Books for Living
by Will Schwalbe
Knopf

Will Schwalbe’s choice of books in this collection may surprise readers used to lists of worthy canonical texts. But his selection is nevertheless intriguing, all the more so because each volume “found” him at the moment he most needed it, and somehow changed the way he saw the world. Schwalbe says not all of the 26 titles included in Books for Living are favourites, and only one has come close to containing all the answers he will ever need – The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang. That book spoke to Schwalbe because it convinced him of the need to slow down. So “spending a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner” was time well spent. Schwalbe refers to Lin’s work in several other chapters, including one on Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life , which had him thinking about huggers and non-contact people, and whether we can escape our pasts. Other books that touched him indelibly were The Girl on the Train, which gave him the tools for figuring out who to trust, and 1984, which had him pondering the tyranny of our phones and how they rob us of silence.