If Chrissy Teigen shares her skincare routine, you sprint to your own medicine cabinet. If Ina Garten praises a $22 vanilla extract you splurge on a bottle. If Michiko Kakutani opens up about the books that have changed her life, you head to Bookshop and order them all.
Dedicated “to readers and writers everywhere,’ Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread is a wide-ranging homage to the power of books and reading by the Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (formerly the chief book critic for The New York Times).
In the introduction, Kakutani describes books as “tiny time machines that can transport us back to the past to learn the lessons of history, and forward to idealized or dystopian futures.” She talks about being a voracious reader from a young age, recognizing early on that books “give us the stories of men and women we will never meet in person, illuminate the discoveries made by great minds, and allow us access to the wisdom of earlier generations.” From there, she lists more than 100 books of varying eras and genres that have shaped her life, alongside concise but illuminating essays about her connection to the work.
Her selections are as diverse as they are plentiful: The Plays of William Shakespeare are bookended by chapters about by Dr. Seuss and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; books by Vladimir Nabokov (not including Lolita) are followed by Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi’s 2003 memoir which uses Lolita as a metaphor for life in the Islamic Republic of Iran; the ‘sports’ section is comprised solely of books by and about Muhammad Ali, who Kakutani describes as, “a larger-than-life figure: not just an incandescent athlete dancing under the lights, but a man of conscience who spoke truth to power, as well as a captivating showman, poet, philosopher, performance artist, statesman, and hip-hop pioneer, a man compared to Whitman, Robeson, Malcolm X, Ellington, and Chaplin.”