Friday, January 02, 2009

The Book You Have to Read: The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen

Despite all the gloom and doom scenarios breeding like bacteria at the edges of the publishing industry (i.e., layoffs, restructurings, freezes on new acquisitions, Kindle), readers are scarcely going without reading material. Thus, as Steve Leveen tells us in The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life (Levenger Press), has it always been. In the 16th Century, Voltaire complained that, “the multitude of books is making us ignorant,” and John Ruskin bemoaned “these days of book deluge.”

As we all begin to reflect on the past of 2008 and the hopes of 2009, it’s common for serious readers to resolve to read more books in the upcoming year, spend less time surfing the Internet, or otherwise make more productive use of every second of every day. If, however, you are like me, and the pounding ocean tide of new books relentlessly coming toward you makes you weary of sticking your toe in the literary waters, Leveen’s brief book is a welcome life preserver of sanity.

In just five short chapters, Leveen explores audio books (one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be less snobbish about reading a book with my ears), how to develop a sensible “to be read” list (which he agreeably calls a “List of Candidates”), how to regain the feeling of being in “book love,” and offers a passionate defense of marginalia (the writers of which he calls “footprint leavers”).

Sprinkled throughout The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life are nuggets from the ages, not surprising for a book about books. Those of us who need not travel any further than our own living room bookshelves for interesting books we haven’t read will be comforted by Winston Churchill’s thoughts about owning more books than you may be able to read: “If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

This book is a blessing for those who love to read but are hounded by the nagging suspicion that there ought to be more time to devote to reading, or that there’s another more important or more exciting book out there to be consumed. It argues for a more civilized approach to cultivating a highly personalized well-read life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Candidate List to compile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, Steve. Where's your list to help me? Noni

Saturday, January 31, 2009 12:44:00 PM PST  

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