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The Books That Mattered: A Reader's Memoir

Frye Gaillard

NewSouth Books
$27.95 hardcover
6 x 8  
300 pages
September 2012 

Frye Gaillard’s first encounters with books were disappointing. As a child he never cared much for fairy tales—“stories of cannibalism and mayhem in which giants and witches, tigers and wolves did their best to eat small children.” But at the age of nine, he discovered Johnny Tremain, a children’s novel of the Revolutionary War, which began a lifetime love affair with books, recounted here as a reader’s tribute to the writings that enriched and altered his life. In a series of carefully crafted, often deeply personal essays, Gaillard blends memoir, history, and critical analysis to explore the works of Harper Lee, Anne Frank, James Baldwin, Robert Penn Warren, John Steinbeck, and many others. As this heartfelt reminiscence makes clear, the books that chose Frye Gaillard shaped him like an extended family. The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir will make you study your own shelves to find clues into your own literary heart.


"Frye Gaillard gives us a treat. Many books celebrate the collecting and possession of books, but few describe the first experience of reading one at just the right time to change our lives. The Books That Mattered will renew similar memories in every reader." —Wayne Flynt, author of Keeping the Faith
"In this era when a deep immersion in books is too-often viewed as unimportant, Frye Gaillard has given us a powerful reminder that literature can enrich, even dramatically change, the course of our lives. The Books That Mattered deserves a wide and appreciative audience." —Ron Rash, author of Serena
"Written with warmth, a scholar's attention to detail and genuine insight, The Books That Mattered is a gift to readers everywhere—an engrossing personal history mapped, like stones across a river, in the books that shaped its author's life. A reminder of why reading matters to us all." —Michael Knight, author of The Typist
"Frye Gaillard draws inspiration from an intriguing array of writers—from Richard Wright and Lillian Smith to Clyde Edgerton and Sena Jeter Naslund—and some of his essays are as smart as the books that influenced him." —Curtis Wilkie, author of The Fall of the House of Zeus
"Frye Gaillard's The Books That Mattered not only evokes that wonder for the written word, but tackles the more difficult question of why the ethical and intellectual dimension in novels, essays and stories matter. Though most of us know intimately the shadowed self of our own experience, it is often through reading that we come to understand the doubt and sorrow of others and to recognize the heroic struggle of those trapped by injustice. [Gaillard's book] is beautifully rendered and wisely conceived; it gives insight as both memoir and literary guide." —Patricia Foster, author of All the Lost Girls and Girl from Soldier Creek
"In his latest work, Gaillard pays homage to the many writers who came before him. Though subtitled "A Reader's Memoir," it's more than that. A mix of biography, autobiography and literary criticism, the result is a heartfelt love letter to literature... An exuberantly written account of one writer's leap toward understanding life's intersection with literature." —Kirkus Reviews