Zinsser’s Condensed Books

“He believed ardently in the Digest’s populist mission of making well-written books with strong stories and interesting characters available to people who might not otherwise be readers.”

That’s the son of John S. Zinsser Jr. talking about his father’s work condensing many hundreds of books as editor of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Zinsser died last month at age 84. His life’s work included condensing the classics of Faulker, Steinbeck and others to their bare essentials.

In a New York Times article about his death, Zinsser said upon his retirement in 1987 that books were getting too long and he appreciated the days when a good story was told in a reasonable number of pages.

I don’t want to read a book that has been tampered with — that is not the original creation of the author. Beautiful sentences would be lost, leaving only a skeleton of the authors intention. What do you think? Does a huge tome like War and Peace turn you off? Would you read a book which was cut down by a condenser?

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