Review: Books For Living by Will Schwalbe

IMG_8694[1]If you’re a book lover and you stumble across something with the grand title Books For Living: A Reader’s Guide to Live, surely you’re going to pick it up! Am I right? I’m sure I must be right, because as soon as I saw this enticing title I knew I needed this book on my shelves. When I was lucky enough to receive a review copy in the post I was even more delighted, for the cover is absolutely stunning! It’s a naked hardback which feels pleasantly light and easy to hold in your hand, with the fresh and vibrant greens and blues of the cover only increasing my desire to consume this as quickly as possible.

The author of this aesthetically pleasing book is actually pretty well known for his previous best selling book, The End Of Your Life Book Club. In that book Will Schwalbe detailed the books he read with his mother as she was dying from cancer, giving readers an emotional insight into the power which books hold within our lives. His second book, Books For Living, explores similar ideas, albeit in a different way. In Books For Living the author takes us on a journey of his life through some of the most meaningful books he has read along the way. Using these books, he explores the ways in which literature can shape and influence our lives, filling us with stories from his own personal experiences whilst also fuelling our own ideas about how we view the books in our lives.

I was actually really happy that this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to initially be. At first glance I was sort of expecting this book to read as a list of different books which have influenced the author in some way or another. The problem with this kind of book is that they can often become extremely repetitive and quite boring, so I was really happy when I came to understand that this book is much more than a list of great books to read. Whilst there are indeed some great recommendations in this, it’s not really about the specific books mentioned. This book is almost biographical in the way that it is much more a study of how different books have affected or shaped the authors life. Whilst the books themselves are of course important, this is much more of a look at the things we take away from books and how they make us feel, think, or indeed question things.

I thought that this was a refreshing way of exploring the books which hold special meaning in someone life, as whilst we can take inspiration from the books the author specifically mentions, this book has much more substance than a typical reading list. By the author giving us personal examples of times where books have influenced his life in some way or another, we are able to relate these experiences to our own lives, and thus substitute many of the books in here for ones which may hold a particular meaning for us personally. It was also really interesting anyway to learn more about this authors life, and I felt as if I was give the story of his own life through books of his own choosing. For book lovers I feel like this is a really interesting concept, and I must admit that I’ve spent some time now pondering what my own choices would be.

A point I do feel I want to stress is the fact that the books which feature in this are not necessarily the authors favourite books or the ones he things are the best things ever written. The author is able to look above such rankings, and he understand that books don’t have to be what we would describe as amazing or in our ‘top ten’ to have left some sort of meaning behind. In reality we may not have even enjoyed a book in particular, but it just may happen that said book marks a pivotal point in our lives, being something which we can’t help but associate with a certain time.

It’s also very clear to see that this has been written by an avid reader and book lover, and someone who is entirely relatable to others readers and book enthusiasts out there. Because of this link between the author and the reader, the book felt very comfortable and friendly, and was thus very easy to become deeply involved in. The author is able to write about things which most other reader would have felt or experienced at some time in their life, and it’s really quite lovely to feel understood by someone.

Although this is a book which is very much about books, it is also very much a book about life and the way that we each live our own lives. The author is not afraid to look at the wider questions of the world we’ve come to find ourselves in, as well as the problems which can sometime occur because of this. He talks about the ways in which we now seem to have all of these modern conveniences which are suppose to save us time, yet we are still just as busy, filling the time saved with plenty of other fast paced things. Many of the books mentioned here are great reminders to the author, and so to us as the reader, to slow down and actually enjoy downtime. We need to remember that it’s okay to actually have time to ourselves, whether that be through books, enjoying naps or even having the quiet bliss of doing absolutely nothing. It’s a great reminder to learn and very interesting to consider how books themselves can remind us of this.

I thought this was a great read and a very fast paced one at that. It’s broken down into small chapters which are easy to fly through, with the author always giving us something new to consider. It was great to read a book which, although about books in nature, wasn’t just a list of books you feel compelled to read. This is a very thought provoking read which explores the multiple ways in which our lives can be altered by the very things we read, showing across a realistic background the power which books hold.

Publisher: Two Roads

Rating: 3.5*/5*

Disclaimer – I was very kindly sent this book in exchange for an honest review. I will only ever post my own honest opinions and will NOT write a favourable review in exchange for a complimentary book.



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