One Hundred One-Night Reads, by brothers John and David Major, is a collaboration between two widely read and dedicated readers. They came by it naturally, raised by a mother who sent them to books when they were bored. Both followed their passions outside literature into notable careers – John as an expert on Asia and David as an expert on climate science and environmental management. John also worked with Clifton Fadiman to update Fadiman’s New Lifetime Reading Plan.
The Majors stress that this is not a Harold Bloom/Great Books self-education plan, but an introduction to short books for people who complain that they have no time to read. That approach allows them to delve into their personal reading experiences to promote both classic literary authors and writers that snootier critics deliberately overlook. (See the excerpt of Stephen King’s scathing takedown of such critics in his National Book Award acceptance speech at the end of this blogpost.)
So, from E.F. Benson (Queen Lucia) to P.G. Wodehouse (Something Fresh) and from Chandler’s The Big Sleep to Charlotte’s Web, the Majors stroll with readers through relevant biographical details of the author, a short introduction to the plot, some sense of why they’ve included it, even suggestions about further reading. It’s like having your own personal readers’ advisor with an encyclopedic knowledge of good books.
If I had one quarrel with the book, it’s that most of the ones I’ve looked at aren’t really “one-night reads” – unless you don’t have to do the dishes, put the kids to bed, and walk the dog. Nonetheless, the stories they’ve selected pack a lot of punch in a few pages, and if the dedicated reader started at lunch and read through past bedtime (and ignored the kids, dishes, and dog), they’ll remember these stories and authors. What else are you going to do – watch TV?
Check the WRL catalog for One Hundred One-Night Reads