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My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 2, 2017
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“[Pamela Paul] is reflective, open and at times achingly funny. My Life with Bob is the book that she was put on this Earth to write.” ―The Economist
"Pamela Paul recalls the stories that have given shape to her own narrative in her appealingly roving memoir.... which includes...undersung marvels that boldly take measure of the world―and challenge us to write our own story." ―Vogue
“An engaging and…funny memoir…. a delightfully gushing love letter to books ― books as a medium that can connect us, transport us and transform us.”―Washington Post
"Bob becomes a memory keeper, not so much of the books...as of the personal associations they hold for her, such as the place where she read them or the people she was with at the time. Paul approaches books with tenderness, desire, insecurity, and, always, ambition."―The New Yorker
“A rollicking, intimate expedition through a brilliant booklover’s heart, mind, and life…. ‘My Life With Bob’ is a fun, accessible, well-written bookalogue; the kind of memoir Pamela Paul would have raved about in the venerable New York Times Book Review if she hadn’t written it.”―The Christian Science Monitor
“A heartwarming reminiscence of the books that reflected and shaped her state of mind at every stage of life. By the end, you’ll be hard pressed to not start keeping a ‘Bob’…of your own.”―Harper’s Bazaar
“A bibliophile’s treasure trove of insights.”―O, The Oprah Magazine
“Reading Paul, I began to see how much the books you gravitate towards reveal about your truest loves, your most instinctive urges, as well as more thoughtful, curated appetites…. She displays true bravery by listing all of the books she’s finished reading… [it’s] a baring of one’s soul that merits respect.”―Financial Times
"The ultimate book about reading books.... an intimate look into [Paul's] interior life and the ways in which the stories she has read have changed her own story. Clever and heartfelt, My Life With Bob will appeal to anyone with a deep love for reading."―Buzzfeed
"Downright delightful.... a thoroughly agreeable voice to spend time with: energetic, resolute, self-ironic and always passionate about books.... A plot really does ensue ― and it’s not strained for ― in the form of Paul’s life. And what a life that has been."―San Francisco Chronicle
"A smart, beautifully written memoir about the relationship we have with books and how the books we read frame our lives. This charmer is a must for every beach bag this Summer."―PopSugar
"Compelling, authentic, and every dream of every woman who puts reading before eating, the stories offer a perspective on life.... Perfection in a book, My Life with Bob is a love story for readers and woman who love books too much!"―The Review Broads
"Pamela Paul's My Life with Bob is absolutely essential for those of us to whom
books are more or less everything. This is a book I was born to read!"―Robert Gottlieb
“My Life with Bob is a sweet and heady book that casts a serious charm. Our lively and fetching heroine’s journey becomes more thrilling by the page as Pamela Paul perfectly captures the joys of a lifetime devoted to books, as well as the attendant pressure, doubt, and insecurity. Reading this memoir is pure pleasure ― funny, brainy, far-reaching― but more than anything, it feels like a call to arms to recommit to our best self: the book person.”―Maria Semple
“In this hilarious, wise, and elegiac account of a life led half in the world and half in books, Pamela Paul writes with courage and exuberance about the bumpy road to maturity. Her voice―tender, moral, madcap, nostalgic, generous―will captivate all but the most stony reader. My Life with Bob is full of hope, full of love, a joyful and poignant reflection on the well-written sentence and the well-lived life.”―Andrew Solomon
"Any book that helps me remember reading the Betsy-Tacy-Tib series as well as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is a book I like. Pamela Paul's My Life With Bob is an absorbing, delightful amalgam ― it's a recommended reading list, a personal reflection, and a paean to reading. I’m sorry I never wrote down all the books I read (or even practically any), but I’m so glad Pamela Paul did."―Meg Wolitzer
“Paul is inspired to question why we read, how we read, what we read, and how reading helps us create our own narratives. Readers will be drawn to this witty and authentic tribute to the extraordinary power of books.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A witty, heartfelt, deeply optimistic narrative...Titles about reading and books abound, but this memoir stands in a class by itself. Bibliophiles will treasure, but the addictive storytelling and high-quality writing will vastly increase its audience."―Library Journal (starred review)
"Intelligent, unique, and wise, Paul's book not only remembers a life lived among and influenced by books. It also reveals how the most interesting stories existless as words printed on pages and more as 'stories that lie between book and reader.' A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books."―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and oversees books coverage at The New York Times. She is also the host of the weekly podcast, Inside The New York Times Book Review. Her latest book is "My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues." She is also the author of four other books By the Book; Parenting, Inc.; Pornified; and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Prior to joining the Times, she was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist; her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, and Vogue.
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Each chapter's title covers a different book, from classics like The Grapes of Wrath and Anna Karenina to The Hunger Games (which she read after giving birth) to an assortment of titles, some of which I've heard of, some of which I haven't. And in case you're thinking, I don't know anything about those books, the beauty of this book is that you don't have to. She's not analyzing every plot Cliffs Notes style, but personal style. She weaves both the plot of her beloved books and how she came to read them with how they affected her at a given moment in her life, much of it while traveling. In fact, the plot of her own life somewhat sneaks up on you. You think you're at a happy high point only to realize that things are about to go downhill. Paul writes of reading as a sister, daughter, mother, girlfriend, wife, friend, traveler (reading Swimming to Cambodia while in Cambodia) and professional book reviewer, and how each of these roles and relationships changes her relationship with books.
This was definitely a book I raced through, but also wanted to slow down and savor. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay it, and likely one I would imagine anyone reading it will walk away from, is that Paul made me want to read books I've never thought about reading before, like The Trial. She's not trying to foist her favorite books onto readers (this is not a "this is what you should read" book, but rather a "this is how these books touched my life" book), but nevertheless, these books are vivid characters here. By the end, I wished I'd had a book of books for all those hazily remembered titles I recall clinging to, learning from, and being fascinated by but whose memories now consist only of the color of the book cover and the genre. I actually went looking for Kafka, Tama Janaowitz and Spalding Gray in a bookstore immediately upon finishing My Life with Bob. Alas, they didn't have them, but they are next on my reading list.
Book lovers, this is better than your favorite book, better than whatever you consider your Bible, even better than your navigation system. Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, takes you on a trip down her very own personal journey from her life in college to present as she catalogs the books she has read and how by simply documenting them in her Book of Books, a journal where she hand writes the title of a book, so that she can look back and see the chronicle of her life, simply by seeing what she has read. She knows where she was when she read which book, if she was traveling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, breaking up with a boyfriend, giving birth to a baby (and yes, she did stay in the hospital a day longer after giving birth to her third baby, not because she needed the rest but because she wanted to finish THE HUNGER GAMES without being interrupted). Bob has no notes. Just the name of the book is logged. The journal, while detailed in terms of history, it is simple in form. It is more than enough. Clearly. The inner workings of Bob provided the material for MY LIFE WITH BOB.
Not only did I learn so much from Paul’s book choices and yes, I had to download book after book that I haven’t read, while in the middle of reading, but I was elated when I found that we have read many of the same books and garnered the similar thoughts. Again, soul sister. There are so many bookish things that I felt a kindred spirit – no to book clubs, our love of reading about other people’s problems, answering the evolving question “why do you read,” and one of the best answers I’ve read: “By putting you in the place of a character unlike yourself in a situation unlike your own a good book forges a connection with the other. You get to know, in some way, someone you never would have otherwise known, to live some other life you yourself will never live.” And, Spalding Gray. Paul’s first literary crush. I can vividly remember being entranced as Gray performed his monologue in Chicago, which I attended with my mom. I get her crush and awe of his talent.
MY LIFE WITH BOB not only reaffirmed my love of reading, but showed me how much more we can get out of books. Magnificent authors, from Franz Kafka to Virginia Woolf, who Paul references, have known this for ages and if you allow them, they will continue to take you places that you can’t even imagine. Yet.
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