Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

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How Literature Saved My Life
224 pages; Knopf
Here is a mind on fire, a writer at war with the page. "I've sacrificed my life for art," says David Shields in an astutely titled, contrarian collage, How Literature Saved My Life. At age 56, Shields, the author of 13 books, seems to be asking, "Is that all there is?" And yet, these rigorous, high-octane, exhaustive yet taut ruminations on ambivalence, love, melancholy, and mortality are like an arrow laced with crack to the brain. Shields draws on popular culture from Greek tragedies to Spider-Man to the essays of David Foster Wallace, while delving into how these works have shaped him. The associative thoughts leap, crawl, wail, and thrash about in an interior mindscape that's loaded with aphoristic asides, as his gun-to-the-head prose explicates an all-consuming passion for reading, writing, and "the redemptive grace of human consciousness itself."  
— Kristy Davis