The mother of book-lover books is, in my opinion, Anne Fadiman’s essay collection Ex Libris. Fadiman also edited an essay collection called Rereadings, in which writers re-read a book that they had read as a youth. [Here’s a funny story about ReWatching movies Too Much, from The Moviegoer’s Companion.] I really enjoyed it. Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of essays about what he’s been reading, and it’s a blast, written with Hornby’s characteristic wit. I’m most of the way through it, reading it aloud with my wife, and he has two more volumes of the same: Housekeeping vs the Dirt and Shakespeare Wrote for Money.
I read Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time a few years ago and didn’t love it. Ex Libris Lite, as a friend said. Stick with Fadiman. or Fadiman. or Hornby.
What am I missing that you recommend?
I recently read this fascinating book. It’s an innovative mix of wordless pictures interspersed with pages of text. It’s a quick read, and I loved it!
delightful, exciting mix of mystery, adventure, books and film
This book is geared toward young adults, but don’t let that stop you. Selznick offers an exciting story in a novel format. The book is neither traditional novel nor graphic novel: Selznick mixes pages of text with pages of wordless illustrations which flesh out characters and advance the plot.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lived in the train station, where his uncle keeps the clocks running. But his uncle has disappeared, so Hugo keeps the clocks going while trying to fix a mysterious automaton his father left behind. Add in a toy peddler, an audacious young girl, a bookseller, and an adolescent cinephile, and you have a recipe for success! (And we learn something about early cinema to boot.)
Although the book is 550 pages, it took about two hours to read (due to all the picture pages): It was the most pleasurable and easy two hours I’ve spent in a long time!
A friend asked me for recommendations of books she could read to learn about Africa but not to feel like she’s learning (i.e., not hard reading). So last night I looked over every book I’ve read either taking place in Africa or written by an African or dealing with Africa over the last five years. (Here is the complete list, with a capsule review and a rating.)
Here are a few of my favorites among those that are not slow-reading non-fiction (i.e., they’re either fiction or they’re easy – not necessarily light – reading non-fiction):
- Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie [novel about the Biafran War, Nigeria’s civil war in the 1960s] (my review)
- What Is the What, Eggers [novelization of the story of a Sudanese refugee, one of the “lost boys of Sudan”] (my review)
- Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (my review)
- We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, Gourevitch [account of the Rwandan genocide]
- Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Fuller [memoir of growing up in Rhodesia as it became Zimbabwe]
- King Leopold’s Ghost, Hochschild [historical account of King Leopold obtaining the Congo as his personal colony and of the fight for human rights there. this one is a little bit slower reading than the novels, but for history it’s not bad]
- A Man of the People: A Novel of Political Unrest in a New Nation, Achebe [my favorite Achebe book; read it over a weekend!]
If you look at the list, you might notice that Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation (my review) – a novel about child soldiers in West Africa – is also highly rated. This book really moved me as I read it, but a friend who does lots of research with issues faced by child soldiers soured me on it a bit.