My Reading Life
By Pat Conroy
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385533577, 352pp.)
Publication Date: November 2, 2010
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Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life.
Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader. Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy’s portal to the world, both to the farthest corners of the globe and to the deepest chambers of the human soul. His interests range widely, from Milton to Tolkien, Philip Roth to Thucydides, encompassing poetry, history, philosophy, and any mesmerizing tale of his native South. He has for years kept notebooks in which he records words and expressions, over time creating a vast reservoir of playful turns of phrase, dazzling flashes of description, and snippets of delightful sound, all just for his love of language. But for Conroy reading is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity.
In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of reading through an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes: sharing the pleasures of the local library’s vast cache with his mother when he was a boy, recounting his decades-long relationship with the English teacher who pointed him onto the path of letters, and describing a profoundly influential period he spent in Paris, as well as reflecting on other pivotal people, places, and experiences. His story is a moving and personal one, girded by wisdom and an undeniable honesty. Anyone who not only enjoys the pleasures of reading but also believes in the power of books to shape a life will find here the greatest defense of that credo.
PAT CONROY is the bestselling author of nine previous books: The Boo, The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, The Pat Conroy Cookbook, and South of Broad. Several of his books have been made into successful films. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina.
- Conroy believes that no other single novel shaped his view of the South more than his early reading of Gone with the Wind. What does he like about that book, and what echoes of it do you see in his work? Can you think of a fictional character that might have influence your behavior or your world view as Scarlet O’Hara shaped Conroy’s mother’s view of herself and the world around her?
"Timely as well as timeless ... Elegant, evocative, and elegaic."
"The 15 essays in My Reading Life should delight curious readers ... [Conroy] is fun to read and debate."
"Pat Conroy doesn't just love books, he devours them. He doesn't just visit libraries and bookstores, he inhabits them. He doesn't enjoy language, he revels in it ... [My Reading Life] is a rich, unabashedly self-critical and moving tribute to a writer's passion ... Like Stephen King did in his remarkable On Writing, Conroy reminds us of his considerable talents for telling a story and arranging words."
"In this marvelous blueprint for how to engage with all things literary, the goal is not only to get wet, but to fall deeply and madly in over our heads. With its heady mix of memoir, advice and out-and-out lust for the written word, My Reading Life asks how we could possibly settle for anything less."
"[Conroy's] fans will savor these 15 essays on the books and people that helped shape his long writing career ... They lend themselves to being taken up separately, at leisure, and savored like a rich dessert."
—The Charlotte Observer
"My Reading Life extols the glories of books [and] offers heartfelt thanks to those who encouraged a passion that led [Conroy] to writing."
—The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
"In My Reading Life, we not only learn about many of Conroy's pivotal reading experiences, we see how he came together as a writer, and are entertained by a host of stories about unlikely heroes."
"Conroy's legion of fans will doubtlessly bond with the author as he earnestly explores the role of books in providing him with inspiration and solace."
"What a delightful little book ... with a punch far sturdier than its compact size might suggest ... Try to resist rereading it!"
PRAISE FOR PAT CONROY:
"Pat Conroy's writing contains a virtue now rare in most contemporary fiction: passion."
"Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel."