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By the Book: A Reader's Guide to Life

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Ramona's Koval's By the Book is about reading and living, and about the authors that have written themselves into her life: from Oliver Sacks to Oscar Wilde, Christina Stead to Grace Paley. This is a book for every avid reader and every avid listener. It is quintessentially Ramona: warm, bright, erudite-unmissable.
ebook, 233 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Text Publishing (first published October 23rd 2010)
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Ramona Koval’s By the Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life is a memoir of the author’s reading journal. From her mother’s influences to her first library card all the way though to her career as a literary journalist. Ramona Koval writes this as a love story to the books that have influenced her life and career.

Not only is this book very easy to read, it might even offer some interesting titles for you to read. I know my ‘to read’ list suffered especially with the introduction to Richard Holmes; I’ve
Rebecca Foster
Journalist Ramona Koval, well-known in her native Australia as a literary broadcaster and interviewer, follows in the footsteps of Maureen Corrigan (Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading) and Nina Sankovitch (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair) with her memoir of a life spent reading.

Any reader’s memoir is, by its very nature, arbitrary – these are the books that have, seemingly by the purest chance, had an impact on this individual’s soul, even if they would mean little to anyone else. So, inevitably, there ar
Lyn Elliott
I really enjoyed this book, which I have read quickly in between others. I bought it in Kindle, thinking it was what I should be reading for this Monty's book club, then discovered that the book club is actually to read her Tasting Life Twice, a collection of interviews with leading authors. I have started on that too.

I am familiar with Koval as a reviewer of books and interviewer of writers, and in this book she gives a chance to follow her life's reading and thinking. It's a great discovery.
A truly delightful read. I wanted to turn around at the end and start all over again. What a lot of interesting sounding books I was able to add to my To Read list too. Thank you, Ramona's for a joy that will continue.
David McLean
Books and Life do link
Like many booklovers, I like books that are about books and reading and I have quite a few. My favourite is Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World by David Denby. The book is his very engaging account of returning to Columbia University in middle age and reading the canonical course works, many of which he had read before when he was previously an undergraduate. I’ve read huge chunks of it but never finished it because I keep ...more
4ZZZ Book Club
Ramona Koval is perhaps Australia’s best known and best loved literary journalist, regarded highly here and throughout the world for her ability to, through careful reading and a thoughtful manner, draw interesting and entertaining answers from her guests. The host from 2006 to 2011 of Radio National’s Book Show and before that Books and Writing, she’s talked to a huge range of amazing authors and some of the best of these interviews have been collated into two works - Tasting Life Twice and Spe ...more
Brenda Niall describes By the Book: A Reader's Guide to Life as a “quietly engaging memoir that finds its structure in the author's lifetime reading. The daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland, Koval grew up in postwar Melbourne knowing little about her parents' experience. Her mother, Sara, was always reading, improving her English and escaping her life.” (

Koval, like me, read adult books at a very early age. Her mother bought her a copy of
It might seem strange for a book lover to admit, but I tend to stay away from books about books. That's because I'd rather read the books that are mentioned in the books about books.

But I made an exception for Ramona Koval's By The Book: A Reader's Guide to Life because I have such respect for Ramona as a journalist and broadcaster, and I was intrigued to see which books had meant a lot to her during her lifetime — a bit like an extended Triple Choice Tuesday, if you will.

And I wasn't disappoint
There’s something so engaging about Ramona Koval. It’s not entirely down to her extraordinary intelligence, her warmth, or even her absolute love of books: a perception of the world through words that is immediately familiar to me, though all of those things are true. I think it’s the combination of an almost iconic canniness mingled with vulnerability that comes through her writing. There's an absolute intimacy that invites complicity. Her latest work, By the Book, is a combination of memoir an ...more
Rob Carseldine
This is a great book. So good I finished it in just a few days. I'm a big fan of Ramona's from her ABC FM radio show, unfortunately not now running.

This is an affectionate memoir giving the reader some insight into how books influenced her life, particularly when very young. She was a precocious reader from a young age; Kafka at 11 or 12? How about that! Yet she admits giving up on a few books in later life, which was a comfort to me as I have done likewise.

Ramona tells us her given name is ac
Sehar  Moughal
This book complements my love of books and thirst of worldly knowledge.
This is a book readers book, from a book reader. I loved it. Ramona's mother restricted her physically while growing up, but there was no such restriction with what she could read. The highlighter was often marking phrases like "Paley had an uncanny genius for containing a world within a sentence...", or marking possible book titles to add to the 'to-read' list.
I enjoyed the first few chapters that were about Romona's relationship and memories of her mother but then... My interest drifted away as Romona turned to some fairly tenuous connections to all sorts of pretty heavy going books, well heavy going for me. I guess my reading history connected with hers at the beginning but then I felt I wanted more of a narrative.
Maria Gunn
Ramona Koval's words about books are riveting. I read this book in a single day. Highly recommended.
Ramona Koval's book is an embrace of all literature. It's delightful! It is an adventure into her life through the literature that made her the person that she is. I wish I could have travelled on her train of thought longer.
Michael Livingston
Part autobiography and part jaunt through Koval's favourite books, this is a brief, easy read and leaves you charmed by the author and with a dozen more books added to your 'to-read' list.
I entirely agree with Robs comments wish Ramona was still on the radio An interesting biography and more

Ms H
Unfortunately, I wouldn't be recommending this to anyone.
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