William H. Pritchard, the Henry Clay Folger professor of English at Amherst, uses his latest book to consider the work of mainly 20th-century English and American writers. Shelf Life hopes to redirect the course of literary study to aesthetic concerns, rather than the recent push toward historical and political focuses in the academy. The book is divided into four sections: the first three deal with poetry, novels and critics. In the fourth section Pritchard moves from writing to music, and discusses piano, jazz and singing. He also provides essays on teaching, in literature and in his own classroom, as well as reflective pieces on two of his own teachers, Samuel Williston Professor of English Theodore Baird and Class of 1880 Professor of Greek and English Reuben A. Brower.