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The Man Within My Head

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  315 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
We all carry people inside our heads—actors, leaders, writers, people out of history or fiction, met or unmet, who sometimes seem closer to us than people we know.
In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer sets out to unravel the mysterious closeness he has always felt with the English writer Graham Greene; he examines Greene’s obsessions, his elusiveness, his penchant for m
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jan 11, 2012 Janet rated it it was amazing
Just bought this book through Indiebound, just got the phone call, it's in!!!! WOO HOO!!! STAY TUNED
I had been looking forward to reading this since I met Iyer several years ago at the LA Festival of Books. He was touring with the Dalai Lama book, but what we spoke about was Graham Greene, and the book he wanted to write. A great conversation, far ranging--we talked about Maugham and Greene and Chandler and Anthony Burgess, Long Day Wanes... And every year since then, we've met and
Apr 04, 2013 Janis rated it it was amazing
The Man Within My Head is an examination of Graham Greene’s role in the author’s life (a man he’s never met but whose novels remarkably intersect with Iyer’s experiences and inner life). It’s about Greene’s life, Iyer’s life, and the life of the author’s father, about the themes of Greene’s work (foreignness, displacement, innocence, detachment) and much more. It’s a thoughtful and fascinating book, one that left me, frankly, gasping.
Dec 30, 2014 Kartik rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I usually try to see the positives in a book, and I usually end up buying or picking out that books I like. This time however, will be an exception. This is the first book I've bought in the last 2 years that I feel was a waste of my money. Watching Iyer's TED talk on identity and home a few months earlier had made me interested in what he had to say, since he too is of Indian descent, loved to travel, and introspected during his travels.

To start off, the blurb on the back of the book stated it
Jul 26, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, hence the four stars. It is about Graham Greene for one; it is about the effect books have on our perception of the world as well and those twi would have been enough. However there is more. It is brilliantly well-written, flowing sentences, elegantly structured chapters and a narrative that encompasses English public school life, California's spiritual heartland, Bolivia and if course Greeneland. It is so far ranging it leaves you a bit breathless, like the oxygenles ...more
Nov 20, 2016 Vaidya rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Have no clue why I liked this book. But I did.
A fair bit did not make any sense, but it was a beautiful fair bit, like the rest of the book.
Easily one of the best books by Iyer. (Am a bit surprised he still holds an Indian passport though.)
I want to read more Greene though. I stopped after The End of the Affair and Brighton Rock.
Jan 28, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, but that's because Graham Greene is the man within my head, too. If you're not already a Greene aficionado, I'm not sure how much you'll get out of this, but if you are, you'll love it (even if some of Iyer's musings are a little cryptic). It has lots of fun aha! moments ("Oh, that's why I love Graham Greene..."), and is also a nice advertisement for how literature can help you learn more about yourself.
Nov 26, 2013 Shane rated it liked it
Graham Greene is one of my favourite authors, so I am bound to be biased by anything written about him. And I found this book to be startling in Pico Iyer's insights into Greene and into that in-between country of guilt, doubt, compassion, faithlessness, inscrutability and betrayal we have come to call "Greeneland."

Greene's many recurring themes are called out: (1)the visiting foreigner vs. the resident foreigner in an offbeat country, both out of touch with the mother country(2) The relationshi
Allene Symons
May 26, 2012 Allene Symons rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beyond-memoir
As someone who follows new modes of writing memoir and mixed genres, and as a fan of Pico Iyer who has read all his books, I was captivated by his new braided biography-memoir about Graham Greene and his influence on Iyer's life. This indirect autobiography through the mirror of another writer's life and work provides insights that, I think, are more nuanced than if stated directly. A note of inevitability carries the pairing, for the two writers lived near each other though they were born at l ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing
This book as surprisingly effective. It manages to walk a fine line between personal memoir and incisive analysis on the works of Graham Greene. Neither aspect feels slighted by the other, and the reader can't help but appreciate that the insight into Greene's work comes both lovingly and unsparingly. Iyer's approach to Greene is simultaneously harsh and adoring, unflinching and forgiving, and Iyer seems endlessly willing to dote upon the inherent nuances rather than conclude his inspection and ...more
Apr 27, 2012 Laura rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barksdale Penick
Jan 18, 2012 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it
If you have read most of Graham Green, you will enjoy this book for the observations about those books that are mixed in to this reminiscence of a man who reads them over and over again. I found the author's observations about his own life less interesting than those about Graham Greene. Sort of a My Life With Julia kind of a tale, where we have a structure that tells us much about one famous person with a lesser figure, the author, also telling about himself. It actually gives a good biography ...more
Ananta Pathak
Mar 12, 2015 Ananta Pathak rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this even amidst clutter of classroom noises and boring lectures of stern professor . in our life , even knowingly or unknowingly , we tend to mould our deeds according to the writings of our literary heroes. they are not just a writer for us, they are friend for us with whom we share our life. for pico iyer , that writer is Graham Greene . he is the man who has shaped his life like no one else. the book is a guide to the minds of both Greene and iyer , more so because of incre ...more
Feb 01, 2012 Kevin rated it liked it
Iyer is has some genuinely interesting insights into Greene and his work, but for some reason his style becomes painfully awkward when he writes about himself. He often reverts to the worst sort of memoir-prose that is characterized by the overwritten banal observation of the why-use-one-adjective-when-two-will-do school. He somewhat redeems himself with the last twenty pages or so.
Gopal MS
Aug 25, 2015 Gopal MS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost an autobiography.
Also Graham Greene's biography.
and the author's father's biography.
This is a travel book like no other.
May 01, 2012 Derek rated it liked it
Shelves: creativity, travel
The front half is highly insightful and engaging. the book continues, Iyer tends to focus on his himself much more than Greene and the prose becomes relatively flat and boring.
Literary Review The
Feb 06, 2013 Literary Review The rated it it was amazing
By Franklin Freeman

For The Literary Review
Spring 2012 "Encyclopedia Britannica"

I have traveled to Greeneland—the land so-called to describe the world Graham
Greene wrote of—at least thirteen times, but lately I have been more interested in
reading travel books about this place than in going there. Perhaps this is because I
read a lot of his books when I was younger and have tended to agree with Martin
Amis that Greene is a writer you think profound when young but, when older,
you’re not so sure
Uwe Hook
Oct 03, 2015 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
Pico Iyer's latest book is not exactly a memoir, not quite a literary biography--or an homage--to Graham Greene, and certainly not a book of travels. But it is, of course, something of all of those things, a hybrid creature that carries the reader along, thanks to Iyer's usual facile way with words. It is Iyer's most enjoyable book I've read, and not surprisingly, it's his most personal.

He opens the book during a visit to La Paz, Bolivia, and I can picture being back there myself, along the main
Nov 11, 2016 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From Mum
Christian Blum
Sep 10, 2012 Christian Blum rated it liked it

I heard about this book through the New York Time Book Review. An admirer of Pico Iyer, I expected it to be a work of fiction. Instead, it was a great biographical study of the British writer Graham Greene. I found his paternal treatment of Graham extraordinary. I also thoroughly enjoyed an aspect that most readers encounter but rarely vocalize--how writers we enjoy often exist as voices in our head. They have a rare ability to take experiences before we ever encounter them and contextualize th
Jun 21, 2015 Amit rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
[Excerpts from my review/blogpost about the book]

In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer attempts something very difficult, and almost manages it! That too, with amazing style and substance. On one hand it’s just a book about Graham Greene, the author (as his chosen father). But like all good non-fiction, it is about a lot more than that. What you get, for the price of one, is a potpourri of thoughts on sons, fathers, inheritances (not the mundane kinds), spirituality, belief (or the lack of it) in
Sylvia Valevicius
Nov 26, 2013 Sylvia Valevicius rated it really liked it
Lovely piece of writing by an excellent, intelligent, highly-revered non-fiction writer.

I gave it 4 stars only from the personal perspective of my own ignorance of the works of novelist Graham Greene, from which Iyer gains much, as though Greene were his 'literary' father. Iyer travels extensively, and especially to remote areas where Greene worked on, and set his novels, such as Cuba, Italy, Mexico, and Vietnam; Iyer walks in his steps almost as a follower might make a pilgrimage to areas where
Thomas Cooney
Oct 08, 2015 Thomas Cooney rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: By the time this book was published I had become friends with Iyer and had shared with him many of my notions of Graham Greene and how he has existed in my own head and heart for so long. At one point Iyer was considering editing a collection of essays by writers discussing Greene. It seems that by the turn into the 21st Century most writers (note not critics but those who actually WRITE) have pointed to Greene as the greatest of the 20th Century. To quote another brilliant writ ...more
Rohan Arthur
Jan 02, 2013 Rohan Arthur rated it liked it
A tolerably self-indulgent ramble exploring Iyer's tangled relationship with Greene. Pico Iyer is best when exploring cultural boundaries, and his need to find an escape from his admitted prisons of privilege is the constant lens through which we see these boundaries explored. When he turns his attention more self-consciously within, exploring what makes him the writer he is, his ghosts, his fathers - inherited and adopted, his obsessions and his fears, the result is trifle messy, but filled wit ...more
Mar 09, 2016 Poonam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I had looked at this book in library and ignored it. However, owing to some trusted reviews, I picked this book up on my next visit.

It took me several months to finish the book because I found it rambling and uninteresting. Pico Iyer explores the themes of our chosen fathers/mentors and explore work of Greene through his travels, life experiences and readings. Put it as this, it looks interesting concept, however, it is hugely irritating when you find yourself lost in a cheerless, drab personal
Marc Weitz
Jan 14, 2013 Marc Weitz rated it really liked it
This book is part travelogue, part literary criticism, and part memoir. We all have authors whose works resonate within our minds and inform the events within our lives. For Pico Iyer that author is Graham Greene. Greene was forced upon Iyer as a child studying in Oxford. His books were more burden than interesting, but when Iyer grew up and began traveling, the books started to make sense to him. Iyer calls Greene the patron saint of the man alone in a hotel room in a foreign country.

Iyer expl
Sep 12, 2015 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
This memoir devotes time to the father figures in his life. This is a brilliant man that is able to bring light to the reader. He has had a phenomenal life with writing, global travels, the finest education and also if certainly not least his connection to spiritual aspects of the people he knows, loves, and regards. Graham Greene was a favorite author to be read and reread over the years from early teens. The absence of his own father provided the opportunity to learn about Greene through his v ...more
Lee Kofman
Feb 21, 2016 Lee Kofman rated it liked it
Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head was another one of those books I so much wanted to love but didn’t. The reasons I wanted to love it are multiple: the premise of the book, Iyer making connections between Graham Greene’s and his life speaks to me greatly as I, too, often experience life through, and even live by, literary works and their creators. Then of course I love the form of such a creative nonfiction work. And Iyer has a powerful voice and wisdom. I really enjoyed learning more about Gre ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Grace rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, memoir
I didn't plan to read this book. I recently heard the author speak at a local bookstore, and although I was thoroughly impressed - and was inspired to read his work - I didn't think I'd start with this one. Since I've never read Graham Greene, I figured The Man Within My Head wouldn't make any sense to me, but at the same time I had been intrigued by the passages the author read during his talk. So when the book showed up in the New Release section of my local library, I picked it up. I'm really ...more
Mars Prokop
May 22, 2013 Mars Prokop rated it liked it
Iyer weaves the story of author Graham Greene into the story of his life and his love of travel. It's not a fast read, nor one that pulls at me to keep going, but it is interesting. Iyer posits the idea that we all have these other voices inside of us, and they may be other real people, or versions of them. As a writer it's a useful book for thinking abou the ways in which I construct myself as a character and my life as a story.

Now that I've completed the book, I feel that the latter parts
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more
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“...home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not the ones that tie you down.” 37 likes
“Was it only through another that I could begin to get at myself?” 9 likes
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