It seems like my blog is a good place for me to admit secrets, so I have another confession for you. I have a super big crush on Will Schwalbe. Don't tell him, but it is true. With his first book, The End of Your Life Bookclub, he broke my heart while at the same time making me smile. The amazing story of a bookclub he shared with his mother as she treated for pancreatic cancer and ultimately died - this book gave me all sorts of feelings. I did not get to meet Will for that book; however, he was an author at Booktopia 2017 for his new book, Books for Living, and in person he does not let you down. He is sweet and smart, and makes an amazing impression. But most of all, Will Schwalbe makes me proud to be a reader. I know a lot of the time, it feels like an outsider hobby. How many of you fellow readers have been told by others when you confessed to being a reader : "Oh, I am too busy to read." or "I haven't read a book in years." These statements always make me feel like the odd person out for being a reader. But after meeting Will and reading his books, he has made me even more proud to be part of this amazing group: The people who live in the world of books.
Books for Living is a collection of little essays on a theme. He discusses books that have made an impression on his life at different times, and how they have gotten him through good and bad situations. They are not always his favorite books, or the best written but they are books that have left a mark. The book that starts the collection is called The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, and its themes are seen throughout. I think what I took away the most from this section was the idea of "laying down". I know that seems odd - but have you ever been tired and all you want is a nap? But you stop yourself because there is "so much to do" and a laying down seems frivolous. Will learned from Lin Yutang to slow down. This is an amazingly simple idea - but so powerful in so many ways and in our current culture harder to accomplish than it should be. I found this section so thought provoking and have tried to make an effort to just get in bed or lay on the couch and rest. Trust me it can change your perspective.
Will mentions a number of the novels, from The Little Prince to Rebecca, and then makes them personal by telling you stories - some happy and some very sad - about events in his life and how the books settle into his memory or emotions of those experiences. His section about dealing with the AIDS crisis and his feelings of guilt for surviving will break your heart. I spoke to a man at Booktopia (Hi Clint) that said this section made him leave work in tears during his lunch - and he wanted to rip the section of the book out and make everyone read it. The section, called "The Gift of the Body", has such power that when I think about this book I think about this section. Like Clint, it brought me to an edge of emotion that I had never been too. It is sad in one way and powerfully uplifting in another. It charges you to never forget those that have come before, and enjoy every second you have here.
Will started his talk by discussing reading. And he challenged everyone in the room to ask every person that they met "What are you reading?" Making no judgement or bias that people don't look like readers. Books are a way to meet people, books are a way to reflect on the people we have met, and books are a way to remember the people we have lost. Will Schwalbe taught me that - and I am forever grateful.
Rating : 4 books