Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008

Reading for My Life Writings Right up until his death in John Leonard was a lion in American letters A passionate erudite and wide ranging critic he helped shape the landscape of modern literature He reviewed the most ce

  • Title: Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008
  • Author: John Leonard
  • ISBN: 9780670023080
  • Page: 464
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Right up until his death in 2008, John Leonard was a lion in American letters A passionate, erudite, and wide ranging critic, he helped shape the landscape of modern literature He reviewed the most celebrated writers of his age from Kurt Vonnegut and Joan Didion to Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon He championed Morrison s work so ardently that she invited him to travelRight up until his death in 2008, John Leonard was a lion in American letters A passionate, erudite, and wide ranging critic, he helped shape the landscape of modern literature He reviewed the most celebrated writers of his age from Kurt Vonnegut and Joan Didion to Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon He championed Morrison s work so ardently that she invited him to travel with her to Stockholm when she accepted her Nobel Prize He also contributed many pieces on television, film, politics, and the media, which continue to surprise and impress with their fervor and prescience.Reading for My Life is a monumental collection of Leonard s most significant writings spanning five decades from his earliest columns for the Harvard Crimson to his final essays for The New York Review of Books Here are Leonard s best writings many never before published in book form on the cultural touchstones of a generation, each piece a testament to his sharp wit, fierce intelligence, and lasting love of the arts Definitive reviews of Doris Lessing, Vladimir Nabokov, Maxine Hong Kingston, Tom Wolfe, Don DeLillo, Milan Kundera, and Philip Roth, among others, display his passion and nearly encyclopedic knowledge of literature in the second half of the twentieth century His essay on Ed Sullivan and the evolution of television remains a classic Throughout Leonard s reviews and essays is a dedicated political spirit, pleading for social justice, advocating for the women s movement, and forever calling attention to writers whose work challenged and excited him.With an introduction by E L Doctorow and remembrances by Leonard s friends, family, and colleagues, including Gloria Steinem and Victor Navasky, Reading for My Life stands as a landmark collection from one of America s most beloved and influential critics.

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    About " John Leonard "

  • John Leonard

    John Leonard grew up in Washington, D.C Jackson Heights, Queens, and Long Beach, California, where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School Raised by a single mother, Ruth Smith, he made his way to Harvard University, where he immersed himself in the school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, only to drop out in the spring of his sopho year He then attended the University of California at Berkeley.Leonard was a voracious critical omnivore, writing on culture, politics, television, books and the media in many other venues, including The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Harper s, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, American Heritage and Salon Leonard taught creative writing and criticism at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Leonard wrote extensively about television in his career for Life and The New York Times, both under the pen name Cyclops, for New York Magazine from 1984 to 2008, and in his 1997 book Smoke and Mirrors In addition, he authored four novels and five collections of essays.Leonard was co literary editor of The Nation with his wife, Sue Leonard, from 1995 to 1998, and continued as a contributing editor for the magazine He wrote a monthly column on new books for Harper s magazine and was a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books Leonard rated highest among literary critics in a 2006 Time Out New York survey of writers and publishers He received the National Book Critics Circle s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

  • 158 Comments

  • Magnificent. A joy to read. Filled with wit, erudition, pointed insights, worldly scope and earned wisdom. John Leonard was one of those freelance book and culture critics who we are always hearing laments about the passing of, the end-of-an-era type stuff, the senescent self-pity of people who either aren't interested or up to the task of keeping the idea of criticism as art alive at least for another generation, until the next wave of bookish brats comes in and starts redecorating the placeThi [...]


  • I am very glad I read this. I had not heard of the author before picking up this book and reading it. His essays are brilliant - magically written. What a talent! What hard work they reflect! Each of the essays in here is packed with life and insight and brilliant connections and sparkling metaphors. Reading this book was both exhilarating and dispiriting - (how could one write anything that would be so smart, so clear, so passionate, so challenging?). The last section of the book is also beauti [...]


  • Based on Reading for My Life, an exhilarating selection of 50 John Leonard reviews, essays and speeches (culled from, by his own estimate, a five-million-word career), it's possible to believe the critic read every one of the 13,000 books Leonard once calculated, with a tinge of regret, were the most even a reader as avid as he might hope to consume in a lifetime. But his erudition on a dizzying array of subjects--flashing like fireworks in lists that sometimes stretch to 30 or more references-- [...]


  • I first became aware of John Leonard as a young man who, improbably, never missed an episode of Charles Kuralt's "CBS Sunday Morning." His reviews on that show, offered as supplements to Roger Welch's Nebraskan postcards and Kuralt's Tarheel poetics, made a deep impression on me as a kid, and moreso as a young man. Reading this collection is an exercise in communing with genius. Take this observation that John Leonard gives, early on in this collection:"Popular culture is where we go to talk to [...]


  • If you are a person who enjoys reading extremely well-written essays, particularly those that take you through your own times as you read, you're going to like this book very much.John Leonard has a style all his own, and when he's writing about politics and prominent figures from the 1950s until his death in 2008, I was amazed by his articulate and perceptive discussions. His book reviews track American literature through those years as well, and I found myself experiencing renewed interest in [...]


  • “The public has a way of letting you know that it will pay more for you to discover and to celebrate excellence in other people, and rather less for your own refined feelings” (2).“ many novels, all of them reinventing the world in words” (3).“But popular culture is where we go to talk to and agree with one another; to simplify ourselves; to find our herd. It's like going to the Automat to buy an emotion. The thrills are cheap and the payoffs predictable and, after a while, the repetit [...]


  • I'm ashamed that I didn't know much about John Leonard before reading this collection, which groups together many of his essays and book reviews. This is criticism at its finest: a thinker casting out into the immense landscape of culture and history to find larger reasons why a novel works or does not. Leonard's knowledge makes his reviews so much more than reviews, and whether someone coming to this collection has read the works involved or not does not matter because the time he spends thinki [...]


  • I grew up with John Leonard. He showed me what a life of the mind might look like. As a kid in Indiana, a kid of parents who did not read, as a kid who had an odd hunger for books and ideas, John Leonard opened the world for me. Reading his essays and reviews is an opportunity to sit at the feet of the master. Long life the king.


  • If you love books, Kurt Vonnegut said, books will love you back. And that is exactly what will happen when John Leonard's "reading for my life" lands in your hands.


  • I did not read every page of this book; it is a collection of essays and reviews, and need not be read cover-to-cover. Rather one can open it any place, any time, and get a small slice of John Leonard - a progressive, midcentury, intellectually elitist viewpoint, written in a style that is thick with the influence of the Beat writers. That influence comes through in a self-conscious mix of colloquial language with academic vocabulary, and in a rapid comma-separated relay of evocative phrases. If [...]


  • It's difficult to convey how this book made me feel, ultimately, other than I wish I had been able to get to know him. His writing, his reviews were so I'm going to say "evocative," only because I can't think of any other word and all word choices seem inconsequential in light of such erudition and intelligence and warmth and fun and love.Oddly, some of his reviews made me decide that I really didn't want to read the author or book he was reviewing. I know "100 Years of Solitude" is considered [...]


  • There was such happiness stumbling across this book in a NYC bookstore in June. John Leonard, the guy I can still picture watching with my parents and my Nana on CBS Sunday morning, staring at the camera, quivering with feeling, speaking his mind. When I first ventured into the territory of journals like the New York Review of Books, there he was, and I remember thinking is this the same guy, the guy that I watched with Nana? Some how I didn't think that kind of intellectual would have that main [...]


  • A friend of mine bequeathed me with a Kindle - and this book was one of the ones 'resident'. I feel it has filled in a huge gap in my education, or at least in my reading. Yeah, I think I read a John Leonard piece in the New Yorker once or perhaps twice. Or maybe years ago when he was writing for Playboy. But I had certainly never sat down and read his work in concentrated form. A terrific tour through the 60s. Great commentary on the music scene in the long piece on Dylan (who he didn't like ve [...]


  • The late author, a book reviewer for the NYT, and editor of the Times' Book Review, gives some wonderful profiles of Nabokov, Tom Wolfe, and Philip Roth. The essay "The Last Innocent White Man" profiles Kurt Vonnegut, of whom Leonard writes that "there isn't a person in this room who hasn't experienced a Kurt kindness, or been kissed with grace by something in one of his novels, or both." John's son Andrew writes of his father "What self-respecting critic does not seize the chance to weave Hegel [...]


  • I enjoyed reading this collection of reviews and essays by the late John Leonard. Leonard seems to have read everything by all the major (non British) novelists during the 50 years that this collection spans. As a great reader and lover of books, it was great to read the observations of another greater reader about many of the novelists I have read and enjoyed over the years. Leonard can also sling some sentences. If you like reading strong literary analysis of great writers then this si a book [...]


  • My affection for Leonard, the former editor of the NYT Book Review and a CBS Sunday Morning contributor for more than a decade, knows few bounds. This collection of essays and reviews is a winner, mostly full of discussion of the things he loved (daring, lefty politics, humanism and Toni Morrison). I wanted to be John Leonard when I grew up. Now that he's gone (but sitting on the shelf waiting for me anytime I need him), I still do.


  • Metaphors without limits requires a creative pen, this reviewer makes his own pictures like Spielburg does but his are like sqeezing a lemon in your face or singing a torch song of your merits.A tangy writer of the Ivy league.


  • I read two of the last essays, on Yiddish Policeman's Union and Year of Magical Thinking, because those discussed books I have read. My library stack is enormous right now, and he has to wait.



  • I miss Leonard's commentaries on CBS Sunday Morning. What a broad reader, viewer, and observer. His writing leads the reader to so many other works, a real mental odyssey.


  • I always enjoyed John's work on CBS Sunday morning. Reading lots of reviews was a lot more work,then I thought it would be.


  • Very interesting in its Author and subject, Leonard is probably the best and most colorful in his descriptions, he loves reading and states when you love a book it loves you back"


  • Whoa!.I wish I had this guys brain and have read and(and could remember) all the books he has read! Interesting reading.lots of factoids.


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