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My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues
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My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  3,819 ratings  ·  791 reviews
Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.

Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by Henry Holt & Company
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 ·  3,819 ratings  ·  791 reviews

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Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
My Life with Bob is a book about books and the author's love of books. Any true bibliophile will see parts of them-self in these pages. It also serves to make any of us without our own Bob fill with envy, possibly enough to actually start while we still can. Bob is a notebook Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, started at age sixteen where she would record the title and author of every book she has ever read. Bob is short for "book of books." What ensues is more than just ab ...more
(A revised version of this short review of my favorite book about books appeared on the National Book Critics Circle blog in February 2019.)

As a lifelong bibliophile, I value bibliomemoirs – and books about books generally – so much that I tend to hold them to higher standards. At the slightest hint of plot summary, filler or spoilers, I start knocking off stars and half-stars willy-nilly. (Two recent disappointments in this respect were Books for Living by Will Schwalbe and Shelf Life b
Diane S ☔
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 Book about books, like many of us I am sure, find it impossible to pass them by. Have read several, with varying degrees of success, this is one of the best. All the feels are there, the unique smell of individual books, the wonder of first opening the cover, feel of the pages, in essence love for all things bookish. A true book love this author has and describes so wonderfuly. Her youth where her family had little money to spend on books, her love of her local library and growing up reading ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction, essays
“Aren’t we all writers these days? We live through text. With our status updates and our e-mails, many of us spend our days writing down more words than we speak aloud. Anyone can write a book or post a story and find readers. Even those whose book reviews live exclusively on Amazon or Goodreads or in diaries or in the text of e-mails are still active creators of the written word.”

I was ecstatic when I found about this book of books. Similar to the author's tendency to track every book she’s rea
Julie Ehlers
I expected to like this a lot more than I did. Pamela Paul and I have a couple things in common: We're the same age, and, more crucially, as teenagers we both started keeping a book full of lists of the books we'd read, and we both feel that looking back at this book can tell us some things about how our life has gone. I really thought I'd identify with this memoir, and I certainly thought I'd enjoy reading it. But ultimately, I just thought My Life with Bob wasn't very well done. For one thing, ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I approach books on books with a fair dose of cynicism. Will another person claim to love Proust and turn me away from ever identifying with them as a reader?

Pamela Paul is so without bookish snobbery that you would probably never guess that she is the editor of the New York Times Book Review. I had not connected all the dots until I was 95% into this book. She also hosts the podcast of the same name, one I just subscribed to yesterday but haven't tried yet (another one of those reading synergie
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Today well over half of my books are now sold in digital editions.

And yet as a culture we still have a totemic connection to books made of paper.

I can look around in the library in which I write, glance at the book spines on the shelves, and tell you precisely where I was when read so many of them. Henry Roth's "Call It Sleep" is the snack bar at Smith College, where my wife went to school when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and the smell of the onions the cooks there placed on the hamburger
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These are the types of books I thrive off. A real person talking about their real obsession of reading, of inhaling the essence of a book. The inane need to be surrounded by books at all times physically as well as in every other sense. As a fellow book enthusiast I wish I had my own book of BOB. Pre goodreads days there's no way to recall and catalogue all I've read although now in hindsight a lot of my earlier selections might embarrass me. I started reading early and devoured books like it wa ...more
Coming out at this time of year, Pamela Paul’s memoir is reminiscent of a commencement speech, albeit book-length and one just as interesting for the parents as for the graduates. It is a blast to listen to an obsessive reader share her thoughts on books, her travels and travails. Bob is her lifelong companion and record, her Book of Books, the place she can note what she has read. It gives date of completion, and, because Paul tried to read books about the countries or cities she visits or live ...more
Diane Barnes
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did love this book, because it's about books and reading and the people who love both those things. We get a biography of Pamela Paul along the way, who just happens to be the editor of the NYT Book Review, but that's beside the point. This is the story of all of us who were uncoordinated and bad at sports, so we read our books on the playground. Those of us who were socially inept as children and teens, and found our friends between the pages. Those of us who knew we could find all the answer ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review now posted!

I came out of the womb with a passion for books. When I was a toddler, I didn’t sleep with my arms wrapped around a teddy bear; instead, I slept clutching a book. It didn’t matter what book. As long as there were words on the pages and the promise of a story between the covers, it was the book for me. I learned to read before I started Preschool, because I desperately wanted to be able to experience those stories for myself and on my own, even though I had a wonderful fami
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it

"Choosing a book is so gratifying, it's worth dragging out the process, starting even before finishing the current one. As the final chapters approach, you can pile up the possibilities like a stack of travel brochures. You can lay out three books and let them linger overnight before making a final decision in the morning." -Pamela Paul

During so many points in this book, I had to put it down and hug myself because I realized that there are people just like me out there! Here I thought my lit
Primrose Jess
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I started this in July (that's right, July) and finished this week because I promised myself I'd finish it in 2017. The lengthy read is not for the reasons easily concluded amongst bookish folk. The length of my read was due to my not wanting to have the book end. It was the perfect book to pick up and read a chapter when I wanted to resonate with another reader. Pamela Paul made me feel like I wasn't the oddball in childhood I thought I was. I grew up in a family of relatively non-readers (most ...more
Connie G
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
"My Life With Bob" is a delightful memoir by Pamela Paul, the editor of the New York Times Book Review. BOB is not a person, but is her "Book of Books", a journal listing every book she has read since age 17. When she looks back on her list of books, the entries transport her to another time when she was reading a particular book.

Her memoir is sometimes humorous, often nostalgic, and occasionally tells of times that were frightening or hurtful. Each chapter is titled with an important book that
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This isn't bad, but it isn't what I expected, and I was disappointed. Amazon recommended this to me after I read Will Schwalbe's Books for Living, which I loved, and I somehow expected that it would, like that book, be fairly focused on the author's thoughts on various books she'd read. Which, actually, the dust jacket doesn't claim.

Paul's book is a memoir in which her identity as a reader is central. She begins keeping her “Book of books” in high school, and over the years faithfully maintains
Sam Sattler
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a great while a book comes along that seems to have been written just for you. It may be a book about some obscure hobby of yours that you figured no one else in the world cared about, or about some equally obscure figure from the past you imagined no one remembered (much less actually cared about) but you. And in the unlikeliest of all cases, it might be a book - imagine it now, a whole book - about some weird habit of yours that you seldom speak of in ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is my favorite kind of book: a book-about-books.

This is my favorite kind of author: a Reader. (Capital letter intended).

What is not to love?
Jennifer Blankfein
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Follow Book Nation by Jen blog

I received multiple copies of My Life with Bob as a gift for my birthday; evidently several people believed I would enjoy it and of course, they were right! As a reader, what’s not to like about a book about someone who loves books.

Author Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review kept a record of everything she read in her Book of Books (Bob) for almost 30 years. Her memoir takes us along her life journey with the lis
Jim Coughenour
May 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-on-books, memoir
Gore Vidal delighted in the word "bookchat" – and you won't find a chattier book than My Life with Bob. For some reason I expected a ramble of interesting observations about interesting books. Instead its subject is its author, who garlands her memories of childhood, friends, and travels with a random bibliography. The books themselves are incidental. For example, the chapter entitled "The Master and Margarita" is actually about the hazards of recommendations. Buried among the welter of recommen ...more
I was tremendously intrigued when I first heard of this title, largely because starting in my early 20s, I kept a "book of books" of my own (and when I became active on goodreads in 2009 or so, painstakingly transferred all the information over here). Now that I've read Pamela Paul's memoir, I feel vaguely disappointed. I'm not sure sure what I was expecting. Really, how much plot can ensue as a result of keeping a list of books read? Did I somehow think this memoir would actually be about me? T ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
"If I pass a bookstore, I want to go in. When I see an espeically sweet library, my heart swells. Used bookstores contain untold possibilities. Library sales, same thing. There is always room for more books, even though I've barely dented the piles I already have.

Like all collectors, I exist in a perpetual state of want that bears no reasonable relationship to the quantity of unread books mountaining up on my shelves."

This is a book lover's book. I think I highlighted more passages in this gem t
Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and has had a lifelong obsession with books. This is her heartfelt and touching account of her life with BOB - her Book of Books. Pamela has recorded all of the books that she has ever read since her early twenties. On the surface, this looks like a simple enough idea but I cannot put to words how much I enjoyed reading this.

I loved following Paul's experience throughout the different stages of her life via the books she was reading at
Kaethe Douglas
Dear Pamela Paul,
There was only one aspect of your book I was disappointed with: despite teasing the reader with Bob you only ever show the one page, nor do you provide a convenient index to titles, nor an online searchable list. Of course, print is your thing, but it seems like a natural desire to me, to see the whole list.

Anyway, here is my Bob. I hope you enjoy it, even though we've never met.


While nowhere near as consistent over time as Paul, I can't help but feel an affinity: I have bee
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This one snuck up on me -- I expected to like it, and I did, but when I finished it, I put it down and went on to the next book. By the time I got around to writing up a review, I wanted to revisit a few parts of the book. I ended up rereading the entire book, only two weeks after I had finished it. I rarely reread books, even classics, because there are just so many new books to get to. So how could I justify spending valuable book time rereading a bookish memoir? I didn't justify it, it just h ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booktopia-2018
Within the genre of memoirs there is the sub-genre of memoirs about books and reading. Or writing. Being a rabid, avid reader myself, I love this kind of book. I connect with hearing those stories similar to my own.

For several years now, I've listened to Pamela Paul on the New York Times Book Review podcast. She is editor of the NYT Book review and the podcast's host. My favorite part of the podcast is the last segment, where she and fellow editors and critics discuss what they've been reading f
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It me.

Listen, I didn't grow up in New York, a child of divorce. I didn't go to Brown and major in English, or travel the world alone without a plan and carrying only a backpack of books (though I would have liked to!). But somehow this is still me. Pamela Paul is me, and every other bookworm. I have a Bob, a Book of Books, though sadly I neglected it a few years back in favor of Goodreads. I still wake up in a sweat worrying about what will happen in the post-apocalyptic future when computers ar
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought My Life With Bob on an impulse and inhaled it in a couple of sittings, reluctantly putting it down only when life intruded. So much of what Paul writes about in this excellent memoir resonated with me and reminded me of how books have shaped my own life. I enjoy reading about books and reading but I can't think of a book about books that I loved more than this one! ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute brain candy for readers. You'll relate to so many parts of the book, it's a nice dose of validation that there's people like you out there who have this relationship with books that you do. ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: booktopia-2018
I have listened to Pamela Paul for years on the New York Times book review so when I heard that she was going to be at Booktopia in Vermont my reaction was "she wrote a book?" Well now I learn that she has written several books but My Life with Bob is her memoir.I knew I would enjoy reading it but I didn't know it would fall into that most hated (and most loved) category...."Books that have added books to my TBR".

Bob is Ms. Paul's term for the book that she has kept nearly all her life in whic
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I really wanted to like this, and expected to, but I ended up struggling to finish it so I could move on to something more engaging. It's an autobiography of the current NYT Book Review editor, oriented around her reading history. Each chapter mentions a flurry of books and calls out one in particular related to that chapter's theme. Unfortunately, her life events don't really merit a memoir, and she doesn't make up for this via great storytelling or some other draw. The "plot" is often vague, a ...more
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Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and oversees books coverage at The Times. She also hosts the weekly Book Review podcast. She is the author of six books, How to Raise a Reader, co-authored with Maria Russo, My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, By the Book, Parenting, Inc., Pornified, and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Pri ...more

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“At this point, there is no human way that I could read even those books I've deliberately marked as absolute must-reads. [ . . . ] This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing” 9 likes
“This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing. There is no way to finish, and perhaps that shouldn't be the goal.” 9 likes
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