Avid reader : a life

by Robert Gottlieb

Hardcover, 2016




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisapeet
If I had to give this one word it would be breezy: great literary and dance world gossip, not particularly introspective even when the author tries for it, almost no friction anywhere in what was clearly a pretty charmed existence (with one divorce and one special needs child I know it wasn't all roses, but he minimizes any heartache so I will too). But a fun book, if self-indulgent—and why not? I probably would be if I were him. You have to wonder what it might have been like to go through your whole life with (if you believe him) with such relative ease, at least professionally. But hey, bless him—he sounds like he's really enjoyed it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Laura400
This book is both interesting and frustrating. I didn't learn much about editing, nor about the many remarkable writers whom Gottlieb edited, not even about Gottlieb himself. The book is in fact remarkably unrevelatory and impersonal. But it's worthwhile as a chronicle of a slice of publishing history.

It turns out that Gottlieb had a hand in many of the great books of my formative reading years, in addition to spending five years at The New Yorker. Unfortunately, you have to read between the lines as to why it was Gottlieb who ended up in this position. The book succeeds as a chronicle of the works he published, but Gottlieb seems to have no gift for characterization, not of others and not of himself. Motive is always a black hole, other people are ciphers, and he's a detached and impersonal Zelig. Most frustratingly, Gottlieb evinces no genuine desire to share or educate with the book, just to recount his life and business triumphs. As a result, the story seems empty at its heart.

But still, much as I could never warm up to him personally, his career proved fun to read about. I suppose explains as much as anything why this apparently detached and cold person has so many so-called dear friends -- it's interesting watching him grind his way to triumph, many bodies accumulating by the side of the road, but those he needs being carried with him.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I was vastly disappointed long slog of a book. Writers are incapable of editing their own books, Gottlieb tells us at one point. I wish he had listened to himself.

He probably edited or was responsible for most of the books I have read in my life. He clearly knows what makes for good writing, voice, as he points out (especially in memoirs) being one of the most important. But this book has no voice. It reads as if it was assembled index card by index card, linked with clumsy segues.

It is remarkably impersonal, as another reviewer pointed out. Hard to see how he has so many friends, unless his writing just obscures his real self.

Can't think he would have accepted this book if it hadn't been by himself!
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
I have a passion for books as does Robert Gottlieb. Avid Reader is a fantastic read. Gottlieb was at Knopf and The New Yorker and he shares his experiences which usually involved books. He was an obsessive and compulsive reader since childhood and shares those wonderful experience. Do not pass go. Go directly to your nearest bookstore.… (more)
LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I loved almost all of this book. AVID READER is a nearly perfect read for old book nerds like me. In the cover photo, Gottlieb looks a lot like a young Woody Allen, which is completely irrelevant, but I thought this every time I picked the book up, so ... just sayin'.

Gottlieb is probably one of the most well-read authors I have ever read. An only child of two avid readers, he learned to read by age four from his maternal grandfather reading to him, and his love affair with books continues to this day, and he is 86.

After his graduation from Columbia, Gottlieb got on at Simon & Schuster and progressed to editor. Then he took over at the very prestigious Knopf, and then to editorship of the New Yorker, then back to Knopf, where he has been ever since, now semi-retired. Along the way he has worked with some of the brightest literary lights of the past sixty years - Joseph Heller, Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Barbara Tuchman, Harold Brodkey, LeCarre, Alice Munro, and on and on, as well as a host of lesser-known writers, many of whom I have read. There is, of course, a veritable deluge of name-dropping in a memoir like this, and by God, I loved it! I felt like I was walking through a library of books I've read and loved from childhood into old age. (Gottlieb was an Albert Payson Terhune fan as a kid too.)

I could gush on about all the associations Gottlieb's stories brought back, but I won't. I just kinda wish I could sit and talk books and authors with this old guy. The only part I skimmed here was the chapter on his fascination and association with ballet. I'm probably just too dumb to appreciate that. But the books! The authors! LOVED all of that. And in his reflecting back on all of it in the final chapter, "Living," he comes up with a perfect closing line -

"And, yes, the end may very well be hard, but perhaps fate will be kind, and at least let me keep on reading for a while."

Perfect. Very highly recommended, especially for book lovers.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
Inside baseball. Too much of it. Names of his friends/associates keep coming like a gatling gun. How could he be so intimate with so many friends and give short shrift to his son? Didn't learn much about the process of book editing. No mention of audio books or e-books. Shoddy work.



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