Read By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul Scott Turow Online

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Sixty-five of the world's leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to themEvery Sunday, readers of The New York Times Book Review turn with anticipation to see which novelist, historian, short story writer, or artist will be the subject of the popular By the Book feature. These wide-ranging interviews are conducted by Pamela Paul, the edSixty-five of the world's leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to themEvery Sunday, readers of The New York Times Book Review turn with anticipation to see which novelist, historian, short story writer, or artist will be the subject of the popular By the Book feature. These wide-ranging interviews are conducted by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, and here she brings together sixty-five of the most intriguing and fascinating exchanges, featuring personalities as varied as David Sedaris, Hilary Mantel, Michael Chabon, Khaled Hosseini, Anne Lamott, and James Patterson. The questions and answers admit us into the private worlds of these authors, as they reflect on their work habits, reading preferences, inspirations, pet peeves, and recommendations.By the Book contains the full uncut interviews, offering a range of experiences and observations that deepens readers' understanding of the literary sensibility and the writing process. It also features dozens of sidebars that reveal the commonalities and conflicts among the participants, underscoring those influences that are truly universal and those that remain matters of individual taste.For the devoted reader, By the Book is a way to invite sixty-five of the most interesting guests into your world. It's a book party not to be missed....

Title : By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review
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ISBN : 9781627791458
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review Reviews

  • Elizabeth A
    2018-11-18 09:58

    10/6/15 edit: A friend asked me why not a higher rating. My response: I found myself skimming through many of the interviews as I was not particularly interested in the question asked and answered, and I thought some of the questions themselves rather silly. I did really love the interviews with some of my fave authors, but like all anthologies, there were many interviews that did not hit the mark for me.-----------------------The New York Times Book Review has a weekly By the Book feature in which writers are asked about the books and authors they love. This book collects sixty five of these interviews.I've dipped into this book over the course of a couple of weeks and enjoyed it. It's like meeting up with a reader friend over drinks and talking about books, so if that's your thing too, you'll enjoy this one as well. An unexpected pleasure was the the wonderful author sketches by Jillian Tamaki.I've found loads of book recommendations to add to my TBR list, and I wish the author had added an appendix with a summary of authors and their recommended books; you know that only book lovers are going to pick this up, and you know this is going to fatten up our TBRs, so why not make it easier on us?

  • Jenbebookish
    2018-11-18 06:52

    This was interesting…Of course I was drawn to it by the cover, color cartoon caricatures of famous best selling authors? Talking about their favorite books? SOLD!I was sorta hoping to get some good book recs from this, but in the end it was way more of a who's who, who's reading who sort of thing to feel genuine. I won't argue with the fact that when people are talking favorite books, a lot of classics are going to come up. Some of my own favorites include Dickens, Steinbeck, Austen, and so on and so on. They are classics for a reason, after all. Buut. After reading through the first 10 authors and processing their choices, it was clear that I would hardly be coming across any new or undiscovered gems, but rather am simply reading the books that famous authors (and a few famous actors/artists.musicians) want to tell the world that they are reading or have read. Understandably so I guess. People in the spotlight are in the spotlight. They want to seem smart and interesting and all that and of course have to be concerned with how their choices make them look rather than just going ahead and being truthful about things like: What is on your night stand right now? What is the last book you read? What books changed your life? So in terms of did this book deliver what I wanted it to deliver- Book suggestions? No, not really. You can only read about this oh-so-intelligent person who's favorite book is Ulysses, or who's favorite book is a collected works of Shakespeare for so long before you start rolling your eyes and going, okay okay I get it. You are intelligent and well-read and high brow and anything else you want to seem to be by citing difficult ad complex works of literature. It all just seemed a little bit too insincere for my liking, a tad bit…showy. So in that sense, clearly, it wasn't what I thought it would be.BUT. They did ask other questions aside from just having authors list their favorite works, so I enjoyed that element. A lil bit of humor from people like Lena Dunham and Neil Gaiman made the book a lil better than tolerable, but I do have to admit that when I came across people I don't care about-or who's taste or opinions on literature I don't care about-such as Sting or Arnold, I skipped right on thru. Tho, ironically, I did visually skim Sting's collections and he seemed to have some of the more regular, authentic choices out of everyone. I know I definitely liked him the better for his choices, and even stopped to read a few of his blurbs afterwards instead of skipping him entirely. I still don't care about his opinions, but they still happened to be good ones;) But for ex: I mean come on J.K. Rowling. Shakespeare, really? I mean, I know you are now one of the richest women in the world, it's a great rags to riches story, some lady on the system nearly homeless writes a book that changes the world of children's literature as we know it, and all that is good and dandy there's no denying you are brilliant in your own right…but a collected works of Shakespeare book. That's what you would take with you on a deserted island? And I know I'm biased because I am just absolutely NOT a Shakespeare fan, but come on. From the mind that created Hogwarts and that whole world, and you couldn't get more creative than that? It's just soo cliche. Shakespeare doesn't even particularly say "smart and interesting" to me. He doesn't really say anything to me other than maybe…common. Everyone and their mothers and brothers and sisters and friends have read Shakespeare!Shakespeare was a hack. Tsk Tsk Tsk I expected more from you J.K.!So all and all it was a fairly interesting read. Definitely the sort of book you could flip thru rather than read cover to cover like I did, but whatevs. If I would have approached it more like a book of interviews about people in the literary world, I would have liked it better, but expecting what I did; Settling down with the book and a pad of paper, prepared to take notes about all the endless books I would be adding to my TBR. I only ended up disappointed. But to credit people like Lena Dunham, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman, their humor carried what would be an otherwise boring, even affected book.Pick this up at a bookstore and flip thru it, or check it out at the library. It's not worth owning. Actually…maybe for a coffee table book. Or even the sort of book you put in one of those cute baskets in the bathroom containing magazines or newspapers or funny books, sometimes crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Now that'll make you seem smart! Stick this supposedly literary book in the shitter, and people will be like "wow. He is even literary when he's on the toilet. How wonderrrrrful."

  • Rikke
    2018-11-12 06:57

    This is a book every booklover needs to own. For who wouldn't be interested in Donna Tartt's opinion on overrated books? Who wouldn't like to know what Neil Gaiman considers guilty pleasure? And who wouldn't like to find out which fictional characters were J. K. Rowling's childhood heroes, since she herself has created so many of our childhood heroes? I know I would. And so, I read this over a few days, enjoying a brief glimpse of Ian McEwan's reading life, Zadie Smith's favorite books, and the guestlist of Emma Thompson's ideal literary party. The questions asked the prolific authors were well-chosen – equally funny and interesting.The only thing I'd wish for were a more well-chosen variety of authors. Obviously, the book contains the most popular contemporary authors of our time, but it also contains the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sting, Lena Dunham (not yet an author when interviewed), and several law professors and politicians who only talked about non-fiction and recommended textbooks. While it certainly may appeal to some, it didn't appeal to me. All in all, I really enjoyed this book, but as I read it I skipped a few interviews along the way. It's only a matter of personal interest, I guess.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-13 04:41

    I really enjoyed this book. I read a bit each morning while eating my breakfast and was quite engaged. I often go to author readings or events (shout out to Powell's and Annie Bloom's BEST BOOKSTORES EVER) because, duh. I like to ask them what they are currently reading and who their favorite authors are and this book asks the same questions and a bit more. One of the questions asked of the authors was something along the lines of What is the worst book/most over-hyped book you've read? It was sort of fantastic to read those who thought nothing of bashing a fellow author and those who were far too mannerly to castigate one of their own. This would be a great gift for the bibliophile in your life.

  • Julia
    2018-10-28 02:45

    I have been reading By the Book for some time, but that hasn’t diminished my pleasure in it. It’s the kind of book that is best taken in small bites; to do otherwise would be, for me, like eating the entire Thanksgiving turkey in one sitting. (I do like turkey and look forward to leftovers. Any perceived implication that authors’ opinions should be compared to helpings of turkey is entirely coincidental).The layout of the book lends itself to reading about three, four, or ten (the reader’s decision) authors’ responses to many of the same questions in a session. Some typical questions include “When and where do you like to read?”, “What were your favorite books as a child?”, “Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t?”, “If you could require the president to read just one book, what would it be?” I found that reading about three authors’ responses was what I could absorb without getting them confused. Of course, it helped when an author like David Sedaris followed someone like Colin Powell.Special sections included compiled responses on subjects such as “My Library”, “On Poetry”, “On Not Having Read”, and “Laugh-Out-Loud Funny”.Sixty-five authors were interviewed for the book, including several of my favorites: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Marilynne Robinson, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini, James McBride, Ann Patchett and others.I will end with my favorite response, from Gary Shteyngart: “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be”? “Definitely Don’t Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein. It’s about how a great many creatures you encounter will try to eat you, even if you start acting all bipartisan.”

  • Courtney Lindwall
    2018-11-20 01:48

    As part of my 100 book challenge for this year, I thought it'd be appropriate to start with this wonderful collection of interviews with literary figures about their own reading habits. Consequently, my to-read shelf has expanded tenfold. While the questions were somewhat repetitive, I didn't mind. I'll be returning to this book all year. I got to know the profiled authors a bit better (or at all, many I wasn't familiar with), and received a mini-literary education by reading about their favorites. I've always been fascinated by the correlation between reading and writing habits— do we like the styles we write in ourselves? do we appreciate the types of books we know we could never write? what stories did we read as kids that pushed us to love the written word? It's just all so inspiring to me, that there's an unending list of wonderful books and authors always available to discover. This book also reminded me of how ignorant I am to a huge majority of well-respected and important writers. On one hand, it's sad how little I've truly read and on the other hand it's so exciting that I have so many voices and perspectives yet to experience. I just want to live surrounded by piles of books in my warm apartment with coffee and my dog, ok?

  • John of Canada
    2018-11-13 04:06

    There were some writers recommended who I was unfamiliar with and am now interested in reading.I now have an even larger tbr list which is exactly what I need:(

  • Anna Louise
    2018-11-15 04:38

    The lengthy and glorious blurb on the back of BY THE BOOK will make any book lover giddy with anticipation for all that awaits inside. But really, it’s those last two lines that really made my inner book nerd swoon: “If you are a devoted reader, BY THE BOOK is a way to invite sixty-five of the most interesting guests into your world. It’s a book party not to be missed.”In case you didn’t know, BY THE BOOK is part of the New York Times Book Review – it’s debut column was on Sunday, April 15, 2012 and featured David Sedaris. In her BY THE BOOK column, Pamela Paul interviews novelists, historians, short story writers, and artists. All the interviews contain many of the same questions — so it’s neat to see similarities and differences in responses — but she always changes her questions up a bit to make things interesting from week to week and also to ask relevant questions to specific people.At first I thought BY THE BOOK would be a book I would dip into, read a few interviews and then pick up something else to read. However, once I got started, I had trouble putting it down! It’s so fun to get the scoop on the reading and writing habits, among other things, of the people Pamela Paul interviewed.And a most lovely result from reading all the interviews is I discovered a lot of great new authors and books along the way — my wish list is much longer now!BY THE BOOK is highly recommended reading for those who love the “books on books” genre.

  • Julie Ehlers
    2018-11-18 08:38

    Great! Lots of excellent book recs. I'd read another volume of these, although Pamela Paul should cut the nonwriters (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the obvious nonreaders (Bryan Cranston), and the hacks (Dan Brown) and include a few more female writers to even things up.

  • Larisa
    2018-11-13 04:05

    If you are invited to someone’s house for the first time do you ever catch yourself picking through your host’s bookshelves and subconsciously judging their taste based on the selection of books on those shelves? I’ve done it! Even though reading preferences cannot be the only criteria for understanding someone, they could certainly tell you a lot about a person.I enjoy asking people about the books they’ve read, reread or never finished reading. So does Pamela Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. This is why I didn’t hesitate to buy the collection of interviews conducted and compiled by Pamela Paul in the beautiful hardcover edition By the Book, published by Henry Holt & Co in 2014. This book includes interviews with sixty-five interesting personalities such as writers David Mitchell, Jhumpa Lahiri, J.K.Rowling, John Grisham, Khaled Hosseini, John Irving, actors such as Emma Thompson or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and singers like Sting. It is fascinating to learn their reading preferences, their likes and dislikes, and the books which have had the greatest impact on them as individuals and professionals.I learned that Jane Eyre remains a favorite literary character for Amy Tan; that of all the people in the world, Malcolm Gladwell would prefer to meet Shakespeare’s wife; that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland had the greatest impact on Joyce Carol Oates; that James McBride has never read “the great Russian writers”; that the first and last horror book Dan Brown has ever opened was The Exorcist and that Sting is absolutely ignorant of self-help books. Oh! And Nicholson Baker likes reading diaries.Even a devoted reader might have a few titles which they consider as “guilty pleasures” or a book, which would be just so alien, that it feels like they don’t belong to one’s shelf. Imagine writers have those too!You will feel better if you know that there are books everybody is supposed to like, but the writers didn’t; or books everyone had read in the childhood but famous people did not. And of course, some celebrities might also have secrets: “Nothing can be compared to the excitement of a forbidden book”, admits Isabel Allende, who “discovered the irresistible mixture of eroticism and fantasy reading One Thousand and One Nights inside a closet with a flashlight”.I wasn’t familiar with all the writers in this collection, even less so with the books they talk about. Needless to say, I now have a long to-read list and I can’t wait until my next visit to the library.

  • Anne
    2018-11-07 02:07

    Another book I just finished included the line, "I like talking about books with people who like talking about books."If that's you, this book is for you."By the Book" features The New York Times Book Review interviews with 65 celebrities, mostly authors. The questions range from "What book is on your nightstand right now?" to "If you could meet any author, who would it be?" to "If you could suggest a book for the president to read, what would it be?"The answers give such insight into the minds of John Grisham, Amy Tan, Joyce Carol Oates, Dave Barry, Colin Powell and the others. Many, many of the answers surprised me, which I truly loved. One surprise, in particular, came from James Patterson when discussing the first Alex Cross book, "Along Came a Spider." He said a movie studio would have optioned the book, and all he had to do was make one change: Make Alex Cross a white man.You'll find many more gems like that in "By the Book," an absolute must for any book lover.You can hear my interview with editor Pamela Paul on November 12 at Anne's Book Blog.

  • Kirsten
    2018-11-10 02:48

    I'm a sucker for books about books and I had the luxury of a long train ride to read this one in its entirety. I enjoyed the interviews with both the people I had heard of and the people I hadn't. Got a lot of great (well, I hope) recommendations out of it that I've added to my to-read list.

  • Tania
    2018-10-31 06:44

    Boring. Everyone tried to sound interesting, but they all wanted to meet Shakespeare.

  • Mirabella
    2018-10-29 03:08

    For the few weeks it took me to make my way through these sixty-five interviews, By the Book was like a secular book of hours. I found myself turning to it throughout the day, even if it was just to read a page or two.When readers/writers get busy or overwhelmed with work, it can feel frustrating to only spend ten minutes with Anna Karenina, but devouring a listicle ("Fifteen Ways You're Screwing Up Your Quinoa") often makes me feel even worse. By the Book was a great compromise. Does reading about Alain de Botton's devotion to Proust actually make me better-read? Not at all. But does it make me feel like sometime, in the near or distant future, I could become that person who's read Proust? Absolutely. It seems silly to say it, but I think keeping this book near at hand has improved my reading habits-- or at least elevated my reading aspirations.In addition to being a little pick-me-up throughout the day, By the Book lengthened my TBR list by at least ten books. More importantly, it introduced me to books I'm not sure I would have found-- or acknowledged-- on my own. Random Family Love Drugs Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which I noticed a while ago but dismissed as "not my cup of tea," got shout-outs from Katherine Boo, Anna Quindlen, and Andrew Solomon-- more than enough to make me reconsider my first, hasty dismissal.Buying By the Book felt like an indulgence at the time-- a hardback with the potential to be a hodgepodge of literary gossip, or worse, congratulatory back-thumping-- but it turned out to be much more important than that. This isn't a book to sit down and read all in one go, I don't think; it's much better to turn to it when you need to hear someone like Donna Tartt admit that she doesn't feel like reading Hemingway either, but she hears Kate Bernheimer's new book is worth picking up.

  • Emkoshka
    2018-10-31 04:00

    This book made me wonder if it's possible to vomit and yawn at the same time as I increasingly felt like doing both as the book progressed. I really like the concept of a column featuring a different writer talking about their reading predilections each week; I wish there was something similar in a major Australian newspaper. But this was so damn boring! Every writer was a rehash of the one before and after, to the extent that I formed a view very quickly that the American literary scene is incredibly insular (well, that reflects America in general, doesn't it), incestuous (everyone's reading and gushing over each other's books) and incapable of recommending anything remotely interesting for non-Americans to read. We don't care about your presidential or political histories or the Great American Novel written by, for and about dead white men. Yawn. And it was a bit of a sausage fest. Vomit. The only good thing that I got from the collection was a list of questions to guide reflections on my own reading, which seems far less driven by keeping up with the boring literati and more concerned with reading anything and everything, guilt-free.

  • Karima
    2018-10-28 03:38

    One of my favorite weekly rituals is reading the NY Sunday times "By the Book." This section of the Times Book Review section features interviews of well-known authors. The interviews are conducted by by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, and here she brings together sixty-five of the interviews from authors such as (expected) David Sedaris, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides Donna Tartt and Isabel Allende to (unexpected) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sting.I especially liked that all the questions were not the same but tailored to the author being interviewed.Has increased my "To Read" list big-time.

  • Andrea
    2018-11-05 08:48

    This book took itself way too seriously and often felt pretentious ...it was also very white (only 9 out of the 65 authors came from diverse backgrounds). Some of the authors' answers were more interesting/funny than others, but quite a few were either boring or felt like you were talking to that person at the cocktail party afraid of looking stupid so they drop book names like Ulysses and Moby Dick or they casually bring up that they're currently reading- for fun - The Complete Histories of Byzantium Soldiers: Volumes 1-17.

  • Mark Victor Young
    2018-11-11 06:56

    Here is a book I loved with a subtitle that I hate: “Writers on Literature and the Literary Life.” That sounds boring. But what it actually is, writers and famous people telling The New York Times Book Review about what books they’re reading, all time faves, and childhood reading habits, was fascinating. In fact, I was inspired to use their list of questions to complete my own "By the Book Interview." You can find it here:http://markvictoryoung.com/2015/12/12...

  • Lisa
    2018-11-08 09:56

    I would not pay $20 something dollars for By the Book. It is fun in spots, but probably better as a column to catch of a Sunday, flying past the Arnold Schwartzengers and such. I just don't much care what Arnold is reading these days. David Mitchell's interview made me love him more than ever. Anne Patchett and he can be my best friends any day. I did pick up some good titles to check out. This is more the sort of book I would buy remaindered or at a Friends of the Library sale.

  • Larry Olson
    2018-11-03 09:08

    On of my favorite sections of the NYTimes Book Review, By the Book based on interviews by Pamela Paul. She includes 65 well know authors in this collection. I wish she had also chosen some less well know writers but a fun read none the less.

  • Danuta
    2018-11-21 03:52

    Many of my favorite authors, and not only (Sting is also there) talking about their favorite books. Very interesting and enjoyable read! The only reason I give it only 4 stars is because, in reality, it is, yet another, reading list. And mine is already so looooong...

  • Michael Webb
    2018-11-18 01:43

    Wonderful book, but also hate it because my Amazon Wish List has doubled in size

  • Carroll
    2018-11-18 05:43

    Makes me want to read, read, read.

  • Cedricsmom
    2018-10-25 01:56

    A voyeur's delight for book lovers.

  • Sandra
    2018-11-11 01:56

    I love books like this one, especially when its famous authors answering questions about their reading habits, favorite reads and so much more. A great read for me and I hope they do more! From Amazon: Sixty-five of the world's leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to themEvery Sunday, readers of The New York Times Book Review turn with anticipation to see which novelist, historian, short story writer, or artist will be the subject of the popular By the Book feature. These wide-ranging interviews are conducted by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, and here she brings together sixty-five of the most intriguing and fascinating exchanges, featuring personalities as varied as David Sedaris, Hilary Mantel, Michael Chabon, Khaled Hosseini, Anne Lamott, and James Patterson.By the Book contains the full uncut interviews, offering a range of experiences and observations that deepens readers' understanding of the literary sensibility and the writing process. The questions and answers admit us into the private worlds of these authors, as they reflect on their work habits, reading preferences, inspirations, pet peeves, and recommendations.For the devoted reader, By the Book is a way to invite sixty-five of the most interesting guests into your world. It's a book party not to be missed.Featuring Conversations with . . . Lena Dunham John IrvingElizabeth Gilbert Ira Glass Junot Díaz J. K. RowlingIan McEwanJared Diamond Alain de Botton Katherine Boo Sheryl Sandberg Isabel Allende Anna Quindlen Jonathan Franzen Dan Brown James McBrideJhumpa Lahiri Christopher BuckleyMalcolm Gladwell Donna Tartt Ann Patchett Neil deGrasse TysonChang-Rae LeeGary Shteyngart. . . among others

  • Thebruce1314
    2018-11-04 04:54

    I really thought I would enjoy a book about books more than I did. It was annoying that the questions asked of each author were mostly identical, and not tailored to the individual. The answers weren’t generally very insightful, I lost respect for some of the authors through their shameless self-promotion (Q: What book would you recommend to the president? A: Obviously one of mine.) and it was a complete waste of space to rehash answers in inserts organized by category (e.g. “...On Childhood favourites”). Other than a couple of recommendations for reading that I gleaned from this, I’d give it a miss.

  • Lori
    2018-11-17 06:08

    Surprisingly dull. The sort of one-dimensional interview where a set of simplistic questions are provided with no follow-up questions to further illuminate interesting answers — not that there were many of those. Frequent wincing when authors referenced their own books in the replies to questions like “What book last made you laugh/cry?”From an editorial standpoint, I was flabbergasted that dates weren’t appended to the interviews, since the authors/celebrities not infrequently made reference to something requiring a date for clarity, e.g., “the President.” How was this overlooked?!

  • Whitney
    2018-11-04 06:03

    I zoomed through this. I wasn't particularly interested in some of the questions they asked almost everyone (stuff about children's books, about self help books - that was a weird focus - or whether or not they like books that make them laugh or cry) but the concept is something I am bound to love. I wish someone would do this with general readers - as opposed to famous readers - and, in fact, I think I will make my literature class interview each other next year.

  • Lisa Rector
    2018-10-28 08:42

    Reading the various preferences of well known personalities, such as Neil Gaiman, Nicholson Baker, J.K.Rowling, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Walter Mosely, and others, is entertaining and insightful. Discovering similiar favorites, such as Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, Le Grand Meaulnes, Moby Dick, One Hundred Years of Solitude, In Search of Lost Time, i'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski, was a thrilling bonus.

  • Jennifer
    2018-11-04 07:03

    i love snooping people's bookshelves, and have enjoyed the 'by the book' column in the NYT since its creation. as a reading exercise, it was interesting going through this book and forming feelings about the participants - if a contribution read as snooty or rarefied, or self-promoting? it would be great to listen to these as interviews, so that a better feel for tone/intent could be felt. still.... really enjoyed this, even though most of the entries were not new to me.