Reading for My Life by John Leonard
Writings, 1958-2008

52%

12 Critic Reviews

As a writer, Leonard could be lapidary; some of the essays and reviews here meander, getting lost in language, in digression, although to his credit, he almost always makes it back.
-LA Times

Synopsis

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 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.
 

About John Leonard

See more books from this Author
JOHN LEONARD ( 1939–2008) was a reviewer or contributing editor for practically every national print outlet, including The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, and New York. He also appeared regularly on NPR's Fresh Air and CBS's Sunday Morning. Leonard wrote four novels and served for four years as the executive editor of The New York Times Book Review. In 2006 he was awarded the National Book Critics Circle's prestigious Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
Published March 15, 2012 by Penguin Books. 401 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bookmark Counts:
1
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Reading for My Life
All: 12 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Below average
Jan 01 2012

(Many readers, however, will be disappointed to find no external indications of when and where the piece initially appeared.)

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Phillip Lopate on Mar 16 2012

And sometimes Leonard’s prose preens too much and comes off as cute or glib.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing... | See more reviews from NY Times

LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by David Ulin on Mar 18 2012

As a writer, Leonard could be lapidary; some of the essays and reviews here meander, getting lost in language, in digression, although to his credit, he almost always makes it back.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing... | See more reviews from LA Times

Open Letters Monthly

Below average
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue

The combination of all these things has the (inadvertent?) result of making the book seem like an extended eulogy, which is something Leonard himself would almost certainly have chuckled at.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

Slate

Excellent
Mar 03 2012

This greatest-hits package doubles—and triples and scores—as a history of global culture and American literature, as a shadow canon and an intellectual history.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

The Daily Beast

Below average
Reviewed by Jimmy So on Mar 17 2012

Sure, sometimes you yearn for more exposition, but Leonard commands love and devotion, much like that required of a parent taking care of an ADHD child.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

The Millions

Excellent
Reviewed by Bill Morris on Mar 22 2012

His love of good writing is not only infectious, it’s also mind-expanding because his tastes were so elastic and catholic.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

Tulsa World

Below average
Reviewed by James Watts on Apr 01 2012

Sometimes, the intensity of Leonard's style and the obsessive lengths at which he treats some topics (GÃ1/4nter Grass, for example, or Pynchon's "Vineland") gets wearing.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

NY Daily News

Excellent
Reviewed by Alexander Nazaryan on Mar 22 2012

Above all, he endowed his words with vitality - that is the greatest lesson one can learn from his work.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

Book Forum

Excellent
Reviewed by Liz Brown on Mar 14 2012

There's also Leonard on E. L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison, Vaclav Havel, Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Said, Philip Roth, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Peggy Noonan, to name just some of the highlights.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

NY Observer

Below average
Reviewed by Christian Lorentzen on Mar 27 2012

Not that there aren’t big omissions (referring to essays included in book).

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

Freelance Intellectual

Good
Reviewed by Cindy Hong on Apr 08 2012

In a world of cold, academic criticism, Leonard shows us what it means to have a personal connection with culture.

Read Full Review of Reading for My Life : Writing...

Reader Rating for Reading for My Life
80%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 6 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Meng-Tsun Su

Meng-Tsun Su 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

×