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Read e-book The Books That Mattered: A Readers Memoir
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See our disclaimer. Gaillard is a Southerner who grew up during the Civil Rights Movement.
Because of his background—maybe in spite of it—he appreciates characters who are flawed and, therefore, believable, real, and relatable. The hero of Johnny Tremain introduced him to the exhilarating events of Revolutionary Era Boston, but also prepared him for the messy truth that the Founding Fathers were not mythical, perfect beings.
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Stories influenced him more than any hurried speech, prevailing ethos, or political mantra; he learned because great writers illuminated and clarified the profundities of observation and knowledge, not because semi-literate politicians pontificated and preached to him. Part personal narrative, part freewheeling history, The Books that Mattered is not a Bloomian-styled promotion of works that others ought to read.
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It is an individualized account of books that affected one accomplished writer. Gaillard makes no promises or guarantees. Rather, he explores his own intellectual journey that texts set in motion. It is, however, fair to criticize his treatment of his chosen subjects. Would you rather read Snow Falling on Cedars a topic of chapter seven or have someone tell you how he felt when he read it? Another difficulty of an undertaking such as this is in avoiding plot summary or the kind of simple authorial biography available on, say, Wikipedia. Gaillard takes pains to avoid these traps, but he does, it pains me to say, get stuck now and then.
Be that as it may, there is something charming about this book. He never comes right out and says it, but he suggests that enjoyment and reason are inexplicably tied and that their interrelation brings about knowledge. Knowledge depends on environment because it derives from embodied experience. If nothing else, reading helps us to acquaint ourselves with ourselves and our world.
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