Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Will Schwalbe follows up "The End of Your Life Book Club" with "Books for Living." More about the books and his appearance in Milwaukee on March 6, and don't forget to listen to Schwalbe and me on the Kathleen Dunn show that day.

A few words about Will Schwalbe. He's a guy that everyone in publishing seems to know and love--though I don't think we've ever met, we soon realized we had several good friends in common. I remembered him when he was at William Morrow and then at Hyperion. He started a cookbook website,, and now edits cookbooks for Flatiron. He'd also written a primer on email called Send that had gotten great reviews.

A few years ago, Will Schwalbe came out with The End of Your Life Book Club, a memoir about reading with his mom after she was diagnosed with cancer. The book took off, with many book clubs using the book not just as a monthly selection, but as source material. There are so many great recommendations in the book, and his mom, Mary Anne (or it turns out, "Ann") is such a dynamic presence on the page, that just about every book she talked up in the book went on my to-be-read list.

But the truth is that I didn't read The End of Your Life Book Club when it came out, though other Boswellians did. It was only when Schwalbe's follow up, Books for Living, was announced, that the book came back on my radar screen. We had early reads from both Jane and Sharon and I was intrigued with the premise--26 chapters that both recommended the book, inspire a life lesson, and offer a story about how Schwalbe came to read it.

I read Books for Living and immediately thought, I want to hear this guy talk about books all day, or at least for a couple of hours, and we think you'll feel the same. We are excited that Mr. Schwalbe will be part of an upcoming appearance on the Kathleen Dunn Show. You can hear Will Schwalbe talk with Kate Archer Kent (filling in for Dunn) and me about books on Monday, March 6, 2 pm. Call, email, or post on Facebook with a book suggestion that influenced your life.

Books for Living is the kind of book that inspires you to read more, which as a bookseller, I cannot argue with. As soon as I was finished, I immediately started reading Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, which was under the chapter "betraying." A lot of folks consider Rebecca the mother of contemporary psychological suspense, complete with the Gillian Flynn-like unreliable narrator. And to trace legacy back further, a lot of folks feel that Rebeca owes its debt to Jane Eyre, but what doesn't? It was a book I'd long wanted to read and Books for Living gave me just the jump-start I needed.

One book that stands out from the Books for Living recommendation list is Lin Yutang's The Importance of Living. The book and author have a very interesting history, and while there are several public domain editions available, there's also a nice trade edition from Quill. And so I had to ask Mr. Schwalbe, being that you worked at William Morrow, which at the time used Quill as it's trade paperback imprint, did you actually publish The Importance of Living those many years ago? And of course he had. He wasn't kidding that this book will stick with you for a long time.

Another book that stands out, being that Mr. Schwalbe has a background in cookbooks, is his cookbook choice for everyone to read is Edna Lewis's The Taste of Country Cooking. Coincidentally this book was also the subject of an episode on the Charleston edition of Top Chef, where we all learned more this very influential woman in American foodways.

But the other book that Books for Living jump-started for me was The End of Your Life Book Club. I needed to finally read Mary Ann and Will's story of how they read together. Schwalbe the elder was an amazing person, working in college admissions (for Radcliffe and Harvard) and then at several schools in New York. Her great love was working with refugees - what an inspiring person! And just like Will, she was one of those people who had connections everywhere. Stefanie, a great Friend of Boswell, told me that Mary Anne and her late mom, also a great reader, were good friends. Go figure.

So here's what you need to know.
1. Read The End of Your Life Book Club (if you haven't already)
2. Read Books for Living (likewise)
3. Consier having your book club read one of these titles.
4. Listen to Will Schwalbe and me on the Kathleen Dunn Show with Kate Archer Kent on Wisconsin Public Radio, Monday, March 6, 2 pm.
5. Come to our event at Boswell, also on March 6, at 7. It's free!

 Extra credit: read one of the books that Schwalbe recommended.

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