The Books in My Life


ome writers attempt to revea the literary influences which have shaped their thinking––but not Henry Miller. In unique work, he take an utterly candid and self-revealing account of the reading he did during his formative years. In he Books in My Life he shares the thrills of discovery that many kinds of books have brought to a keenly curious and questioning mind. Some of Miller 's favorite author are the giants whom most of us revere––authors such as Dostoievsky, Boccaccio, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Lao-Tse. To them he brings fresh and penetrating insights. But many are lesser-known figures: Krishnamurti, the prophet-sage; the French contemporaries Blaise Cendrars and Jean Giono; Richard Jeffries, who wrote Anothe tory of My Heart; the Welshman John Cowper Powys; and scores of others. Thi Books in My Life contains some fine autobiographical chapters, too. Miller describes his boyhood in Brooklyn, when he devoured the historical stories of G. A. Henty and the romances of Rider Haggard. He says of the wome and women whom he regards as " living books ": Lou Jacobs, W. E. B. DuBois, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and others. He offers his reminiscences of the New York Theatre in the early 1900's––including plays such as Alias Jimmy Valentine and Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model. And ultimately, in Miller 's best vein of humor, he rovides a satiric chapter on bathroom reading. In an appendix, Miller lists the hundred books that have inspire him most.

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The Books in My Life
Publication Date
Published January 17th 1969 by New Directions (first published 1952

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One should hardl call himself a fan of Miller 's work and not at least njoy the long diversions his writing will take, and even he always seems to kee his way back in the nd.

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Most of thi time spent reading books, he reiterates, is wasted: only a handful are any good.What, then, the purpose of his nove? It 's not entirely clear.

( But why would we need book on books, if reading itself is such a waste of time.) The style, as usual, is easy, and breezy, and Miller seems to writer effortlessly -- but without any overarching discipline here, he just writes and writes, not attemptin to find his thoughts cohere.The problem could be the books origination: a friend suggested he write a list of the 100 books that most influenced him.

( And if I missed it, it 's really not an extensive discussion.) On the other hand, there 's a chapter on reading books while on the toilet -- which seems like parody.

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Somewhat dry if you 're not into this ind of thing.From the appendix The 100 Books that Influenced Me Most:1 Ancient Greek Dramatists2 Arabian Nights ( for children) 3 Elizabethan Playwrights ( excepting Shakespeare) 4 European Playwrights of 19th Century5 Greek Myths and Legends6 Knights of King Arthur 's Court7 Abèlard, Pierre, The Story of My Misfortunes8 Alain-Fournier, The Wanderer9 Andersen, Hans Christian, Fairy Tales10 Anonymous, Diary of a Lost One11 Balzac, Honoré de, Seraphita12 Balzac, Honoré de, Louis Lambert13 Bellamy, Edward, Looking Backward14 Belloc, Hilaire, The Path to Rome15 Blavatsky, Mme. H.

P., The Secret Doctrine16 Boccaccio, Giovanni, The Decameron17 Breton, André, Nadja18 Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights19 Bulwyer-Lytton, Edward, Last Days of Pompeii20 Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland21 Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, Journey to the nd of the Night22 Cellini, Benvenuto, Autobiography23 Cendrars, Blaise, Virtually the complete works24 Chesterton, G.K., Saint Francis of Assisi25 Conrad, Joseph, His works in general26 Cooper James Fenimore, Leatherstocking Tales27 Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe28 De Nerval, Gérard, His works in general29 Dostoievsky, Feodor, His works in general30 Dreiser, Theodore, His works in general31 Duhamel, Geoges, Salavin Series32 Du Maurier, George, Trilby33 Dumas, Alexander, The Three Musketeers34 Eckermann, Johann, Conversations with Goethe35 Eltzbacher, Paul, Anarchism36 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Representative Men37 Fabre, Henri, His works in general38 Faure, Elie, The History of Art39 Fenollosa, Ernest, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry40 Gide, André, Dostoievski41 Giono, Jean, Refus d'Obéissance42 Giono, Jean, Que ma joie domeure43 Giono, Jean, Jean le Bleu44 Grimm Brothers, Fairy Tales45 Gutkind, Erich, The Absolute Collective46 Haggard, Rider, She47 Hamsun, Knut, His works in general48 Henty, G.

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Long, boring, unnecessary ... Had to stop reading it 120 pages in.

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I found multiple passages worth underlining and writing margin notes about to ponder until the ext time around, and lots of food for thought to use in my own life.I finally finished thi book fifteen years after starting it.

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© Nicole Waggonner