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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385533578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385533577
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The strengths and weakness of Conroy's novels--both his beguiling narrative voice and his often overly emotional language--are present in this slim paean to the books and book people that have shaped his life. Conroy attributes his love of literature to his mother, who nurtured his passion for reading and at the same time educated herself by studying his school books. "I tremble with gratitude as I honor her name," he writes. Conroy's favorite novel was Gone with the Wind, which his mother read to him when he was five years old, and it made a novelist of him, he asserts. Conroy pays tribute to the men who were substitute father figures and mentors, among them a legendary book rep who chastised him for his "overcaffeinated prose." Breakneck contrasts exist throughout: on the one hand, Conroy sketches concisely the venom of Southern white bigotry; on the other hand, he allows humor to bubble up through dialogue, and riffs the English language. While some readers will not progress beyond the fustian prose, 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. (Nov. 2) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Conroy has given us many hours of reading pleasure with such popular novels as The Great Santini (1976) and The Prince of Tides (1986), and now it’s time for him to tell us what books have given him particular reading pleasure over the years of his reading life. And what a delightful little book this turns out to be, with a punch far sturdier than its compact size might suggest. It won’t come as a surprise that Conroy identifies himself as having been a “word-haunted boy.” And he goes on in that chapter (the book is divided into thematic chapters), which is about his school librarian, to insist that “from my earliest memories, I felt impelled to form a unique relationship with the English language.” As readers can tell from those words, Conroy’s southern upbringing informs the eloquent flow of his prose. His school librarian’s personality—“Her disposition was troll-like and her demeanor combative”—is counterposed by his mother’s both challenging and cultivating nature: “The world of books was set for me by the intellectual hunger of my mother.” Read, especially, the chapter on Gone with the Wind, and try to resist rereading it! HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The many author appearances the publisher has planned for the charming Conroy will spark reader interest. --Brad Hooper

More About the Author

Pat Conroy is the author of eight previous books: The Boo, The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina. Photo copyright: David G. Spielman

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Customer Reviews

It is a very interesting book.
Evelyn
Conroy says the most beautiful and powerful words in the English language are, "Tell me a story."
Jayne P. Bowers
I read this book in one sitting.
Loves to read in Arizona

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

225 of 228 people found the following review helpful By G. J. Mabe on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So I finished "My Reading Life," Pat Conroy's ode to the books (and the book people) that have shaped him. Completed the slim volume in one last gasp, just before 1 a.m., having passed the point of no return, the moment when a book screams "Finish me!" and you obey.

Like my usual time spent with Conroy from Carolina, I left it feeling enraptured, engaged, delighted, and yes, a bit deflated. I'm not sure why.

It made me want to hole up and hibernate for the winter, primed with a plethora of books, to tackle the tomes he loves. Thomas Wolfe and Tolstoy. Balzac. James Dickey. He even suggests another go around with "Gone with the Wind."

I, too, know what it's like to feel the pulse begin to pound at the sight of a used bookstore. I, too, know what it's like when a book grabs you, stabs you, haunts your dreams, rearranges your life. I loved hearing Conroy's version in his curious way.

But the best of the rest was his chapter about Gene Norris, a beloved English teacher who gave a trembling, terrified adolescent a gift he could never quite repay. Norris taught him, yes. He gave him books, indeed. But he drove him to the Wolfe boardinghouse in Asheville. He took Pat to meet a poet. He saw a spark and ignited an inferno.

In a way, "My Reading Life" is almost elegiac. He laments being born in the century in which novels lost their stories, music lost its melody, art lots its form. He says he read something claiming that paper-printed books will be obsolete in two years.

Maybe, maybe not. But I get his point. We no longer live in a literary age. Sound bites have made us spastic. Can't sit still. No time for stories. No time for depth.

We're a worse nation for it. Cheers to Pat Conroy for championing another, better way.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By John Warley on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pat Conroy has written a book that may be his best yet. His talent as a story-teller has been well known to millions, and in this jewel of a book he polishes his art until it becomes mirror-like, where every reader is likely to see reflected back something in his or her experience that will make them laugh or cry out loud. Pat describes, as only he can, the highs and lows, loves and foibles of a real human being who has not only lived life to the fullest, but has thought deeply about that life. Because he is so well read, he can bring context to the role of literature. Each vignette makes its own compelling case for the essential need to read, as widely and deeply as we can. Beginning with "The Lily," his mother's early influence, he takes us on journey that careens through Thomas Wolfe, James Dickey, Leo Tolstoy, and Margaret Mitchell. Alice Walker will not like this book, for reasons described with Pat's hilarious and harpoon-like wit. But unless you happen to be Alice Walker, you'll love it.
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109 of 122 people found the following review helpful By D. Moring on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I left work today and went directly to Borders to buy this book. I couldn't wait to read it and I wasn't disappointed. Its wonderful. A touching memoir of the role that great books have played in the author's life. I will stand on the coffee tables of Philip Roth or John Irving or Tom Wolfe in my muddy work boots and tell them all the same thing: Pat Conroy is the greatest living American author.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the South, women like to declare --- about the neighbor's new baby, their favorite reality show star, or a child they see in the supermarket checkout line --- "Oh, I could just eat him with a spoon!" This exuberantly cannibalistic sentiment expresses my feeling for the writing of Pat Conroy. I could just eat it with a spoon, and much as he himself once wanted not merely to study and worship Thomas Wolfe, but to be him, young writers could do worse than to ingest and become Pat Conroy. Through his reading choices over a lifetime of enjoying and producing literature, this new book reveals the private Conroy, the one who grew up in a now famously public dysfunctional family, the one who learned to be a man not from his brutal military father but from his refined, protective, shell-shocked mother.

When he picks up a book, Conroy says, "I want everything and nothing less."

The thing I like best about MY READING LIFE is Conroy's gutsy willingness to champion books and writers who have been royally panned by the critics over the years. First and foremost, for us Southern readers, is Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND. "According to Margaret Mitchell, the Civil War destroyed a civilization of unsurpassable amenity, chivalry, and grace....If you could not defeat the Yankees on the battlefield, then by God, one of your women could rise from the ashes of humiliation to write more powerfully than the enemy and all the historians and novelists who sang the praises of the Union." Conroy's mother took him to the sites sacred to this huge and hugely successful novel, in Atlanta and elsewhere, and between them they parsed the universe according to Mitchell's view of a proud but defeated land and a determined, if not precisely moral, heroine.
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101 of 122 people found the following review helpful By avdrdr on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that I have not read any of Mr. Conroy's previous books. I was drawn to this book by its title as I enjoy books that describe how various authors and their writings have impacted the life of an individual. Although there is some of that here, this book is primarily a series of stand-alone autobiographical sketches that introduce the reader to several defining moments in Mr. Conroy's life as well as to some rather interesting characters who had a profound impact on the author's life. Chief among them is Mr. Gene Norris, an English teacher who played a significant role in Mr. Conroy's life as a writer. Mr. Conroy's tribute to this gentleman is very touching and something I wish every teacher could read. Finally, at least five of the chapters in this book were previously published elsewhere. I mention this because it is consistent with my sense that this book is less about Mr. Conroy's reading life per se and more a cobbled together selection of brief sketches that highlight some major themes in his life, themes that speak more to his writing life than to his reading life. As such, it was not what I was looking for but I'm quite certain that Mr. Conroy's many fans will find it an interesting and informative read nonetheless.
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