Why Read Books?

And how to find the books worth reading....

| January-February 2005

Reading is absurd, isn’t it? Page after page of symbols. Voices in our heads that aren’t our own. Why persist? We may read for entertainment, to pass the time, to visit other worlds, to expand our sense of what is possible. We hunt for treasure, rarely satisfied, but seeking new things to which we can aspire, clues and answers to what our lives are meant to be. At best, perhaps, we read to challenge ourselves and to be changed.

How do we find books worth reading? One way is to pay attention to magazines devoted to reviewing them.

World Literature Today is an excellent source of writings by and about contemporary authors from around the globe. It features interviews, essays, poetry, and short fiction by authors who write as if their lives depend on it. Each issue includes over a hundred English-language reviews of books published in other languages.

Rain Taxi Review of Books focuses on new titles from small and independent publishers such as Coffee House, Graywolf, Seven Stories, South End, and Copper Canyon, as well as university presses and mainstream Canadian publishers whose works are too often ignored in the United States. Each edition balances coverage of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels.

Lambda Book Report, a bimonthly publication of the nonprofit Lambda Literary Foundation, engagingly reviews books “for LGBT readers”-lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Recent issues have covered new books about same-sex marriage and titles from such small presses as Manic D, Bluechrome, and Clear Cut Press.

Also notable: New York City’s Black Issues Book Review  and the Toronto-based Quill & Quire, “Canada’s magazine of book news and reviews.”

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