Schwalbe seems uninterested in navigating more intellectually challenging shores; instead, he serves as a personable, amiable, relentlessly optimistic guide to a curated bookshelf that some readers will find random. He rarely dives deep, remaining consistently chatty, mostly upbeat, and frequently digressive. Indeed, one gets the sense that, given his vast experience in literature, Schwalbe could write another 10 books exactly like this one ... Throughout these pleasant, diverting essays, the author shows us how '[r]eading is an art we practice our whole lives,' and while the book may not hit hard enough for critics or scholars, it should convince even reluctant readers to pick up a book and 'help them find their way in the world and give them pleasure while they are at it.'
Instead of trying to dust off some forgotten tome and convince us of its value, he focuses on its pressing relevance at some critical juncture in his life. He isn’t arguing — and certainly not shilling — on behalf of a book or author; he’s passing on his own experience and leaving us to identify with it or not ... He conveys this humility with his easygoing, egalitarian tone and his high-low eclecticism, which ranges from Homer’s The Odyssey and Melville’s 'Bartleby the Scrivener' to E.B. White’s Stuart Little and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train ... In the end, Schwalbe fulfills the promise of his earlier memoir with this new book, in which the communion of readers trumps even what they’re reading.
I very much enjoyed it. I found it inspiring and charming — a bit fusty at times, but endearingly so. If I’d been in a bad mood, I might have focused more on how it wasn’t quite as emotional as his previous book ... Books, to Schwalbe, are our last great hope to keep us from spiraling into the abyss. It’s an old-fashioned thesis — that this ancient medium can save civilization — but I happen to agree ... I didn’t love every page of Schwalbe’s book. The parts about social media, for instance, seem like well-trodden territory.