Wendy Lesser's extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America's most significant cultural critics, writes Stephen Greenblatt. In Whyl Read, Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing to describe a life lived in and through literature. As Lesser examines work from such perspectives as Character and Plot, Novelty, Grandeur and Intimacy, and Authority, the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays, along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. Her passion for reading is infectious - and it resonates on every page.
"The effect is rather as if Lesser were writing to a friend about the most fabulous literary party of all time, where she'd been in conversation not with authors, but with their works."--Claire Messud, "Bookforum""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."--Francine Prose "Everywhere in "Why I Read" lie ribbons of literary wisdom . . . Lesser argues for the Great Books in words that might be engraved in granite."--William Giraldi, "The New York Times Book Review" (Editors' Choice) "Joyfully literary . . . [Lesser is] a delight." --"The Buffalo News" (Editors' Choice) "We finish reading Lesser enlarged by the delights and rewards of her prose, enriched by her insights, and with an expansive sense of possibility."--Priscilla Gilman, "The Boston Globe""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 Gluck, 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" "Wendy Lesser's extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America's most significant cultural critics."--Stephen Greenblatt "More than 50 years after [Henry] Miller published "The Books in My Life," Wendy Lesser has brought out an equally personal reading memoir . . . "Why I Read" is a model for the modern age, with a list of 100 books to read for pleasure and a notice at the back advertising an online guide for reading groups. But her instincts are those of her literary forebears." --"The Economist ""I began Wendy Lesser's "Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books" with my usual yellow highlighter in hand, notepaper and pen at the ready, opening the reviewer's copy as I would for any normal assignment. By the time I'd finished, the notepaper was still mostly blank, but the thing in my hand resembled a brightly painted fan--every page saturated in color, with so many corners folded down the book had trouble staying closed . . . Lesser, a longtime Berkeley resident, founded and edits the elegant literary journal the Threepenny Review. Author of nine prior books and contributor to various prominent literary venues, hers has been a no-holds-barred, art-loving life, and her dedication to that quest irradiates "Why I Read."" --"The San Francisco Chronicle ""Reading Wendy Lesser is like attending a book club where the leader is an Olympic champion reader. Think the Dana Torres of page-turning . . . [In] "Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books," Lesser tackles a deceptively simple question: Why "does "one read? The question might be impossible to answer, but it's a pleasure to explore . . . Just like your favorite book club, the discussion is brainy, it's personal, and it's occasionally off topic." --"Christian Science Monitor ""A witty, wise, and buoyant book full of the sense of adventure and the capacity for surprise that Lesser values in literature itself . . . We finish reading Lesser enlarged by the delights and rewards of her prose, enriched by her insights, and with an expansive sense of possibility." --"The Boston Globe ""Plenty of surprises . . . wonderfully unpretentious." --"Columbus Dispatch" "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)
Wendy Lesser is the founder and editor of "The Threepenny Review," which Adam Zagajewski has called "one of the most original literary magazines not only in the U.S. but also on the entire planet." She is the author of eight previous books of nonfiction and one novel. Her most recent book is the prizewinning "Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen String Quartets." She has written for "The New York Times Book Review," the "London Review of Books," "The Times Literary Supplement," and other publications. She divides her time between Berkeley, California, and New York City.