Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Reading LIfe by Pat Conroy: Review & Giveaway

You don't have to be familiar with Pat Conroy's books to enjoy  My Reading Life I was drawn to the book by it's title and description.

My Reading Life
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

The blurb:
Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader.  Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a lifelong companion, reading has been Conroy's portal to the world, both to the farthest corners f the globe and to the deepest chambers of the human soul.  His interests range widely, from Milton to Tolkien, Philip Roth to Thucydides, encompassing poetry, history, philosophy, and any mesmerizing tale of his native South.  He has for years kept notebooks in which he records words and expressions, over time creating a vast reservoir of playful turns of phrase, dazzling flashes of description, and snippets of delightful sound, all just for his love of language.  But for Conroy reading is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing.  It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading may have saved his life -- and if not his life, then surely his sanity.

In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of reading through an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes: sharing the pleasures of the local library's vast cache with his mother when he was a boy, recounting his decades-long relationship with the English teacher who pointed him onto the path of letters, and describing a profoundly influential time he spent in Paris, as well as reflecting on the other pivotal people, places, and experiences.  His story is a moving and personal one, girded by wisdom and an undeniable honesty.  Anyone who not only enjoys the pleasures of reading but also believes in the power of books to shape a life will find here the greatest defense of that credo.

As I read My Reading Life, I started out flagging the passages that spoke to me.  My copy had so many flags that my seatmate on the train asked about the many colored flags sticking out of the small book.  As I explained that I marked the parts that I particularly enjoyed and wanted to revisit, he looked amused and curious.  Did all my books look like this? No, just the special ones.

 In the first 13 chapters,  Conroy writes about the people and books that played pivotal roles in his life.

He begins with his mother, how she encouraged his curiosity and love for books. "Books permitted me to embark on dangerous voyages to a world of painted faces of mandrills and leopards scanning the veldt from the high branches of the baobab tree.  There was nothing my mother could not bring me from a library...Whenever she opened a new book, she could escape the exhausting life of a mother of seven and enter into cloistered realms forbidden to a woman born among the mean fields of Georgia."
Conroy goes on to describe how Gone With the Wind was changed his mother, the life she led, and the South that Conroy had grown up in.  

In the chapter The Teacher, Conroy shares how his English teacher Gene Norris served as a generous mentor, father figure and friend.   In writing about the friendship that began in high school and grew over 40 years, Conroy gently shows us on how to treat other people and to be true to ourselves.  Conroy shares how Norris and the censorship of Catcher in the Rye taught him that "Literature teaches us to be brave. It demands it of us."  This chapter had me crying in the subway - it's a nod to dedicated and effective teachers everywhere.

In My Reading Life, as I read about the books and people that played pivotal roles in Pat Conroy's life and I thought back to the people that played similar roles in my own life.   It's a book to share - and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading.

ISBN-10: 0385533578 - Hardcover $25
Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010), 325 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Pat Conroy is the bestselling author of nine previous books: South of Broad, The Lords of Discipline: A Novel, The Water Is Wide: A Memoir, The Great Santini: A Novel, Beach Music: A Novel, The Prince of Tides: A Novel, My Losing Season: A Memoir, The Boo, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life.  Several of his books have been made into successful films. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

To enter,  please share a person that was important to your love of reading and the book that they'd shared with you. 

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3. One entry per household.

The contest is limited to US only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Jan. 20, 2010.


  1. My mom was instrumental in my love of reading. Every night she read me a short story included in a book entitled, 365 Bedtime Stories. I was transported all over the world in different time periods every night.

    Happy New Year!


  2. I pretty much found books on my own. There was no one in particular who encouraged my love of reading. I pursued reading on my own and enjoy reading very much to this day. It is my most favorite thing to do. Please enter me in contest.

  3. My grandmother was a voracious reader and I always saw her enjoying a good book when I visited in the summer. She shared with me some of her favorites and, when she died, I was given her book collection. Since The Thorn Birds was one of her favorites, it has always held a special place in my heart. Reading it makes me feel closer to her.

  4. I have a friend named Wendy who introduced me to Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, and after years of barely any interest in reading, this book got me reading again. I reading it about 4 years ago, and have read more every year, up to this past year where I read 85 books.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com