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Blending confessional criticism and cultural autobiography, David Shields explores the power of literature to make life survivable, maybe even endurable. Evoking his deeply divided personality, his character flaws, his woes, his serious despair, he wants "literature to assuage human loneliness, but nothing can assuage human loneliness. Literature doesn't lie about this—which is what makes it essential." This is a captivating, thought-provoking, utterly original book about the essential acts of reading and writing.
"Shields is above all a literature obsessive . . . and his enthusiasm is one of the many delightful things about this book. . . . If, at the end of How Literature Saved My Life, one doesn't come away having learned anything or great depth, the trip is nonetheless invigorating. David Shields leaves us fired with ideas, wanting to see and read more widely, to delve and develop half-formed thoughts." —Times Literary Supplement
“Here is a mind on fire, a writer at war with the page. . . . These rigorous, high-octane, exhaustive yet taut ruminations on ambivalence, love, melancholy, and mortality are like an arrow laced with crack to the brain. [Shields’] gun-to-the-head prose explicates an all-consuming passion for reading, writing, and ‘the redemptive grace of human consciousness itself.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“In this wonderful, vastly entertaining book, he weaves together literary criticism, quotations, and his own fragmentary recollections to illustrate, in form and content, how art—real art, the kind that engages and reflects the world around it—has made his life meaningful as both creator and beholder. Shields is an elegant, charming, and very funny writer. . . . Although his subject is himself, his instructions should prove useful—inspiring even—to all readers and writers.” —The Boston Globe
“Shields is a stunning writer. Within this book lies significant passion and revelation. . . . What makes for an amazing reading experience is the piecing together an argument from the fragments. . . . The guy is a maestro.” —The Huffington Post
“Shields has an uncanny ability to tap into the short attention span of modern culture and turn it into something positive. . . . How Literature Saved My Life presents a way forward for literature in new forms.” —The A.V. Club
“Eminently readable and surprisingly life-affirming. . . . Mr. Shields has written a great book, and one which matters. . . . Uncompromisingly intelligent, blisteringly forthright, and eschewing convention at every turn. . . . Mr. Shields is one engaging writer. His enthusiasm is contagious. He cares, deeply, about his subject.” —New York Journal of Books
“There is no more interesting writer at this precise moment than David Shields. I would call three of his books among the most important we’ve seen in the last 15 years: The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, and now this. His nonfiction books are as much galvanizing electrical fields as those of David Foster Wallace were.” —Jeff Simon, Buffalo News, Editor’s Choice
“Concise, fearless, urgent. A soulful writer, a skillful storyteller, and a man on the hunt for the Exquisite. Shields is, in a writerly sense, as brave as they come. A giant, thrilling ride.” —Bookforum
“Shields has composed not a paean to the glories of narrative or language, but a work that sits somewhere between essay and memoir, resisting easy expectations. . . . Altogether fascinating.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Quintessential genre-defying Shields. His writing gives you [a] sense of vertigo. It’s energizing and weird, and it works.” —The Village Voice
“Shields’s ideas about literature come from a place of deep love; he’s not trying to destroy but rebuild what is already broken.” —ArtInfo
“I’m grateful for How Literature Saved My Life because the book has made me think again—and for the first time in a while—‘Well, what is it we do when we read?’ It’s a damned annoying question, but it needs to be asked now and then, and Shields has asked it in a way I find resonant and moving.” —Andre Alexis, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Thoroughly rewarding.” —London Evening Standard
“Smart, self-deprecating, and funny.” —The Plain Dealer
“What else are you looking for that’s as real and interesting as another intelligent, articulate, bibliophilic human’s personal revelations?” —Austin Chronicle
“[One of] our most genial essayists. . . . You read [Shields] for the zip of his consciousness.” —Chicago Tribune
“An invigorating polemicist, as well as a subtle and amusing memoirist.” —The New Statesman (UK)
“Both a boldly written love note to that most precious of subjects, and David Shields’s latest statute in his quest for ‘art with a visible string to the world.’” —HTML Giant
“What makes us read and write when it is harder than ever to ‘only connect’? Examining our relationships with books.” —Salon, Editor’s Pick
“We can always count on Shields to force us to probe the edges of the way we think about, read, and even write literature and criticism of any kind.” —Flavorwire, One of Ten Books That Could Save Your Life and One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2013