Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

My Reading LifeStarting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy's portal to the world, both to the furthest 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 reading for Conroy 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.

I have been waiting for this book my whole life and I knew I found what I was looking for after reading the first chapter.I know that you're not supposed to be forming opinions on books until you actually read the last page, but in reality it's not always so. In reality you sometimes stumble upon books that capture your attention and your heart with the first sentence and you don't have to worry whether the rest of it will hold. And that's what happened to me and My Reading Life.

This book is about Pat Conroy's life, but because reading is life (which becomes quite obvious in the first chapter) for Mr. Conroy, the book is inevitably about reading. However, as simple as it sounds, My Reading Life is filled with difficult moments from the author's life and the way he writes about them will bring a tear or two to your eyes. Chapter after chapter is a testimony of Conroy's love for either a specific person or a book. His mother is probably the one I admired the most. She is the one who instilled the love of reading in Pat and his siblings and maybe even made a writer out of him. (She did what I am unfortunately failing to accomplish with my daughter she will not pick up a book unless absolutely forced to). Oh, and the love for books is just overwhelming. If ever you need encouragement to read Gone with the Wind, War and Peace or anything by Thomas Wolfe, just reach for Conroy's memoir and read what he has to say. There's no way you'll come away not wanting to at least give them a try. You'll probably even want to read those books again if you previously hadn't liked them.

My Reading Life is not a long book (I haven't read any others by Mr. Conroy, but I know they are rather big) but it is just right in size and scope. It encompasses the author's struggles with life itself, a difficult and hurtful relationship with his father, but also the very many good things that happened to him on his 'reading and writing' journey. The second best thing (to reading about another's love of books, of course) is how funny the book turned out to be. There were places where I actually laughed out loud at the comedy of a particular situation. Conroy's stay in Paris was particularly funny. This book really is a gem and if ever you are stuck in a reading rut, just read this memoir. You don't even have to read it from beginning to end, pick any part, any chapter or any page and I guarantee you will feel the love of reading sparking right back.

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I received My Reading Life by Pat Conroy from the publisher via Shelf Awareness.