Authors and Company

A tireless promoter of books and authors, Ben McNally has been a bookseller in Toronto for more...

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Will Schwalbe was in town this weekend to promote his new book The End of Your Life Book Club, and I caught up with him Sunday morning, in a crowd of 150 book lovers who’d negotiated the marathon-tangled streets of the metropolis to attend brunch.

Schwalbe gave one of the most memorable presentations we’ve ever had. His book is tailor-made to my own sensibilities, so there’s a built-in bias that I must confess, but he spoke at length about the transformative power of reading and of physical books, and how they provide not just personal pleasure but cultural glue. It was brilliant.

Among the varied and many satisfactions that come with my job, author events rank pretty high. Sometimes they make us money, sometimes they don’t, but they always serve to remind us why it is that we got into the book business in the first place. (Hint: Not in the hopes of becoming wildly wealthy.)

It was an interesting weekend. Saturday we hosted a book signing for a visiting author from the west coast and nobody came. The weather was dismal and the entire street had been barricaded in anticipation of that marathon. It was a disappointment for the author, and for me—though he was kind enough to buy a couple of books and that assuaged my pain somewhat.

After the Sunday brunch with Will Schwalbe, I made a trip across town to do another event. There I had the distinct pleasure of listening to a rollicking reading by the poet George Elliot Clarke—a treat I can’t recommend highly enough.

So, on Monday morning, as I made my way through the remains of that weekend, I was still glowing in the wake of the talk by Will Schwalbe, and thought that we should have perhaps recorded it on video. Then I wondered more about that. Surely a big part of the electricity generated by his speech came from the audience and their mounting appreciation for what he was saying. How could a video capture that?

If you live in certain conurbations across the nation you’ll be having a literary festival in town sometime soon, if not now. Take the time to go and listen to an author speak, or read if you have the chance. Take a friend or two; company only increases the pleasure. We lovers of the book take great joy in each other’s company. And Will Schwalbe’s book will help you understand just why that is.

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