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Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. Book Review

February 16, 2017


I love reading books about books, but because of that I have high expectations of them. I expect them to connect me to books I intend to read, reconnect me to books I have already read and treasured, as well as introduce me to books I’ve never heard of, so I cannot suppress the urge to rush out and buy them. But I am also drawn to this style of writing by the story an author weaves around them.

A big ask you might think, but Books for Living does all those things and more. It is not just a book about books you should read, but the most absorbing journey through Will Schwalbe’s life. This does not mean Books for Living is a monologue of self-absorption, because Schwalbe’s has been an interesting one, which he has moved and transformed through with his eyes open, noting the interesting and sometimes very meaningful people he has known through the medium of the written word.

There are small acts of thoughtfulness, such as the librarian who left books for him to read on the trolley which, as well as providing him with the most intriguing list that few outside of a well-informed bibliophile would know, affirmed Schwalbe’s sexuality. There are also chance meetings which make connections through literature and friendships which formed deep and lasting bonds, despite great distances.

As someone who lives and breathes words either for academic purposes, creating adventures or reading for pleasure, Schwalbe’s fluid accounts struck so many chords with me. But his approachable style will also act as a wonderful introduction to a whole range of fascinating reads, tempting those reluctant to shift outside their comfort zone to become curious about the many possibilities books have to offer.

Books for Living is a keeper and a wonderful gift, because it can be dipped into at any point, with even the briefest of reads giving something delightful to take away with you and consider at your leisure.

Schwalbe’s insightful perspective on modern life makes you realise that even the most inconsequential events can become extraordinary, if books are to be found within them.

Books for Living was courtesy of John Murray Press via NetGalley

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