Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading

Leave Me Alone I'm Reading coverThe title might be reason enough to pick up this book. I mean, consider the possibilities. What reader wouldn’t relish the opportunity to take this book on an airplane, primed and ready to answer a nosy neighbor’s what-are-you-reading question with . . . “Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading!” Maureen Corrigan is a professional reading powerhouse, and it’s hard to fathom how she manages to read at that pace amid a packed schedule of writing, appearing on NPR, and teaching college courses. But her reading is impressive not just for its quantity but for its quality. Though Corrigan’s book purports to be a memoir, it leans heavily into the area of literary criticism. That will be a turn-on for readers who are willing to consider exactly how books do their work on us. If you try Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading in your book club, I recommend pairing it with one of the many titles Corrigan discusses. Read, for instance, Dorothy L. Sayers’s 1936 mystery, Gaudy Night, alongside Corrigan’s chapter about the plots that shape women’s personal and professional lives. Or sample some hard-boiled detective novels (Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon or Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, perhaps) alongside her chapter on fictional portrayals of work. I read this book in piecemeal fashion and enjoyed it more as a result. According to Corrigan’s measuring stick, “A forgettable book disappoints or merely meets our conscious expectations; unforgettable books take us to places we didn’t even suspect existed, places we may not even have wanted to go.” Corrigan’s book is among the unforgettables, and even though I consider myself pretty well traveled, the suggested reading list she includes in the back promises to take me to a few more destinations unknown.

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