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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

How Literature Saved My Life

How Literature Saved My Life - David Shields

Not my cup of tea


In this series of essays author David Shields examines what he's learned from great literature--for this he includes texts as varied as Spiderman and ancient Greek drama--then applies it to his personal life and the general human condition. Since literature has also been an important part of my life--I studied the classic Great Books during my four years of college and reading has almost been a religion for me most of my life--I expected to enjoy this book, but it was hit and miss.


There are some intriguing ideas and insights, but at times I found myself unengaged and even put off. The reader will learn things about Shields that are both not so interesting and somewhat distasteful, like as a college student Shields read his girlfriend's diary (okay, so that was in the past, but I still find it creepy), and as a father he's smug about being considered atypical.


It’s a matter of taste though, and many will justifiably find these essays brilliant and illuminating. Shields is smart and comes across as intellectually hyper, making connections like his neurons are on speed. I just finished a book of personal essays by Elinor Lipman, another observer of life, and for me this book compares unfavorably. Lipman doesn't reference great literature much but she's perceptive, witty, gracious, and (no surprise since she's a novelist) a great storyteller. Shields is perceptive, but to me he falls short in the other qualities.