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Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto

Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto is a guide to the mind of readers everywhere, and it offers some great tips on how to fake it for readers who may not have read some contemporary or classic authors that everyone else has been.  Leto is like many of us in that she says, “Considering yourself a serious reader doesn’t mean you can’t read light books.  Loving to read means you sometimes like to turn your head off.  Reading is not about being able to recite passages from Camus by memory.  Loving young adult novels well past adolescence isn’t a sign of stunted maturity or intelligence.  The most important thing about reading is not the level of sophistication of the books on your shelf.  There is no prerequisite reading regimen for being a bookworm” (page 8).  To that end, she discloses that she’s likely to be found with the latest Janet Evanovich in her hand when she has to fly anywhere.

The initial confessions read like that of any bookworm, with the boxes and boxes of books moved from apartment to apartment and from makeshift bookshelf to re-purposed material made into a bookshelf — in her case, a couple of old ladders (page 13).  Leto even offers a funny little bit about changing the readers’ mascot from a worm to a cat, but one of the most ironic reasons in the book is because cats hold grudges (page 63) — like many do against James Frey from A Million Little Pieces, who offers a witty quote about Leto’s book on the cover.

Through a series of chapters of advice on how to fake having read a particular book, using vague statements and comparisons to popular movies and other writers you may have read, Leto has created an unapologetic homage to reading as entertainment, education, enjoyment, escapism, and understanding.  She even includes a chapter on rules for the book club, which means talking about book club with others not in your club or about the books you are reading in the club as well as how best to end a disagreement over something that happens in one of the books read by the group.  Her observations on members of a book club and their roles from the leader to the quiet (usually girl) member are in line with many readers’ experiences, including those who might even fit those character types in one group or another.

Some of the best aspects of this book are the snarky comments about authors and readers of certain authors, like those who adore Chuck Palahniuk are boys who cannot read and those who love Chuck Klosterman are boys who don’t read.  Leto’s comments about the “Literati,” a chapter with an alternate title of “Why Ernest Hemingway Once Told John Updike Literary New York Is a Bottle Full of Tapeworms Trying to Feed on Each Other,” is hilarious and a warning for those would-be writers out there.  Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto is not really about judging anyone, but it is about having fun with books and reading, making connections even with strangers, and finding happiness in a bent page — to paraphrase her (page 245).

About the Author:

Lauren Leto dropped out of law school to start the popular humor blog “Texts from Last Night.” She co-authored the book Texts from Last Night: All the Texts No One Remembers Sending. She lives in Brooklyn.

This is my 78th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.

Mailbox Monday #197

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Mailbox Monday blog.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The New Arcana by John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris, which I received for review from the poets.

THE NEW ARCANA is a multi-genre extravaganza featuring verse, fiction, mock journalism and academic writing, drama, and art. Both referencing and transcending various literary precedents, the book is a pronouncement for the 21st Century, an exploration of and commentary on the fast-paced and mercurial nature of life in the 2000s. Co-written by poets John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris, the book presents a compelling, jazz-like, and satirical style, a third voice born from the mingling of two distinct individual voices. THE NEW ARCANA is a memorable literary statement—a manifesto for our time—as well as a proclamation regarding the transformative qualities of true collaboration.

2.  Judging a Book by its Lover by Lauren Leto, which I received for review from HarperCollins.

Want to impress the hot stranger at the bar who asks for your take on Infinite Jest? Dying to shut up the blowhard in front of you who’s pontificating on Cormac McCarthy’s “recurring road narratives”? Having difficulty keeping Francine Prose and Annie Proulx straight?

For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of—and inspired homage to—the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoyevsky and the people who read them.

3.  When All My Disappointments Came at Once by Todd Swift for review from Tightrope Books.

This poetry collection explores the journey of recovery from depression after a man’s diagnosis for extreme male infertility. Dreams are destroyed and slowly rebuilt with the help of a loving wife and the healing force of the poetic art. As it touches on the topics of childlessness and mental health from a male perspective, this compilation will appeal to a wide readership.

What did you receive?