As part of my quest to read 52 books, I’ve been stalking my library’s “New Books” section and adding titles that catch my attention to my ever-expanding to-read list. This book was in the non-fiction section, one that I had tended to ignore until lately, and the title caught my attention. I at first thought it was going to be a memoir or a personal account of books that had affected her. I was both right and wrong.
Wendy Lesser’s Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books is both a memoir and a textbook. I was disappointed it wasn’t more a memoir, yet there was just enough of Lesser’s relationship to the books that have shaped her life that I wasn’t immediately turned away. But as far as enjoying this book for pleasure, the lectures on the different literary elements that shape literature and affect readers made me feel like I was at work.
I will give Lesser credit for dancing this line. She kept me invested in the book through her well thought out organization and her descriptions of the passages and authors that have made her life better. I credit her with being a great writer. I just think the book is more to be used in a classroom than for pleasure reading. Or maybe not quite a classroom but maybe in a book club. All in all it wasn’t bad and as an English teacher it did remind me of what I enjoy about books and how the different books I’ve read have shaped my life.
In each section of the book, Lesser includes specific novels and authors to support her point. From these selections I have some new titles to go find in my library. And interestingly enough she included a list of one hundred books that have impacted her. As she is an academic, I was happy to note that many of the works I had at least heard of if not read. But before my ego could get too big, I realized that fifty percent of the titles and authors I had never heard of.
Like Lesser, I do read for pleasure. And I’m glad to share in her enjoyment of certain authors and titles. The reading community is worldwide, yet I feel it’s not so large. We all enjoy a good book, we hate the “choose your top five book” question, and ultimately, we’d all like to spend our days reading in our favorite places.