10 Books That Could Save Your Life

This week marked the release of Reality Hunger author David Shields’ newest book, How Literature Saved My Life, a wonderfully meandering meditation on reading, writing, and the reason for art. Shields is very well read (as one might assume), and part of the pleasure of reading this book is watching him pick apart his favorite writing and piece it back together, perhaps in a different way than originally intended. On the occasion of the book’s publication, we offer ten books that just might save your life — some of which Shields mentioned in his latest, some of which are our own favorites. Of course, every life is different, and the books that seem revolutionary to us may have just come at the right moment, or in the right color. So if we’ve missed your lifesaver here, do tell us all about it in the comments.

Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner

Shields starts off his book with a discussion of this novel, in part because, as he writes he is “obsessed with [Lerner] as my doppelgänger of the next generation, my aesthetic spawn.” Indeed, we’ve often found ourselves at a loss to explain why this book is so wonderful — probably because whenever we start with “a young guy goes abroad and begins investigating himself and his art, or lack thereof” eyeballs start rolling all over the place. Shields gets it: the book “chronicles the endemic disease of our time: the difficulty of feeling” (a phrase originally used to describe one of Shields’ books). So if you too cannot ever get out of your own head, this book probably won’t give you any solace, but it might give you some company.