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)
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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