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Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books Paperback – January 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Corrigan, the book reviewer for NPR's Fresh Air and mystery columnist for the Washington Post, makes her own book debut with an often longwinded and tedious account of how books have shaped her life. It's clear from every page that Corrigan is obsessed with reading books. Her compulsion is a bit far reaching, however: she offers books as the reason why she delayed getting married and why she adopted her daughter in China. She intersperses lengthy descriptions and analysis of her favorite books, like Jane Eyre, Lucky Jim and Karen (Marie Killilea's memoir of her daughter) with stories from her own life. At times, the book reads like a feminist diatribe against the injustices female authors (and graduate students) have endured and the stereotypical portrayal of female characters. In its favor, the book allows readers to reexperience some perennial favorites, such as Pride and Prejudice and The Maltese Falcon. Corrigan does speak to the ability of books to provide escape and solace, and for the creation of characters we can relate to, but these few gems are buried deep in text so thick and analytical that the reader is often left gasping for air.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Corrigan's passion for books has led her to become an English professor, a book reviewer for NPR's Fresh Air, and the author of the Washington Post's detective-fiction column. Corrigan now celebrates the joys of reading in a peppery narrative that blends glimpses into her personal life, especially her joy in adopting her and her husband's Chinese daughter, with smart and socially conscious literary criticism. We read, Corrigan opines, in search of authenticity, which can be found in several popular genres. The first is what Corrigan calls "the female extreme-adventure tale," fiction about the inner lives of women whose adventures often require more waiting then globe-trotting, more caring for others than daredevilry. Her examples range from Jane Austen to Anna Quindlen. The second literary gold mine is detective fiction, which she prizes for its insight into questions of class. Corrigan then considers the indelible Catholic narratives she read as a girl. Immensely likable, eclectic, and dynamic, Corrigan is as adept in her analysis of life as she is in her fresh and significant interpretations of books. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375709037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375709036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By BookNerdSeattle on December 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The title of the book, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading, immediately caught my attention. So did the opening line of the introduction: "It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others - even my nearest and dearest - there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book."

But somewhere in the middle of the introduction, I realized that Maureen Corrigan was outlining what was to come in the rest of the book. She took about a page to describe each of the chapters that were to follow. I should have ended my reading there.

What followed were thesis papers merged with autobiographical information to create chapters. Even more disappointing was the fact that Corrigan gave away the endings to many of the books she discussed. Now I have an interesting list of books I'd like to read based on her recommendations, but I already know how each will turn out.

Corrigan warns readers in the introduction that "there's no such thing as travel insurance when it comes to reading." So I guess I have only myself to blame. I should have stopped reading when she gave away the ending to Bronte's Villette.

So why did I keep reading? Because this is a well-written, interesting book. Corrigan's autobiographical details of her "book life" and real life show such passion that it's difficult to put her book down.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Josh K. on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you love books, if you love to think about books, then "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" should be at the top of that pile next to your bed. Corrigan's personal memoir/literary exploration is smart, interesting, opinionated, extremely well-written, frequently stimulating and thought-provoking, and always sharply - yet self-deprecatingly - funny. I found this rare combination of attributes impossible to resist.

Here are two specific examples of why I loved - rather than just "liked" or "appreciated" - "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading." Example No. 1: This book about the author's lifelong love of, and near obsession with, reading begins with the following epigraph, a quote from the contractor fixing the leaking, book-filled basement in Corrigan's home: "Bet you didn't learn anything about foundations when you were in graduate school for English." Example No. 2: describing the difference between herself and the people she knows who have no deeply felt appreciation for books (or the stacks of them that made her graduate school apartment look like the warehouse in the final scene of "Citizen Kane"), Corrigan writes: "They think I lack common sense; I think they lack a part of their souls."

The book moves seamlessly back and forth from the seminal episodes and people in Corrigan's life, to the most meaningful of the thousands (millions?) of books she has read. In both realms, Corrigan meanders effortlessly from the deeply significant (the adoption of her daughter from China) and the high-brow (the novels of Jane Austen and the Brontes), to the ridiculous (grad school in-fighting) and the (seemingly) low-brow (Nancy Drew and Dashiell Hammett).
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Maureen Corrigan, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading (Random House, 2005)

One of the best things about this book-- a no-brainer, really-- is that when morons try to strike up conversations with you in public while you're reading (were these people born in a barn, really?) by asking you what it is you are reading, all you have to do is show them the title. If you're lucky, they'll take the hint. Conversation ended, and you can get back to Maureen Corrigan's interesting dual meditation on books and life. (If the person persists, and asks the next obvious question-- "What's it about?"-- unload on that person with both barrels. They're obviously not going to pick up on subtlety.) Thus, keeping a copy of it close by is pretty much a necessity for any dedicated reader.

As to the book's content, it should be close to the heart of that same dedicated reader; it's half about books and half about life-- specifically, Maureen Corrigan's life. She starts off with the feminine version of the extreme-adventure tale (with women, the extreme-adventure tale isn't about climbing mountains or disappearing in the perfect storm, but about such mundane, but still horrific, tests as abuse, childbirth, the possibility of spinsterhood in the Brontes and Austens of the literary landscape). Everything stems from here; Corrigan's other chapters cover hardboiled detective fiction and Catholic martyr tales, variations on the extreme-adventure theme, all tied to Corrigan's life. Not that she (usually) compares herself to the heroines of these tales, but it's still pretty easy to trace the parallels. It also helps, for the dedicated reader, the Corrigan has pretty much the dream job-- she does reviews and interviews for NPR's premiere arts show, Fresh Air. Yes, there's a good deal to identify with.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By E on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the first line, in which she confesses that she often prefers reading a book to spending time in even the best company, Maureen Corrigan had me hooked with this hilarious, honest, down-to-earth memoir of her life as a reader.

Corrigan is a genius at comically puncturing the pieties we all take for granted. When she and her husband, Rich, adopt their daughter from China, the story is especially moving because she keeps directing us to its more absurd aspects (the couple sit through bad adoption videos and stay in a Chinese hotel that also houses a bordello before finally bringing home their baby daughter). In telling the story of adopting Molly, Corrigan effortlessly evokes many different books from Ruth Reichl's sad adoption saga in Comfort Me with Apples to Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Full of literary recommendations, snappy lines, and clever insights, Leave Me Alone I'm Reading is the best and funniest book I've read in a long time.
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