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Critical Praise

“Reading WHY I READ delivers all the pleasure of discussing one’s favorite books with a marvelously articulate, intelligent, opinionated friend. It’s like joining the book club of your dreams, one in which you don’t have to do any of the work or think up intelligent things to say, but can simply enjoy reading about books you’ve read or want to read.”
—Francine Prose, author of READING LIKE A WRITER


“Wendy Lesser’s extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America’s most significant cultural critics.”
—Stephen Greenblatt


“In this elegantly meandering narrative, critic and editor Lesser (MUSIC FOR SILENCED VOICES: Shostakovich and His Fifteen String Quartets), founder of the Threepenny Review, takes us through her expansive reading life. This is not so much a memoir of reading as it is about the craft of literature—the merits of both grandeur and intimacy, the double-edged sword of novelty, the ways character and plot are inextricably linked . . . Lesser’s idiosyncratic reading list and her wealth of insights will speak to booklovers of all types.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“The rare and marvelous pleasure of meeting a fellow reader, the sort of person who, in childhood, automatically turned the cereal box so her eyes could rest on words at all times, is here given new form. Wendy Lesser is candid, democratic, brisk, passionate, stubborn, fiercely exact; as in all memorable conversations, I found myself sometimes wishing to debate, and often bursting into private festivals of concurrence. This is a book of rich provocations and rich delights. More than most contemporary critics, Lesser trusts her instinct: what a joy it is to listen, through these pages, to her bold assessments and charismatic opinions.”
—Louise Glück, author of POEMS 1962–2012


“Wendy Lesser has read just about everything, and proves a wonderfully companionable guide to books high and low. Rather than attempting anything ponderously encyclopedic, she follows her hunches, asking good, probing questions, voicing cultivated, intelligent opinions and surprising judgments, and doing it all with humor, dash, and skeptical humility. The result is a treat for all who love reading.”
—Phillip Lopate, author of TO SHOW AND TO TELL: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction