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Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books Paperback – May 30, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (May 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807070831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807070833
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From the author of the acclaimed novels Disturbances in the Field and The Fatigue Artist, this wonderfully written and enchanting meditation explores what the act of reading means--an act that is in danger of being lost today. Lynne Sharon Schwartz of course isn't "ruined" by reading anymore than Tarzan was by apes; it's her life. She was a child prodigy who, beginning at age 3, was summoned to read for guests and has been immersed in the written word ever since, developing into a writer and novelist. In this essay she defends the magic of reading and its place in the development of the mind and ideas. "There is good reason for the addictive cravings of readers. The only thing new under the sun is the sound of another voice," she writes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Schwartz (Disturbances in the Field) learned to read at the age of three, encouraged by parents whom she describes as "people of the book." As a seven-year-old, she was reading every book in her Brooklyn home and remembers being captivated by classics from the Little Leather Library such as "The Little Mermaid," from Andersen's fairy tales; Edward Everett Hale's The Man Without a Country; and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In this thought-provoking essay, Schwartz links her sense of self to what she has read over a lifetime. Although she acknowledges that literature has not transformed her life or taught her how to live, reading, to Schwartz, is a pure activity that has made her receptive to the ideas of authors who have enlarged her vision of the world. So intimate is the connection between Schwartz and books that have made an impact upon her emotionally that she cannot bear to see the film version, for example, of A Little Princess, because she does not want to see the author's words transformed visually. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Lynne Sharon Schwartz (b. 1939) is a celebrated author of novels, poems, short fiction, translations from Italian, and criticism. Her short fiction has appeared in the Best American Short Stories annual anthology series several times. Schwartz lives in New York City, and is currently a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Customer Reviews

It's a good book, short, poignant with echoes and parallels apparent to any readers life.
R. M. Williams
As she thinks about her own life, she realizes that she doesn't remember much of what she's read and wonders if this means that she has not gained by it.
Amazon Customer
My experience reading this book many years ago was that I hated it so much I through it in the trash.
Schoolboy Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Williams on September 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Like the author i can remember the books i read as a child (with great fondness), i have those books even today, and like her they are my old and familiar friends. But unlike her most of those books have been nonfiction, for i thought/think those were the way to see the real world. After reading this book i realize that the gap i thought existed between nonfiction and fiction isn't really important. For she sees books, like i imagine most readers do, as a funny kind of mirror which reflects the reader's inner world at the same time as displaying the author's world. I think the gap is between readers and nonreaders, who like those described this book as visual or picture people, identify with films rather than books. The book is a memoir which asks the big question on our reading minds-- does it matter if i can't remember what is in the books? She answers it- "For in the end, even if all my books where to vanish, I would still have them somewhere, if I had read them attentively enough. Maybe the words on the page are not even the true book, in the end only a gateway to the book which recreates in the mind and lasts as long as we do." The book is a real treat for anyone who like her, is often asked, "haven't you wasted your life, by reading rather than experiencing life?" She answers this with the thought that her life is so intertwined with the books she has read and thereby experienced, and so made a part of her. That it doesn't matter, which is books and which is real life for they together make her, her. It's a good book, short, poignant with echoes and parallels apparent to any readers life. Go for it, spend a pleasant hour with this book.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is part personal memoir, as the author tells about her own
childhood and the books that influenced her, and part essay on
why we read and how what we reads shapes our lives.
Schwartz begins with the key question: Why do we read? One
Buddhist scholar she quotes says that reading is a handicap. "It
is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking
of others interfere with your own free thinking." As she thinks
about her own life, she realizes that she doesn't remember much
of what she's read and wonders if this means that she has not
gained by it.
She even commits heresy by saying that she has managed "not to
finish certain books," and is proud of it. Still, she is unable
to throw away any of those unread books; they remain on her
shelves, even those she feels have no merit. She may hide them on
a high shelf, but they remain part of her life.
She finally concludes that "unlike love, reading is a pure
activity. It will gain us nothing but enchantment of the heart."
But for those of us who are "book addicts, perhaps that is
enough.
This is a rather short book (119 pages), but I think book lovers
will enjoy it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cardinal47 on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Lynne Schwartz' "Ruined by Reading" has languished on my bookshelf for quite some time while I continued to read the latest bestsellers. I regret that I did not read this delightful essay on the joys of reading earlier. Filled with anecdotes about her childhood and her initial exposure to books, this paen to reading reminds us of how we felt as children when we first entered the kingdom of books and were whisked away from the "here and now" to enchanted lands. As I read her book, I was taken back to the two-room schoolhouse as a teacher exposed us to Long John Siver and "Treasure Island". I also recalled reading Leon Uris' "Exodus" as a teenager and the profound impact it had in shaping my view of the world and the evil that humans are capable of. No doubt you too will be reminded of similar experiences if you choose to read this delightful little gem for book lovers.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
reading is a common subject matter, countless books have been written on the subject. But here, the author takes a lighthearted but very personal look at the impact of books, and reading, on her life. She probes the question that is seldom addressed - just what impact does reading actually have? Is reading living, or just the written record of living? If we read and then forget, how has what we're read impacted us? Does reading make us a better person? Or even a different person? While everyone will have their own answers to these questions, I enjoyed the author's unstructured reminiscences and ruminations, appreciative that she would share this portion of herself with other booklovers who also ponder these abstracts. One thinks of Louis L'amour's rambling biography, for while these two authors are world's apart in personality & perspective, both are confirmed, card-carrying bookaholics, just sharing their love of and commitment to the written word.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
'Ruined by Reading' captures -- in short, flowing and evocative prose -- memories of Ms. Schwarz's lifelong love affair with the written word. She shares the books and stories that became her friends at various stages of life, and does so in a most captivating and unpretentious way. On almost every page the reader will find themselves nodding alone with some cogent or pithy comment about the joys and pitfalls of a literary addiction, even if not familiar with the particular writing used as the example.

Ms. Schwartz's prose is direct, clean and spare. Although highly personal, she manages to illuminate a universal theme. I came away feeling that I had gained some real insight into the author's character, based upon her selection and reaction to various books.
Her interweaving of family life and the books she cherishes is often quite frank about her feelings regarding her parents or authors, but the honesty exhibited is never gratuituous.

A small book, it can be read at a single sitting, but I preferred to linger and savor the experience over several evenings. I now look forward anxiously to reading her novels, and will list this book as a "must read" for my writer and reader friends
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