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Lesser, founder and editor of the Threepenny Review, brings her literary ardor and expertise to a delectably sophisticated inquiry into why reading is a constant source of pleasure and provocation. Celebrating the “close attention” reading engenders and literature’s embodiment of truth in however oblique a manner, she attends to novels, plays, poems, and essays. Lesser eschews the usual, pat book-lover musings and digs deep to illuminate the subtle themes named in such alluring chapter headings as “Novelty,” “Authority,” “Grandeur and Intimacy,” “Elsewhere,” and “Inconclusions.” Right off the bat, she challenges the assumption that Henry James writes psychological novels, observing that in his fiction, “Behavior is the manifestation of thought.” Her spiraling dissection of suspense and the dynamic between characters and plot pulls in Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Hilary Mantel, and Richard Ford. Lesser’s inquiry into literary form, voice, thought, imagination, and satire leads her to Shakespeare, Milton, DeLillo, Bolaño, and Asimov. She closes this luxuriously fluent, sparklingly brilliant, and complexly exciting tribute to reading with a list, “A Hundred Books to Read for Pleasure.” --Donna Seaman
Lesser’s taste is eclectic, her range large. She offers insights into George Orwell and Henning Mankell, Emily Dickinson and Roberto Bolaño, J.R. Ackerley and Shakespeare, Henry James and Isaac Asimov—to name but a few. There is no claim to a comprehensive approach, nor even a sense that what is discussed is of greater importance that what is not. […] The effect is rather as if Lesser were writing to a friend about the most fabolous literary party of all time, where she’d been in conversation not with authors but with their works. […] Her book is […] thoughtful and intelligent, conversational without being “improving,” and it ultimately encourages us to formulate our own responses, to continue and enlarge the literary conversation. —Claire MessudSee all Editorial Reviews
Excellent refreshing to read a book from a brilliant author. I learned so much and I agreed with her on so many reasons why I read a bookPublished 1 month ago by Edie Reich
Before consuming Lesser's work I had solid notions of why I read. Of course, to learn and be entertained are given equal weight. From there my motives become more personal. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jeffrey Swystun
This book will change the whole way that I approach books. I will probably appreciate them more, too. Well written.Published 4 months ago by Susan Sevier
A refreshing take n how literature works, and at the same time helped me get my reading rhythm back. Bravo!Published 6 months ago by Lee Rusch
Why I Read reads a lot like a thesis, because it's so serious and filled with serious literature. Yet, even though it read like a school thesis or a scholarly journal article,... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books
I gave this just a medium rating, but only because this book seems binary to me - some may love it, others not. Read morePublished 6 months ago by EGG
Normally I am all over these types of books. I love knowing what got people into reading and what they think of various books. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Stephanie
This should be my 877th review on Amazon. I marked so not for boasting, but hope that you can feel for the deep joy of my reading the prologue below, that for the first time in my... Read morePublished 10 months ago by ServantofGod