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The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading | Ozzy's Antiques, Collectibles & More

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading

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Phyllis Rose embarks on a grand literary experiment -- to systematically read her way through a random shelf of books in the library, LEQ-LES, "fairly sure that no one in the history of the world has read exactly this series of novels." An original take on literary taste and habits by the acclaimed author of Parallel Lives.

Rose, after a career of reading from syllabuses and writing about canonical books, decided to read like an explorer. She "wanted to sample, more democratically, the actual ground of literature." Casting herself into the untracked wilderness of the New York Society Library's stacks, she chose a shelf of fiction almost at random and read her way through it.

What results is a spirited experiment in "Off-Road or Extreme Reading." Rose's shelf of roughly thirty books has everything she could wish for―a remarkable variety of authors and a range of literary ambitions and styles. The early-nineteenth-century Russian classic A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov is spine by spine with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Stories of French Canadian farmers sit beside tales about aristocratic Austrians. California detective novels about a novel from an Afrikaans writer who fascinates Rose to the extent that she ends up watching a YouTube video of his funeral.

A joyous testament to the thrill of engagement with books high and low, The Shelf leaves us with the feeling that there are treasures to be found on every library or bookstore shelf. Rose investigates her own discoveries with exuberance, candor, and while pondering the many questions her experiment raises and measuring her discoveries against her own inner shelf.

“Exhilarating, adventurous, original--Phyllis Rose's The Shelf is a reminder of what reading and writing are all about.” -- Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran