Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Writers Compile Lists of Favorite Books

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Writers Compile Lists of Favorite Books

Article excerpt

Gathering information from 115 celebrated writers about the books they love most may sound like a millennium project, but it wasn't.

"Mere happenstance," said Boston lawyer and bibliophile Ronald B. Shwartz. "It is mere happenstance that my book is coming out as the millennium ends.

His book is For the Love of Books (Grosset/Putnam, $24.95). It's intriguing -- what serious reader would not want to know? -- and it's attracting positive attention from reviewers, talk show hosts, booksellers who invite him to come and talk about and sign his book.

He has been asked to speak to a gathering at the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

Even though he is a lawyer and must speak persuasively in the courtroom, Shwartz is not happy speaking to large groups.

"My fear of it is akin to my fear of death," he said. "But I have just forced myself to do it anyway."

He is steadied by recalling James Baldwin's rule that a man's goal in life should be to make love to those things that frightened him the most.

And, there is always Truman Capote's observation when he launched into a book promotion tour: "A boy's got to hustle his book," he said.

The promotion is clearly worth the time and occasional discomfort.

"The book is doing very well in many different senses," Shwartz said.

A second printing is set, possibly, soon a third.

To borrow the theme from the brokerage firm's TV commercial, that's how the success of a book is measured, one printing at a time.

Though Shwartz wrote to authors and asked them to say which books have been their favorites, he does not have a definitive list of his own.

"It is a list that has changed over time as I'ver read more books," he said, something he has been doing since childhood.

Of course, he has a few works he cannot neglect to mention.

John Updike's collection of stories, Pigeon Feather, is one. "Certain of those stories have just overwhelmed me."

Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem is another. …

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