For the Love of Books: Stories of Literary Lives, Banned Books, Author Feuds, Extraordinary Characters, and More, Graham Tarrant. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019.
Summary: A fun read about everything books, from the beginning of the book, stories of authors and their loves and their fights, different genres, and the world of publishing.
Those who love books love reading books on books. This is one of the most enjoyable such books I’ve come across. Graham Tarrant explores everything from the beginnings of the book to the spats that have occurred between authors (e.g. Mark Twain versus Bret Harte, and more recently Norman Mailer versus Gore Vidal). We also hear about their loves–both gay and straight. Tarrant also explores their work habits, and their drinking and drug habits. Writing brilliant works do not make authors sterling characters by any means. Some were criminals. Some, like John Bunyan wrote their greatest works in prison. Jeffrey Archer got his start there.
We learn about the world around books–efforts to ban books, the parallel careers of authors and their characters, the various literary prizes, and the ins and outs of the publishing industry. But the major part of the book are the different genres of books, major works in each and the stories behind them. Tarrant periodically throws in lists of great works in the genre–from novels to crime fiction to memoirs and science fiction.
This latter makes the book a great resource for reading ideas, particularly of classics in a genre we may like. Writing any book is a challenging job with an uncertain outcome. The exploration of the lives of the people who do this is fascinating, and given some of their duels, fights, and other activities, one is amazed that we have what we have. It also leaves us with sadness of how many lives were claimed early, how many books we’ll never see from these authors.
What you have here is not serious literary criticism but more of a romp through the lives and works of literary figures. If you are looking for a lighthearted book that will stock you with trivia about books and their authors, this is the book. Enjoy!