and influential writers about the books that shaped them and inspired them to leave their own literary mark.  Illustrated with beautiful line drawings, The Writer’s Library is a revelatory exploration of the studies, libraries, and bookstores of today’s favorite authors—the creative artists whose imagination and sublime talent make America's literary scene the wonderful, dynamic world it is. A love letter to books and a celebration of wordsmiths, The Writer’s Library is a treasure for anyone who has been moved by the written word.  The authors in The Writer’s Library are: Russell Banks TC Boyle Michael Chabon Susan Choi Jennifer Egan Dave Eggers Louise Erdrich Richard Ford Laurie Frankel Andrew Sean Greer Jane Hirshfield Siri Hustvedt Charles Johnson Laila Lalami Jonathan Lethem Donna Tartt Madeline Miller Viet Thanh Nguyen Luis Alberto Urrea Vendela Vida Ayelet Waldman Maaza Mengiste Amor Towles


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Introduction by Susan Orlean Twenty-three of today's living literary legends, including Donna Tartt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Andrew Sean Greer, Laila Lalami, and Michael Chabon, reveal the books that made them think, brought them joy, and changed their lives in this intimate, moving, and insightful collection from "American's Librarian" Nancy Pearl and noted playwright Jeff Schw Introduction by Susan Orlean Twenty-three of today's living literary legends, including Donna Tartt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Andrew Sean Greer, Laila Lalami, and Michael Chabon, reveal the books that made them think, brought them joy, and changed their lives in this intimate, moving, and insightful collection from "American's Librarian" Nancy Pearl and noted playwright Jeff Schwager that celebrates the power of literature and reading to connect us all. Before Jennifer Egan, Louise Erdrich, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Jonathan Lethem became revered authors, they were readers. In this ebullient book, America’s favorite librarian Nancy Pearl and noted-playwright Jeff Schwager interview a diverse range of America's most notable and influential writers about the books that shaped them and inspired them to leave their own literary mark.  Illustrated with beautiful line drawings, The Writer’s Library is a revelatory exploration of the studies, libraries, and bookstores of today’s favorite authors—the creative artists whose imagination and sublime talent make America's literary scene the wonderful, dynamic world it is. A love letter to books and a celebration of wordsmiths, The Writer’s Library is a treasure for anyone who has been moved by the written word.  The authors in The Writer’s Library are: Russell Banks TC Boyle Michael Chabon Susan Choi Jennifer Egan Dave Eggers Louise Erdrich Richard Ford Laurie Frankel Andrew Sean Greer Jane Hirshfield Siri Hustvedt Charles Johnson Laila Lalami Jonathan Lethem Donna Tartt Madeline Miller Viet Thanh Nguyen Luis Alberto Urrea Vendela Vida Ayelet Waldman Maaza Mengiste Amor Towles

30 review for The Writer's Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Reading a book about books is always a risky proposition, dangerous for my already massive tbr list. I'll never read all the ones in have on there now. This book though is more than just books, interviews with many of the authors I favor. What books influenced them in their writing, what they read when younger, descriptions of their homes in some cases. Just enough to bring some realizations to mind, now and when I read them again. The authors in the book are listed in the book summary so I'll j Reading a book about books is always a risky proposition, dangerous for my already massive tbr list. I'll never read all the ones in have on there now. This book though is more than just books, interviews with many of the authors I favor. What books influenced them in their writing, what they read when younger, descriptions of their homes in some cases. Just enough to bring some realizations to mind, now and when I read them again. The authors in the book are listed in the book summary so I'll just mention a few things that made an impression. T.C Boyle, lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright house and wanting to know more about him led him to write The Women. I share a favored post with Amor Towles which would be T. S. Eliott though his love is for Prufrock, mine is The Wastelands. Louise Erdrich seems as genuine as the books she writes. Surprisingly, because I wasn't of fan of Goon Squad, though I've liked other books of hers, I had the most in common with Jennifer Egan. Like myself, she knew how to read at an early age, her mother like mine never censored what she read and her house has many bookshelves and piles of books everywhere. She also read many of the same books as I did when young and her high school years sound similar to mine. She also has multiple interests and the books she writes reflect that since her subjects vary widely. So, I didn't add to my massive tbr, in bought this book instead and just added to one of my piles. Nancy Pearl and Jeff did a fantastic job with these interviews and this is a terrific resource.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Write all the books about books you can, I will read them. All of them. Nancy Pearl teams up with Jeff Schwager to interview 23 mostly well-known authors about their reading lives. Most people know Nancy Pearl as the world's librarian and model for the iconic shushing librarian action figure, along with being the author of readers advisory books like Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. Jeff Schwager is less known to me but because the chapters in this book are tran Write all the books about books you can, I will read them. All of them. Nancy Pearl teams up with Jeff Schwager to interview 23 mostly well-known authors about their reading lives. Most people know Nancy Pearl as the world's librarian and model for the iconic shushing librarian action figure, along with being the author of readers advisory books like Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. Jeff Schwager is less known to me but because the chapters in this book are transcribed interviews, I know he likes Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, and that right there tells you a lot about a person. The best part of books like this is that I come away with more books I want to read - some I already know I want to read, or have had lingering on my shelves; a few I'd never heard of, a few I felt more interested in reading after hearing what the writer had to say about it (or sometimes, the interviewers.) There is a slight warning I feel I should give - the two interviewers are exuberant about books and outnumber the people they are interviewing. And since the chapters are transcriptions rather than narratives, you can see them cutting people off - I feel they would beg your forgiveness and hope you see it in the light of shared delight rather than competing interests. That is the spirit I have chosen to see it (otherwise it might be annoying.) A lot of writers share some major authors who have influenced them, often some of the greats, and part of me believes that sometimes we say these authors because we think we should. I'm more interested in the unique books or writers that inspired people. I loved hearing about Amor Towles' project-based book club (wow) and Dave Eggers' experiences as a publisher. I don't think this will take away from the experience of reading these interviews, so I will share the books I've added (or confirmed) on my list: From Nancy Pearl's comments: The Nowhere City by Alison Lurie (in conversation with Jonathan Lethem) The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli (in conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen) A Dangerous Friend by Ward Just, but only after reading The Quiet American by Graham Greene...(in conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen, but I have Ward on my radar from Thomas O.) From Laila Lalami: [book of poetry from Tahar Ben Jelloun that doesn't seem to exist in English! darn!] A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul From Luis Alberto Urrea: Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada From Jennifer Egan: Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (mentioned by others as well) Night Shift by Maritta Wolff From T.C. Boyle: Outside Looking In by T.C. Boyle (oh this is from his intro) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (I bought this last year for the Back to Classics challenge for a comic novel and never read it) From Andrew Sean Greer: Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene From Madeline Miller: Like Life by Lorrie Moore From Maaza Mengiste (whose book The Shadow King is currently on my stack): Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow Trieste by Daša Drndić From Amor Towles: Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? by Harold Bloom Middlemarch by George Eliot (mentioned by others) The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott From Louise Erdrich: Hope Against Hope by Nadezhda Mandelstam Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (sitting on my Kindle, mentioned by others) From Dave Eggers: Herzog by Saul Bellow (I've never had him explained to me!) Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (he claims it is her best...) Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (on my shelf!) From Laurie Frankel: American War by Omar El Akkad (most mentions I see are lukewarm but her feelings were very strong... I have this on my shelf) From Siri Hustvedt: Maybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja Petrowskaja Pain by Zeruya Shalev Book of Mutter by Kate Zambreno From Vendela Vida: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (I've meant to get to this forever!) I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss; it came out September 8.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Let me list the ways I love this book! 1. I feel like this book was tailored for me! Amazingly, I have read and enjoyed each of the 22 novelists featured here. (I have not yet read the poet Jane Hirshfield) These are my people! So I was fascinated to hear from them. 2. A shining example of how to do this type of book right. I have read too many disappointing collections of dutiful essays about authors' favorite books that I ended up skimming through. Pearl and Schwager met each author and conduct Let me list the ways I love this book! 1. I feel like this book was tailored for me! Amazingly, I have read and enjoyed each of the 22 novelists featured here. (I have not yet read the poet Jane Hirshfield) These are my people! So I was fascinated to hear from them. 2. A shining example of how to do this type of book right. I have read too many disappointing collections of dutiful essays about authors' favorite books that I ended up skimming through. Pearl and Schwager met each author and conducted lively, revealing interviews. These are thoughtful, sometimes joyous conversations. The one email interview (Donna Tartt) suffered in comparison. I especially enjoyed the interviews with T.C. Boyle and Michael Chabon together with Ayelet Waldman. So much fun! The NYT column "By the Book" could learn from these interviews. Too often that column is formulaic and stuffy. 3. Hopefully, the beginning of a tradition. This would be a marvelous series and I hope they continue. Please!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives by Nancy Pearl and playwright Jeff Schwager is a compendium of favorite books of some of the world’s best-known and most-admired authors. The interviews are conducted by Nancy Pearl, the most trusted and read librarian in America and playwright Jeff Schwager. For anyone who wants suggestions of books to add to their TBR, this book is for you. There are 23 authors who answer thoughtful, interested and interesting que The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives by Nancy Pearl and playwright Jeff Schwager is a compendium of favorite books of some of the world’s best-known and most-admired authors. The interviews are conducted by Nancy Pearl, the most trusted and read librarian in America and playwright Jeff Schwager. For anyone who wants suggestions of books to add to their TBR, this book is for you. There are 23 authors who answer thoughtful, interested and interesting questions about their reading life. I listened to the audio version but regret not having read this in book form. It is the kind of book that you keep on your bookshelf or night table and spend time with, whenever you fancy sinking into it. It is a reader’s dream. Enjoy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (not getting friends updates) Vegan

    This is a fantastic book! These are excellent interviews, much better and going deeper than most others I’ve read that are similar. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about reading one right after the other and finishing the book all at once the way I would with a novel or many other types of non-fiction books. I liked pacing my reading with this one. Each author/interview has so much to offer and there are both similarities and differences between them. This is a book meant for an audio edition! I don’t This is a fantastic book! These are excellent interviews, much better and going deeper than most others I’ve read that are similar. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about reading one right after the other and finishing the book all at once the way I would with a novel or many other types of non-fiction books. I liked pacing my reading with this one. Each author/interview has so much to offer and there are both similarities and differences between them. This is a book meant for an audio edition! I don’t often say that. I ended up reading the hardcover AND the Axis 360 audio edition simultaneously. I appreciated both formats. I liked the book lists at the end of each section and being able to see them and loved the drawing of the faces of each of the authors at the beginning of their sections, and I’m visually oriented so I liked reading along as I listened. Video interviews would have been great! I love going to author talks and readings. Listening to everyone enriched the reading experience. I enjoyed the questions and responses Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager provided and how they kept the flow going. It felt like vicariously being there in the room. A note: the audio edition has two very short sections that the hardcover did not. 15 minutes and 10 minutes long, of authors talking but I have no idea of their identity because they were not introduced. My guess is it might be additional material from two interviews that were in the book proper. I didn’t really listen to those since I didn’t know the identity of the talkers and because the sections appeared after the hardcover edition content. It was a great book for me to read during the pandemic. It reminded me of the many times I have attended conversations with authors events. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done that, even prior to the pandemic. (I did attend a few virtual events earlier in the pandemic held by one of my favorite local independent bookstores.) Unfortunately, the interview I most wanted to read/hear was Donna Tartt’s and that was the only author whose voice I assume was someone else’s and where there was less flow to the conversation, and less general conversation, and that was because her section was held as an email interview vs. an in person conversation. I still found it interesting but it was a bit of a disappointment. I know the chapter would have been different and better had it been a true interview like all the others included. I love learning about others’ lives and authors are particularly fascinating to me. I love them and I appreciate them. I enjoyed reading about their early lives, books they’ve liked throughout their lives, and the many other things they discussed. The interviews were excellent. Nancy Pearl is a treasure but I will say that in the audio edition of this book I found her voice grating. This was a perfect book for me to conclude 2020. It’s been a difficult year and a weird year and a particularly isolated year for me, and this was almost being like back at author talks, and without dealing with parking problems or experiencing any other worries. A perfect book at a perfect time. I loved it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I'll read anything Nancy Pearl puts out, and I love books about books, so this was a no-brainer for me. She and Jeff Schaefer interview 22 contemporary authors on their favorite books. Most of these authors I've not read yet but plan to, so a great introduction to them, and a few!! more books to add to my tbr. I'll read anything Nancy Pearl puts out, and I love books about books, so this was a no-brainer for me. She and Jeff Schaefer interview 22 contemporary authors on their favorite books. Most of these authors I've not read yet but plan to, so a great introduction to them, and a few!! more books to add to my tbr.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    As Susan Orlean asks in her forward, why do we care so deeply about a library burning? In Senegal, they say “the person’s library has been burned” when they die. Every book - to a lover of books - is a presence. Do we all think of ourselves that way? Are books more powerful than any other objects in our lives? If you are reading this review, the answer probably is “yes.” Susan Orlean’s mother’s mind was ravaged by dementia, and it did seem to her that all of her mother’s cherished books were bei As Susan Orlean asks in her forward, why do we care so deeply about a library burning? In Senegal, they say “the person’s library has been burned” when they die. Every book - to a lover of books - is a presence. Do we all think of ourselves that way? Are books more powerful than any other objects in our lives? If you are reading this review, the answer probably is “yes.” Susan Orlean’s mother’s mind was ravaged by dementia, and it did seem to her that all of her mother’s cherished books were being burned as each memory vanished, as if each had been part of an inner library. Each of the writers interviewed describes the importance of reading, the first books that entered ad opened their minds to words, stories, and the possibility of sharing in that act of creation. The collective library that these interviews build is an honor to the literacy and outreach that brick-and-mortar libraries (and bookstores) share, and how necessary they are to us as storytelling creatures. Some of the treasures in this collection include writers as dissimilar as Jennifer Egan and Susan Choi citing their early love of Ray Brandbury, or Laila Lalami and T.C. Boyle on Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America. Ayelet Waldman would read Kate Atkinson’s shopping list, while Jonathan Letham collects old pulp fiction novels as “talismanic objects,” loving the covers and physical presence of them. Every reader will have moments of deep identification with these writers’ choices. My own included Trout Fishing, The Borrowers, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which I want to reread with Jane Hirshfield’s view of his writing as both forgiving and brutally specific. I want to create a reading group like Hirschfield’s, too. Most of her fellow readers are research scientists who have tackled Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy, and The Plague by Albert Camus (right after the 2016 election, which could not be more on-target in 2020). She and others mention W.H. Auden’s poem, “Musee des Beaux Arts,” another poem that becomes more relevant as the world ages. “About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: how well they understood Its human position; how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along” -- We readers understand that, we crave more understanding. This is a perfect book for readers. Five stars. Thanks to NetGalley for the e-galley to review. I can hardly wait to buy a paper copy for myself, to annotate and share.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Swartz

    What a pleasant surprise! I almost didn’t download an advanced copy of this book because it seemed like it would be so utilitarian at a time when I wanted something more adventurous. But then I thought, well wait a minute, maybe I could get some good reading suggestions from some authors that I admire. How smart am I!? So yeah, lots of good suggestions, but also lots of good interviews. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager really know their stuff and are just perfect interviewers, prodding when necessary What a pleasant surprise! I almost didn’t download an advanced copy of this book because it seemed like it would be so utilitarian at a time when I wanted something more adventurous. But then I thought, well wait a minute, maybe I could get some good reading suggestions from some authors that I admire. How smart am I!? So yeah, lots of good suggestions, but also lots of good interviews. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager really know their stuff and are just perfect interviewers, prodding when necessary but mostly just letting the authors talk about books. When I glanced over the list of authors, I was excited to see that I knew of most of them, including more than a few as authors I would have chosen if I were putting this book together. Turns out it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a dull interview in the book. A few skewed more to poetry than prose, which is fine, just not as interesting to me. It was fun to track which authors these authors recommended the most. Phillip Roth, Graham Greene, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Saul Bellow and Joan Didion are some that come to mind. More than a few lauded Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis and Jesus’ Son by Dennis Johnson. Three books that are now on the top of my “to read” list.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager's book The Writer's Library lets readers in on their favorite authors reading history, what they keep on their bookshelf, and how those books impacted their lives and their craft. Pearl writes, "Our consciousness is a soaring shelf of thoughts and recollections, facts and fantasies, and of course, the scores of books we've read that have become an almost cellular part of who we are." I found myself thinking about the books that were on my shelves across my lifetime. I Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager's book The Writer's Library lets readers in on their favorite authors reading history, what they keep on their bookshelf, and how those books impacted their lives and their craft. Pearl writes, "Our consciousness is a soaring shelf of thoughts and recollections, facts and fantasies, and of course, the scores of books we've read that have become an almost cellular part of who we are." I found myself thinking about the books that were on my shelves across my lifetime. I was happy to see books I have read mentioned but there were also many books new to me that I will add to my TBR list. Certain books were mentioned by more than one writer. I enjoyed comparing books and noting who loved the same books. Jonathan Lethem talked of "the poetic, dreamy, surreal stuff like Bradbury" and his favorite TV show The Twilight Zone. He said that Butcher's Crossing by John Williams is better than Stoner, so I have to move it up higher on my TBR shelf. Susan Choi also mentions Bradbury, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and J. D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." Michael Chabon also lists Bradbury, and my childhood favorites Homer Price by Robert McCloskey and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. He calls The World According to Garp by John Irving a bombshell; I do remember reading it when it came out. He is another fan of Watership Down. Also on his list are Saul Bellow's Herzog. One more Bradbury fan, Dave Eggers was in the Great Books program in school, just like me. He also loves Herzog. As does Richard Ford. Amor Towles begins with Bradbury and adds poetry including Prufrock, Whitman and Dickinson, and a long list of classics. Another Dickinson fan, Louise Erdrich also loves Sylvia Plath and Tommy Orange's There There. Jennifer Egen loved Salinger's Nine Stories. As a teen loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Magus by John Fowles. "Then Richard Adams' Watership Down took over me life," and she got a rabbit. Oh, my! My husband and I also loved that book when it came out and WE got a pet rabbit--house trained to a liter box. I share a love for many of her mentions including Anthony Trollope. Andrew Sean Greer included Rebecca and also loves Muriel Spark. Madeline Miller also notes Watership Down as one of the "great favorites of my entire life." She is a fan of King Lear, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Laila Lalami mentioned Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee as a favorite. I would not have guessed that Luis Alberto Urrea had fallen hard for Becky Thatcher (from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) or that he fell in love with Stephen Crane's poetry. At college I read The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth; it is one of T.C. Boyle's favorite historical novels. He calls Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro "one of the greatest books ever." And he brings up John Gardner, whose novels I read as they came out. Charles Johnson also studied under John Gardner whose book On Moral Fiction appears on his shelf along with Ivan Doig. Viet Thanh Nguyen was blown away by sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov and fantasy writers like J. R. R. Tolkien. He liked Michael Ondaatje's Warlight. Jane Hirshfield was "undone" by Charlotte's Web by E. B. White and loved Water de la Mare's poem "The Listeners" and reads poetry including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Philip Levine is a poet on my TBR shelf that she mentions. Siri Hustvedt read Dickinson and the canonical English poetry early. Flannery O'Connor shows up on her shelf, also found on shelves of T. C. Boyle, Erdrich, Ford, and Tartt. Vendela Vida is "indebted to Forster," including A Passage to India. Also on her shelf is Coetzee's Disgrace. Donna Tartt read Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton, James Barrie's Peter Pan, and other classic children's literature. Oliver Twist particularly moved her and it also appears on Urrea's shelf. Russell Banks loved Toby Tyler by James Otis and loves to read the classics. Laurie Frankl's books are not ones I have read. Along with all the other books on these author's shelves, I can extend my reading list past my natural lifespan! Readers will enjoy these interviews, comparing book shelves, and learning the books that influenced these writers. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This book felt like going to a cocktail party where everyone is a reader and willing to share their reading history and love of books with strangers. I loved reading about the books that these writers read growing up or finding out that a few didn't find the love of reading until high school. As a high school librarian and teacher this gives me hope! My TBR list exploded as each new chapter found me nodding in agreement about books I already love and then trusting the other recommendations based This book felt like going to a cocktail party where everyone is a reader and willing to share their reading history and love of books with strangers. I loved reading about the books that these writers read growing up or finding out that a few didn't find the love of reading until high school. As a high school librarian and teacher this gives me hope! My TBR list exploded as each new chapter found me nodding in agreement about books I already love and then trusting the other recommendations based on that shared experience. Even the books that might not be my cup of tea could be future recommendations for my students and reader friends. I read this on NetGalley as an ARC but will certainly need a personal shelf copy to fill with Post-It notes!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    A lovely series of interviews by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager with writers about the books and authors who inspired their love of reading. It was interesting to see which books and authors came up a lot throughout these interviews. This also prompted me to run out and buy Butcher's Crossing by John Williams, which I had been meaning to read, and some Don Carpenter novels I could never find in local shops. I am certain it will prompt me to track down more in time. I loved how often Walter Tevis an A lovely series of interviews by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager with writers about the books and authors who inspired their love of reading. It was interesting to see which books and authors came up a lot throughout these interviews. This also prompted me to run out and buy Butcher's Crossing by John Williams, which I had been meaning to read, and some Don Carpenter novels I could never find in local shops. I am certain it will prompt me to track down more in time. I loved how often Walter Tevis and Ursula K. Le Guin were mentioned, too. Some excerpts from interviews: Jonathan Lethem: "I frequently consider this idea of secret genres. An obvious example: the academic satire. There's no marketing category, there's no section in the library for it, but it's a very definite form with very strong formal properties: it always takes place in a semester, and there's got to be the Christmas party where everyone's secrets come out because they get drunk...Another one that interests me is the gambling genre." (15) "Jeff: Many of your books deal powerfully with loss. Are there particular books that have informed your writing about loss?" Jonathan: Baldwin, I just mentioned. It's suffused with a sense of loss. You know, ,i>Giovanni's Room onward, I certainly associate him with that articulation. But also Kafka, although he allegorizes it. There's just such a sense of inexpressible loss and dislocation. I think also William Maxwell, Time Will Darken It and The Folded Leaf. Nancy: Or So Long, See You Tomorrow. Jonathan: Yeah, Maxwell's a poet of writing about loss abidingly,just opening one's self to it as a subject." (18) Louise Erdrich: on owning a bookstore: "When you have a book you really love, you can press it into people's hands. Also, I can go in and find someone to talk to about books. Fortunately, I have a family of readers, so we also talk about books all of the time." (198) Viet Thanh Nguyen: "I don't like the distinction between so-called genre fiction and literary fiction. Or if we have to say genre fiction, we have to say literary fiction is a genre as well that pretends not to be. But yes, in genre novels, plot is fundamental, and for me plot is fundamental. My beef with a lot of literary fiction is that there's no plot. Which is okay, I guess, if we're talking about modernist masterpieces that have stood the test of time and therefore I've got to read them. But your average contemporary American literary fiction that is plotless and is also lacking a lot of other things that make it compelling to me, I find totally boring." (233-234) Jane Hirshfield: "The central question for Milosz was the question of suffering...Did a poem, a choice, a culture, an idea, increase suffering or lead to its lessening? A moment free of suffering for him was a rare gift. And he knew himself as a person complicit in our species' many failures. His poems hold what I think is the only viable stance for poems of political critique: to admit that you yourself are not without blame." (249) On William Stafford's "A Ritual to Read to Each Other" and Auden, etc: "These poems are sustaining and necessary as any meal." (258) Richard Ford: On reading Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!: "It made a big impression on me, because of course I didn't understand it at all, but I thought, because I felt I should, that I should finish it, so I did. But what I figured out from reading it was a number of things. One, it was very engrossing even though I didn't understand much. I thus understood that it was okay not to understand completely what you're reading. I felt it was about a world, Mississippi in the South and race and history, that I knew something about. So I thought it was relevant. I felt my life was a kind of dreary life. I was at a point where I thought I was probably going to just be a conventional joe. But here was this enormous, wonderful, magical, incomprehensible book written by a guy right up the road from me, and it kind of made me think that life was maybe worth more than I thought, because life could be the subject of this great book. Reading that novel created what I call an extra beat. If life is dreary, literature gives it an extra beat--by making life its subject. I credit Faulkner for showing me that. With making me understand that literature was worth the trouble, because it brought you back to life with something you didn't have before." (263-4) Russell Banks: "I don't read to escape. I read to enter. To go somewhere, which is different. A very different motivation, I think." (337)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    My brain was churning after burning through this. Nancy Pearl is revered as the unofficial national librarian of our times and is thus highly respected. She chose to interview 23 living authors and here are essays that delve into how they became great writers and what authors they recommend. Have read 12 of these authors, and 9 of these 12 were featured in book discussions that I host. That made me feel we are discussing great authors. Four authors I had never even heard of and I was wondering wh My brain was churning after burning through this. Nancy Pearl is revered as the unofficial national librarian of our times and is thus highly respected. She chose to interview 23 living authors and here are essays that delve into how they became great writers and what authors they recommend. Have read 12 of these authors, and 9 of these 12 were featured in book discussions that I host. That made me feel we are discussing great authors. Four authors I had never even heard of and I was wondering why they were included, because I am not young, a librarian, and read widely. This was a puzzle. A few important living authors were missing such as Ann Patchett, Marilynne Robinson and Joyce Carol Oates though perhaps they were just not available for the interviews. The interviews generally start with how reading began for them as children. Did they have access to books? Did their parents read? These were pre-Internet years, so kids generally had fewer choices. Both parents and libraries turned out to be pretty important in these early years. These authors make reading recommendations and there are some common threads such as Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, and Ursula le Guin. Couldn't figure out why I was a bit turned off after reading through these conversations. Most of these authors have academic associations. They are professors at the best universities and/or have attended the finest creative writing programs such as Bread Loaf. It takes on a decidedly intellectual tone. They mentioned many writers I had never heard of, including some that sound interesting. But it is like an inside circle of in-the-know- people who swear by their reading of Henry James or Edith Wharton, authors I have read but would never be my read-for-relaxation choices. Only two 'popular' authors are briefly mentioned, Lee Child and Robert Parker, and I just wanted someone to admit that they enjoyed some form of escapist reading. I suspect that they thought their answers had to show that they are very well-read people as well as authors. They are "teaching to the test" in other words and giving the "right" response instead of embracing the idea of reading anything for any reason. It made me feel less well-read and too genre focused. I do appreciate their nonprofit projects and their nurturing of up and coming authors, the audience that I believe this book serves best. Not being an aspiring author, just felt a little left out.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Diane Ferbrache

    Every time I become arrogant enough to consider myself "well read" a book like this comes along. I love Nancy Pearl, and have read (& owned) several of her books (Book Lust, etc). Every time I discover new authors and new books. This is no exception. In this volume, Pearl along with her friend & colleague Jeff Schwager interview 23 authors about their early reading experiences, their influences, their reading habits, and their favorite authors & books. I have only read 7 of these authors and onl Every time I become arrogant enough to consider myself "well read" a book like this comes along. I love Nancy Pearl, and have read (& owned) several of her books (Book Lust, etc). Every time I discover new authors and new books. This is no exception. In this volume, Pearl along with her friend & colleague Jeff Schwager interview 23 authors about their early reading experiences, their influences, their reading habits, and their favorite authors & books. I have only read 7 of these authors and only recognized the names of a few others. Where have I been?!! This is a book for book lovers, librarians, authors, wannabe authors or anyone interested in good books, the writing process, and anyone just curious about what makes authors become authors. I was absolutely enthralled. I admit to being embarrassed that, after 25 years as a librarian, I was still ignorant of many of these acclaimed authors. But I was completely absorbed in their stories and (most of all) in their lists of influential and favorite books and authors. Had I read this book in print, it would be filled with highlights and underlines and sticky-notes. Since I read the ebook version, and I'm woefully unskilled at highlighting and annotating ebooks, instead I kept a note pad and pen nearby. My "to read" list has never been so long. I expected to see that many "classics" were among the books listed as influential (Fitzgerald, Dickens, Twain, etc), but was pleasantly surprised to see how many authors also listed popular fiction & non-fiction as well. There were a few (almost) snarky comments about the lack of writing quality among popular fiction, but there were also many favorable mentions of best sellers as well. My favorite part was reading about the books these authors read as children and their "go to" titles/authors currently, especially those they have re-read frequently. Thanks Netgalley, for letting me read this book before it's in print form. Now I have a head start on acquiring the books recommended. And, thanks to Nancy Pearl. This is, yet again, a must read -- must have -- for any bibliophile.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Ok. Maybe 2 1/2 stars. I didn’t really enjoy. Was hoping to pick up lots of good ideas, but not really. The best part i liked was when each author discussed their childhood reading habits and books they loved. WATERSHIP DOWN was a common read among at least 5 of them along with Lloyd Alexander books. Also I didn’t care for the back and forth questions and the somewhat rambling discussions. Normally I love author interviews on public radio. Maybe I’m better at hearing discussions rather than read Ok. Maybe 2 1/2 stars. I didn’t really enjoy. Was hoping to pick up lots of good ideas, but not really. The best part i liked was when each author discussed their childhood reading habits and books they loved. WATERSHIP DOWN was a common read among at least 5 of them along with Lloyd Alexander books. Also I didn’t care for the back and forth questions and the somewhat rambling discussions. Normally I love author interviews on public radio. Maybe I’m better at hearing discussions rather than reading the transcript.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christina Pilkington

    When I saw this book listed in the Library Journal's Book Pulse newsletter earlier this year, I knew I had to read it! I cannot resist a book about books, writers talking about books, bookshelf tours, books about famous libraries...you get the idea. And this book was SO good! Nancy Pearl and and Jeff Schwager interviewed such a great variety of authors. Some of my favorite interviews were: Madeline Miller, Susan Choi and Laurie Frankel. The authors asked similar questions of each other the autho When I saw this book listed in the Library Journal's Book Pulse newsletter earlier this year, I knew I had to read it! I cannot resist a book about books, writers talking about books, bookshelf tours, books about famous libraries...you get the idea. And this book was SO good! Nancy Pearl and and Jeff Schwager interviewed such a great variety of authors. Some of my favorite interviews were: Madeline Miller, Susan Choi and Laurie Frankel. The authors asked similar questions of each other the authors such as: What was your favorite childhood book?, What book has influenced you the most as a writer? What books did you read while writing your books? It was interesting to see how many of the writers were influenced by the same childhood books. I was also fascinated to learn how many of the writers chose which books to read to help them write their books. Each writer had a slightly different relationship with books, especially how important they were in their pre-adult lives (some were non readers until later in life and some had already read thousands of books by the time they turned 18). I had my Goodreads page opened the entire time and added way to many books to my TBR, both popular classical books to obscure literary books. If you love listening to writers talk about books and writing, I'd highly recommend The Writer's Library!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shelby

    I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to Netgalley. The Writer's Library is a book of interviews with literary subjects not dissimilar to The New York Times Book Review's "By the Book" column (which is also in book form, sitting on my night stand, xoxo Pamela Paul). Interviewers Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager chat with today's living contemporary American writers about the birth of their reading lives, inspirations for their craft, and their reading habits amidst their own writin I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to Netgalley. The Writer's Library is a book of interviews with literary subjects not dissimilar to The New York Times Book Review's "By the Book" column (which is also in book form, sitting on my night stand, xoxo Pamela Paul). Interviewers Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager chat with today's living contemporary American writers about the birth of their reading lives, inspirations for their craft, and their reading habits amidst their own writing projects. At times, certain interviewees became long-winded or redundant. Many of them cited Watership Down as a seminal text in both their reading and writing lives. My favorite interviews to read were with Moroccan writer Laila Lalami, Maaza Mengiste (author of The Shadow King, which today was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize), Viet Thanh Nguyen (author of my favorite short story collection, The Refugees), and poet Siri Hustvedt, who I had never heard of before. I would recommend this book to aspiring writers; it would also make a great gift for the writing or literature student in your life. Co-author Nancy Pearl is a superhero librarian, queen of Reader's Advisory, and mother of the community-wide read, and is the primary reason why I requested a copy of this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Librarian Nancy Pearl and writer Jeff Schwager’s collaboration “The Writer’s Library” compiles interviews they conducted with 23 different authors about their lives as readers and the books that have most influenced them. I loved the idea of this book—it reminded me of the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” feature, which is a must read for me—but I have to say that I imagined I would dip in and out of “The Writer’s Library,” cherry-picking the authors I am familiar with and admire and b Librarian Nancy Pearl and writer Jeff Schwager’s collaboration “The Writer’s Library” compiles interviews they conducted with 23 different authors about their lives as readers and the books that have most influenced them. I loved the idea of this book—it reminded me of the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” feature, which is a must read for me—but I have to say that I imagined I would dip in and out of “The Writer’s Library,” cherry-picking the authors I am familiar with and admire and bypassing the others. As it happens, I tore straight through “The Writer’s Library” from cover to cover, enjoying, as expected, the interviews with favorite authors (Jennifer Egan and Viet Thanh Nguyen, for example) but perhaps appreciating even more the new authors I discovered in its pages, such as Maaza Mengiste. If you love talking about books for hours with friends who share your passion, “The Writer’s Library” will be an absolute treat. Just have your “to read” list at hand and ready for a lot of new additions! Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager interview a wide variety of America's best writers about the books that made them who they are. I love to get suggestions about good books, and who better to suggest books than writers of good books? This was a library copy, but I liked it so much that I decided to get my own copy of it. From the interview with Amor Towles, in which he spoke about reading a book called Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? by Harold Bloom: "Bloom's book had a big effect on me. I closed it think Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager interview a wide variety of America's best writers about the books that made them who they are. I love to get suggestions about good books, and who better to suggest books than writers of good books? This was a library copy, but I liked it so much that I decided to get my own copy of it. From the interview with Amor Towles, in which he spoke about reading a book called Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? by Harold Bloom: "Bloom's book had a big effect on me. I closed it thinking: I'm turning forty. If I live to eighty and read one book a month carefully---where I underline and reflect upon what I've read and write down my thoughts---that means I've got just 480 books left! Yet I had just spent a year reading a series of contemporary novels that didn't make a mark on me. So I decided that I had to do something different. I decided to focus on reading books that were so accomplished, so rich, you would benefit from reading them at the age of twenty and forty and sixty and eighty."

  19. 4 out of 5

    reading is my hustle

    my favorite questions to ask an author on book tour: 1. what are you currently reading? 2. who/what are some of your favorite authors & books? i never change my questions because i'm always interested to know their answers & it typically segues into their motivations for writing so all the better. obvi, i was always going to like this book. if you like books about avid readers, writers, libraries, or bookshops this is a book for you. i especially liked the lists of books, comments by authors, and i my favorite questions to ask an author on book tour: 1. what are you currently reading? 2. who/what are some of your favorite authors & books? i never change my questions because i'm always interested to know their answers & it typically segues into their motivations for writing so all the better. obvi, i was always going to like this book. if you like books about avid readers, writers, libraries, or bookshops this is a book for you. i especially liked the lists of books, comments by authors, and insights into the world of books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Despite being familiar with only a handful of the 22 authors interviewed here, I really enjoyed reading about the books that influenced their writing and even changed their lives. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager seemed to ask just the right questions to prompt insightful, well thought out answers. I was surprised by how many times an author would bring up a book and both Nancy and Jeff would be familiar with it. I was also surprised by how often Watership Down was mentioned. I remember being under Despite being familiar with only a handful of the 22 authors interviewed here, I really enjoyed reading about the books that influenced their writing and even changed their lives. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager seemed to ask just the right questions to prompt insightful, well thought out answers. I was surprised by how many times an author would bring up a book and both Nancy and Jeff would be familiar with it. I was also surprised by how often Watership Down was mentioned. I remember being underwhelmed when I read it a good many years ago – maybe it’s time to try it again? The author interview I enjoyed the most was Viet Thanh Nguyen’s, primarily because of his objection to distinguishing between ‘so-called genre’ and literary fiction: 'if we have to say genre fiction, we have to say literary fiction is a genre as well that pretends not to be'. That said, the bulk of this book is made up of interviews with literary fiction authors with a few poets tossed in for good measure. One useful feature in it for anyone needing ideas for their TBR list is a summary of the books and authors they discussed at the end of each interview.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I love Nancy Pearl, and I love these kinds of books -- where authors are interviewed about their reading lives. This one was satisfying! One thing, though...There's an unresolved discussion in this collection about high-brow vs. "commercial" or "genre" fiction. Most of the interviewees, despite their diverse backgrounds, discuss their love for mid-twentieth century, white male authors. This is in part because most of them were educated in the same kinds of institutions and in the same kinds of a I love Nancy Pearl, and I love these kinds of books -- where authors are interviewed about their reading lives. This one was satisfying! One thing, though...There's an unresolved discussion in this collection about high-brow vs. "commercial" or "genre" fiction. Most of the interviewees, despite their diverse backgrounds, discuss their love for mid-twentieth century, white male authors. This is in part because most of them were educated in the same kinds of institutions and in the same kinds of academic programs -- and maybe because Nancy Pearl herself loves so many of the books herself. And also because "the canon" has some universal themes that are of value to everyone. But there's a definite snootiness to some of these conversations, even when they walk up to the line of taking on the issue of what makes a book "beloved" or worth pursuing. Nancy Pearl has always been such an advocate of the idea that you should read what you love, but I'm not sure that readers of all stripes would necessarily feel comfortable at this particular literary party. As an example, Andrew Sean Greer, who wrote _Less_, engages in a lengthy conversation about his love of Nabokov. Lots of the writers in this book love Nabokov. He then switches to discussing his MFA program, and how Richard Ford agreed to publish his work after Greer honed it. Then he suddenly describes his peers in the program -- referencing one writer that is fairly successful today. You'll find that person's books in the "literary fiction" section of the book store but with covers on them that are geared toward women. Greer acknowledges that women were not respected in the program and then says, "...There's a writer, XX, who was my friend -- she's a popular writer in the Jennifer Weiner kind of way..." He uses this point to highlight the fact that she was marginalized by the other guys in the program, but saying "in the Jennifer Weiner kind of way" is an effort to distinguish "serious" writing from books that many women read. Then Greer switches to talking about a "superstar" male writer in the program, and Nancy Pearl remarks how wonderful that man is. No mention of the shade that Greer just through to his female "friend," though he did compliment her on being "a hard worker." I don't necessarily think that this is an issue that a collection like this needs to resolve. But Pearl has made a career of being such a literary omnivore. It was a strange tension that niggled at me all the way through what was otherwise a fun way to learn more about literary lives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Iva

    What you'll learn from these interviews: the great influence of books on these contemporary authors writing and lives. Teachers were important; from elementary school to writing programs. Many authors would say poetry was formative in their writing. And friendships with other writers. Some had teachers who were writers who they felt should be better known: Stanley Elkin and Timothy Findley were mentioned. And at least three authors mentioned Watership Down! A question asked to each was whether t What you'll learn from these interviews: the great influence of books on these contemporary authors writing and lives. Teachers were important; from elementary school to writing programs. Many authors would say poetry was formative in their writing. And friendships with other writers. Some had teachers who were writers who they felt should be better known: Stanley Elkin and Timothy Findley were mentioned. And at least three authors mentioned Watership Down! A question asked to each was whether their family were big readers. Often yes, sometimes not at all. I discovered authors I will definitely pursue. Librarians will find this a great resource, but what else would you expect from Nancy Pearl?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin Boyington

    Turns out this was exactly what I needed in my current COVID-19 lockdown reading slump: some time eavesdropping on Nancy Pearl, Jeff Schwager, and some of the best writers alive as they talk about a topic I never tire of. If you're looking for an objective review, this isn't it - Nancy Pearl was one of my teachers at library school and I'm a total fan. I can hear her voice in the questions and it brings a smile to my face to get the feeling of sitting with her as she asks smart and interesting qu Turns out this was exactly what I needed in my current COVID-19 lockdown reading slump: some time eavesdropping on Nancy Pearl, Jeff Schwager, and some of the best writers alive as they talk about a topic I never tire of. If you're looking for an objective review, this isn't it - Nancy Pearl was one of my teachers at library school and I'm a total fan. I can hear her voice in the questions and it brings a smile to my face to get the feeling of sitting with her as she asks smart and interesting questions about the impact reading has in the development of supremely creative people. As usual, she also added new titles to my never-ending TBR shelf on Goodreads: The Lonely Doll Dare Wright Jesus' Son Denis Johnson Birds of America Lorrie Moore Samuel Johnson is Indignant Lydia Davis (just got my digital copy from the library!) Several Walter Tevis books Little Big Man Thomas Berger The Voice at 3 a.m. Charles Simic And quite a few more, including a resolution to keep re-reading Watership Down as much as possible for the good of my soul. Received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joe Jones

    As someone who loves reading, books, and talking about books this was perfect for me. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse of what books influenced such an eclectic group of writers. It made me look at my own reading history and at books and reading in a different way. I also loved that there were so many great quotes. In particular I loved when Russell Banks said "But books open the door to the larger world. I don’t read to escape. I read to enter." That really resonated with my personal exp As someone who loves reading, books, and talking about books this was perfect for me. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse of what books influenced such an eclectic group of writers. It made me look at my own reading history and at books and reading in a different way. I also loved that there were so many great quotes. In particular I loved when Russell Banks said "But books open the door to the larger world. I don’t read to escape. I read to enter." That really resonated with my personal experiences. Highly recommended!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    This book felt like a delightful conversation between friends. I laughed. I cried. My perspectives were challenged and my reading list expanded. This is a great title to read straight through, or to refer back to as you read the works of this phenomenal selection of authors. I am hoping there will be a sequel!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Just a wonderful compilation of a diverse group of authors with insightful knowledge and experience. Ebook and audio. Excellent interview questions. Hearing the authors in their own voices was a delight.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    I think I like being inspired toward reading books as much as I like reading books (or at least it is easier to collect a list of books that seem like they might be future friends than to find the time to read them all), so this book of interviews with interesting writers by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager was great fun and I raced through it, with a notepad and a pen in hand. I find writers more interesting when they are talking about their reading influences than when they are talking about thei I think I like being inspired toward reading books as much as I like reading books (or at least it is easier to collect a list of books that seem like they might be future friends than to find the time to read them all), so this book of interviews with interesting writers by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager was great fun and I raced through it, with a notepad and a pen in hand. I find writers more interesting when they are talking about their reading influences than when they are talking about their writing process or their subject matter. They become a little less self important. Because of that focus, these interviews are quite fun, and it's perhaps easier to tell which writers one might be sympathetic with. Readers of all stripes will find this enjoyable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Great format, excellent discussion on the love of reading and books. I wish I could give Nancy Pearl MY LIST of authors and have her write another book... unfair I know, but I’m a huge Nancy Pearl fan!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Garden

    What a TREAT. I particularly relish the Richard Ford one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    Interesting interviews with a variety of writers, most pretty well-known. Recommend keeping a running list of books you might want to check out or add to your TBR. There is a little crossover, but most of the authors list different titles as being the books which influenced them, they love, or they think are criminally under-read. There are some funny moments, and many unexpected details.

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