John Williams of The New York Times reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
The literary critic Phyllis Rose made her name with a biography of Virginia Woolf in 1978 and “Parallel Lives,” a book about the marriages of five Victorian writers, in 1983. She’s now at the point in her career where she can pull off a book like “The Shelf,” in which she chooses a shelf of library books at random and simply tells us what she finds.
Her goal, she writes, is to free herself from the “famous and canonical” and “sample, more democratically, the actual ground of literature.” Rose’s critical acumen and conversational tone carry us through Russian classics, the novel “The Phantom of the Opera,” forgotten comic gems and much more.
In between, she writes about larger issues, including the way libraries choose which books to get rid of and the representation of women in literature. Rose even tracks down the novelist Rhoda Lerman, one of her discoveries, and strikes up a friendship. “The Shelf” will inspire readers to continue digging and browsing for forgotten but rewarding books.
To read more about other rewarding books, go to www.nytimes.com/books.