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The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life    by Steve Leveen order for
Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life
by Steve Leveen
Order:  USA  Can
Levenger, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I must admit that I opened The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life with some resistance. Since reading is to me the ultimate freedom, I wasn't sure that I wanted to be guided. But I was pleasantly surprised, finding a great deal to enjoy within the covers, from quotations of readers and writers, and black and white sketches of the reader's world, to a fascinating commentary on audiobooks and reading groups.

I especially appreciated the Joseph Addison quote, 'Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body', and Anatole Broyard's 'A good book is never exhausted. It goes on whispering to you from the wall.' Having been an avid reader since early childhood, I didn't quite relate to the 'midlife pangs of missed opportunity' that drove Steve Leveen back into serious reading, and to writing this book - but I do applaud the endeavor. He speaks of being in 'book love', and recommends an organized approach to the reading life. Though I'm more of a serendipitous reader, I do relate to Leveen's enthusiasm for reading in relevant locations, and for a 'life energized by books'.

Planning ahead for reading, and maintaining a shelf (or pile) of unread books also makes sense to me - as a book addict, I get very uneasy when the number unread diminishes. Leveen discusses borrowing versus buying; the joy of re-reading; handling 'Iffy advice from friends' (ask them why they liked the book they recommend); what to make of book reviews; the library as a 'national treasure'; the reading life's 'second birth of the mind'; active reading (including the annotation debate); book groups to 'push you beyond your normal insights'; the value of reading in both good and bad times; and the importance of trusting your own instincts, likes and dislikes.

I highly recommend The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life to bibliophiles, as well as to anyone wondering what they're missing by not reading regularly - as Leveen says, 'books that make you laugh and cry and shudder and forget the real world completely.'

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