Books That Saved My Life

 I've always enjoyed Michael McGirr's book reviews in The Age, and also Bypass: The Story of a Road, a gentle road trip. He is a humane, compassionate and thoughtful commentator, a man of faith who teaches English at a boys' private school (lucky boys).

In Books That Saved My Life, McGirr reflects on forty books, in short chapters of a few pages each, that have touched or inspired him over a lifetime of reading, some fiction, some poetry, some memoir, some non-fiction. He interweaves his observations with some biographical information about each author and some personal anecdotes about the place of each book in his life, how he discovered it, or the person who introduced him to it. It's like reading a bunch of pithy newspaper columns, perfectly weighted and structured, or taking recommendations from a trusted and well-read friend.

There are lots of books here that I'd never heard of, as well as plenty of old friends, who I enjoyed viewing in a fresh light, from Harry Potter to Jane Austen to Heart of Darkness (blerch) -- plenty of female authors, too. If you were embarking on a serious reading program, you could do worse than take Michael McGirr as your guide.

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