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

Review

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

Do other cities have famous librarians? Seattle’s Nancy Pearl has even inspired an action figure by Archie McPhee! The author of BOOK LUST, Pearl has been promoting great reads for her entire career, via television and radio. She teamed up with Jeff Schwager, a Seattle-based playwright, editor and producer, to compile a list of favorite authors and ask them a simple question: Why do you read, and how does reading help you write?

To focus the list, they decided to approach U.S. writers only. But due to our increasingly diverse population, they were able to include many immigrants and authors of color. Hence the list includes Jonathan Lethem, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Jennifer Egan and Siri Hustvedt. In all, they conducted 22 author interviews in person (except for Donna Tartt, whose interview happened via email) and gave the authors a chance to edit and tighten their transcripts. Each writer also provides a list of authors and books in their own library.

"THE WRITER’S LIBRARY is a great concept that is wonderfully executed. It would make a great holiday gift for the literati in your life."

If you’re an avid reader, it’s a safe bet that at least one of your favorite authors is included. I enjoyed reading the interviews with several of my favorites: Lethem, Egan, T. C. Boyle and Amor Towles.

From Boyle: “The machines will have emotions. And by the way, I hate them all. Every single damn machine there is, they are my enemy, they make us enslaved to them, and then they break.”

From Egan: “We would go to the library every week and I would take out a bunch of books. I always thought it was the best book I’d ever read, and when it ended I was so unhappy, and I would hate the next book for like one chapter and then I would think, No, this is the best book I’ve ever read!”

From Towles: “But one of the reasons great works of art survive is that they don’t speak from a specific corner with a specific agenda. The reason they survive is because they have a relatively open architecture, poetically speaking, where a whole array of connections can be made and conclusions can be drawn, including very subversive ones; and people of all walks of life can be touched and engaged by these works.”

Perhaps only a librarian or a professor would be familiar with every author in the book, and that’s another reason to read it. I discovered authors I’d vaguely heard of, but hadn’t explored, and delving into their interviews made me vow to read their work.

THE WRITER’S LIBRARY is a great concept that is wonderfully executed. It would make a great holiday gift for the literati in your life. In any case, prepare to add more books to your TBR list --- those of the authors and the authors who inspire them.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on September 18, 2020

The Writer's Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives
by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager

  • Publication Date: September 8, 2020
  • Genres: Literary Criticism, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • ISBN-10: 0062968505
  • ISBN-13: 9780062968500