Skip to main content

Critical Praise

“I love to read, so of course I raced through BOOKS FOR LIVING --- it’s about the exquisite pleasures of books and reading, and also about how books allow us to live happier, richer lives. Reflective and light-hearted, erudite and accessible, Books for Living inspired me to add many titles to my ‘To Read’ list and to re-read several old favorites. Wonderful! I loved it!”

—Gretchen Rubin

“Inspiring and charming…. Books build compassion, they inspire reform. They remain, Schwalbe writes, ‘one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny.’ And man, do we need bulwarks right now. Lots of bulwarks…. Read Schwalbe’s book.” 

—A.J. Jacobs, The New York Times

“A delicious indulgence to anyone who loves talking about books and listening to others talk about them…. This book will get you excited to read like nothing else can.”

—Signature Reads

“A love letter to reading.”

—Real Simple

“In this warmly engaging, enlightening, and stirring memoir-in-books and literary celebration, Schwalbe reminds us that reading ‘isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination; it’s one of the world’s greatest joys.’” 

—Booklist (starred review)

“BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe lives wonderfully up to its title…. I can’t imagine a person who loves books not being grateful. Any season of the year, this book is a gift.”

—Mary Oliver

“Will Schwalbe’s BOOKS FOR LIVING is a scintillating look at the places books take us. And the books! From THE ODYSSEY to THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, THE LITTLE PRINCE to READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN, with stops in places well-traveled and completely unexpected, Schwalbe uncovers lessons in and around books, including lessons that have nothing to do with the content of the reading. A profound, engaging exploration of the uses to which we put the books of our lives.”


“Why do we read and what is to be found there? Reading itself is Will Schwalbe’s great topic, and there is no one better to bring alive the nourishing, challenging intimacy of entering the worlds that books offer us. Each great book we read is an encounter with another human soul, and in this shimmering gem of a book Will Schwalbe miraculously enables his readers to truly experience that depth of different human connections. Along the road we get an accidental memoir with the storied Schwalbe a quietly compelling hero at the center. If we truly need books, as Schwalbe shows us we do, it is because we need each other.” 

—Elizabeth Alexander, author of THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

“In BOOKS FOR LIVING the brilliant Will Schwalbe takes us on a personal journey through a life of reading. But like any great journey, it is far more than an accumulation of miles, or words. BOOKS FOR LIVING is a map, a chart, to the places deep inside ourselves where books can take us. It’s about how stories, how characters, inspire us, guide us, reveal us. BOOKS FOR LIVING is now one of my favorite reads of all time, and I know I will revisit it over and over. But be warned. It’s also quite an expensive book to read since I kept calling my local bookseller and ordering the volumes Will mentions in each chapter. This is a beautiful, powerful, warm, funny, awe-inspiring odyssey. An absolutely astonishing gift to all of us who have spent our lives loving books.” 

—Louise Penny, bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels