Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

While My Reading Life by Pat Conroy is obviously about books and reading, it is very much a book about people who introduced Conroy to the joy of reading and books that have shaped his life. His mother, an English teacher, a high school librarian, a bookseller, and publisher's representative populate the story along with influential books, including Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the Rye, Deliverance, War and Peace, A Christmas Carol, and Look Homeward, Angel.

It won't surprise the readers of Conroy's novels that he portrays his benefactors warts and all. Each chapter focuses on either one of these people or an influential author. Being unsparing does not mean being ungrateful. The mentors all seem better people for overcoming obstacles, such as prejudice or cowardice, and readers sense Conroy's love for all of them.

My Reading Life is also filled with great statements about writing and reading and life. I could have chosen many to post on social media.

  • "Books contained powerful amulets that could lead to paths of certain wisdom." 
  • "I grew ups word-haunted boy. I felt words inside me and store them wondrous as pearls." 
  • "The veneration of books carries its own rewards." 
  • "On that first day, not one kid said hello to me. By chance, I stumbled onto the library and I felt the deep pull of a homecoming as I walked into its silences." 
  • "Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure." 
  • "In every great story, I encounter a head-on collision with self and imagination." 

By the end, readers sense Conroy's philosophy of literature. I enjoyed listening to the author read the book himself. It was eight hours well spent.

Conroy, Pat. My Reading Life. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010. 337p. ISBN 9780385533577.

7 compact discs. Books on Tape, 2010. ISBN 9780307749222.

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