I could write a book on that…
Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club is one such book. With a membership of just two people, his dying mother and himself, Will Schwalbe writes so beautifully of the book bond between mother and son. And what a mother. Mary Anne Schwalbe was the first director of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Her final endeavour, right up until her death, was helping to build libraries in Afghanistan.
But wait, there’s more: the evocatively named Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch is the story of her extraordinary quest – steel yourselves for this – to read a book a day for the year following her beloved sister’s death. Even at the thought of 365 reads a year, I start hyperventilating. When I saw that she has produced a beautiful book where each thoughtfully identified chapter comes with its own carefully selected quotation, and that she did this with a home, a husband and four sons to look after, I could have wept.
In both these books, the recommended reads are part of a larger story, so they are redeemed from that awful listiness that can so easily happen in books about books. And that is something to bear in mind if you embark on a project like this. That and the ennobling sentiment of one of the quotes in Sankovitch’s book:
When you have possessed a book in mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.
(Henry Miller, The Books in My Life.)