Guest review by Janelle Bailey, retired Literature teacher.
I could write a book about this book, quite honestly, elaborating on any of these few angles and more:
1. The story of my meeting Will Schwalbe the first time and, as I recall it, giving the hook to the woman/my friend who was introducing him at our book festival session, as she’d just admitted that she had not yet read his book…but planned to. I very boldly (rude on my part!) interrupted her, as I recall/remember the situation, because I did not feel she was then so qualified to introduce him as I was, having read his book in preparation for the event AND having felt as fondly about the book (Schwalbe’s first, The End of Your Life Book Club as I did. She handled it very well…and allowed me to proceed with his introduction.
2. What Schwalbe says–and I feel to my core–about us somehow reading the right books at the right time and somehow–so magically, coincidentally, divinely, whatever–picking them from a shelf, stack, etc., exactly when we do. And even this one I could write at least a chapter, then, about. And I thought soooooooooooo much about how many times I told students, essentially, “Read this book right now. Here’s the reading schedule.” OH MY WORD! How wrong is that?! Thank goodness so many students have come back to me as reading adults and seek conversations now about reading and books…and we can revise our reading relationships and build them to be even better…about them, also, reading the right books at the right time. Honestly, can you even appreciate Kate Chopin’s The Awakening at 17?! I think not…actually, even if the College Board advocates its reading.
3. The fact that, though I did technically break my own self-imposed 2022 Book Buying Ban the last few weeks to purchase literature of Ukraine (and Ukrainian-American authors as well), Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, etc., I ordered no fewer than six new books…all because they were referenced/touted here (and in at least one case had already been recommended previously by another treasure of a reading friend).
4. That which happens in the head and heart of an avid and devoted reader when she feels like an author is speaking DIRECTLY to her, though he most likely does not remember her at all, but references so many books and having valued them in the very same ways that she, too, has. And when he talks about something else that she is certain he may not also know as she does, she wishes this were a two-way conversation rather than her reading his book! Argh! (Wonder if he reads the Goodreads reviews of his books to see this…or no. 😉
5. The book smacking (positively in expression, not violently) which occurs when a reader reads an author dropping in something like, “Terry and I would talk about books from time to time, when we weren’t talking about food. We both agreed that A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of the greatest books of all time,” and the reader knows that she was JUST required to “submit” to her godmother her five favorite books of ALL TIME, and that title is absolutely on that list of five, and without question, every single time she’s asked that question. Though she ALSO completely related to an earlier assertion of the author’s that the best book one has read is so often whatever they JUST finished when/if it was good.
6. There’s sooooooooo much more, even, that I could say about this book. But that’s all for right now.
If you have not yet, and you LOVE BOOKS at all like I do, I recommend reading this one asap.