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My Reading Life

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Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life.

Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader. Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy’s portal to the world, both to the farthest corners of 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 has 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 period he spent  in Paris, as well as reflecting on 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.

BONUS: This ebook edition includes an excerpt from Pat Conroy's The Death of Santini.

337 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Pat Conroy

79 books3,335 followers
Pat Conroy (1945 - 2016) was the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. He is recognized as a leading figure of late-20th century Southern literature.

Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) before publishing his first novel, The Boo. Conroy lived on Fripp Island, South Carolina until his death in 2016.

Conroy passed away on March 4, 2016 at his home from Pancreatic Cancer. He was 70 years old at the time of his death.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
August 22, 2019
”My mother’s voice and my father’s fists are the two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.”

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I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Pat Conroy at a book signing in Marin County, California. It was during his Beach Music tour back in 1995. He oozed Southern charm and flashed his razor honed wit. He kept the large crowd that was there to see him laughing and smiling throughout his whole presentation. His cheeks were rosy, and his stark white hair formed a nimbus around his head. Prince of Tides had been a huge hit for him in 1986. He was by 1995 assured a place on the bestseller list with any book he wanted to publish, but it was easy to see, by the way he interacted with his fans, that he was not taking anything for granted. He truly appreciated his readers.

I can say that I met Conroy in 1995, but I really met him in 1986 when I read Prince of Tides. It is impossible to separate the man/boy from the writing. He has mined his life for those touch points that resonate with readers because the pain is real, and the joy is genuine. Whenever you read a Conroy book, you are going to cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry. Life tends to be bittersweet, and the highs and lows of Conroy’s life have been mountainous and cavernous. Even this book, My Reading Life, had me tearing up at several points. To read his words is to see his soul.

When he lived in Atlanta, he started hanging out at this bookstore called The Old New York Book Shop, and for the first time in his life, he became a collector of books. The gentle madness that has plagued many of us never did let go of him, and for the rest of his life, he continued to add books to his personal library. He was a fan of other writers, but admits that sometimes being friends with them can be treacherous. Professional jealousy is a green eyed monster with fangs and protruding spikes that can punch holes in the most substantial of friendships.

He talks in this book about his reverence for Thomas Wolfe and freely admits that some of his weaknesses as a writer come from maybe loving Wolfe too much. There is certainly something beyond most of us in the writings of Thomas Wolfe. He tries to write as truthfully as he can about how he perceives things. Unfortunately, he leaves many readers in a cloud of dust on a country road with no idea which way is the best path back to their reality. Fortunately, the gifted editor Maxwell Perkins was able to take the trunk full of words that Wolfe would dump in his office and mold it into some semblance of a story. Wolfe is epic and flawed, but for me he is similar to William Faulkner and requires some patience. If you free your mind, eventually you’ll start to catch the cadence of his voice.

Conroy’s dad was a Marine Corp pilot and, when angered, frequently resorted to his fists. Pat wrote a terrific novel about him called The Great Santini that was so accurate that his mother used it as part of her defense in her divorce trial. ”My youth filled up with the ancient shame of a son who cannot protect his mother.” Conroy has been estranged from many members of his family over the publication of his books. He broke the code, speaking about what had happened to him, his mother, and his siblings. As it turns out, he has also lost touch with his daughter, and with the hope that she still reads his books, he put this dedication in the front of My Reading Life:

”This book is dedicated to my lost daughter, Susannah Ansley Conroy. Know this: I love you with my heart and always will. Your return to my life would be one of the happiest moments I could imagine.”

I don’t know if she ever responded to her father’s plea, but given the amount of pain that Pat Conroy has stacked in his lifetime, I hope that sometime before he died they found a way to make peace with one another.

Books were so important to Conroy. The Marine Corp moved them every year so friends were as temporary as tissues, but every new place he landed, there was a different library to be explored. He could make “new friends” or spend time with “old friends.” Books were always available when he needed them. He could fall into the pages of a book to escape the angry fists of his father or the wretched tears of his mother.

He discusses Tolkien,Thucydides, Milton, Whitman, Philip Roth, and relates a rather unfortunate, embarrassing encounter with Adrienne Rich. He spends an entire chapter rapturously discussing the truly epic contribution of Leo Tolstoy to literature. Be prepared; he will have you pulling that dusty tome of War and Peace off the shelf by the end of the chapter. My favorite, though, was in the final pages, when he shares his meeting with Jonathan Carroll, whom I feel is one of those under the radar writers whom too few know about. I also had the chance to meet Carroll in Austin, Texas. I loaded up the wife and two small children, and we drove 10 hours one way just to get a chance to meet him. He was at the end of a long road trip and was obviously tired, but he soon perked up for the crowd, who many like us had travelled some distance to see him. Conroy’s description of his experience with Carroll’s books had me pulling Jonathan’s first book Land of Laughs off the shelf. Just like the first time I read it, I could not put it down.

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As you can see, I was a lot more thrilled to meet Jonathan Carroll than he was to meet me. He told me he was near the end of a brutally long book tour, but he still put on a grand performance for his fans.

Reading a book like this always makes me reflective about my own life. My own Reading Life. I’ve devoted most of my life to the pursuit of books, the reading of books, the collecting of books. I certainly found a kindred soul in the pages of this book.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,718 followers
April 26, 2016
Five glorious, sentimental stars for Pat Conroy's memoir about books and reading.

Mr. Conroy died last month, and I picked up My Reading Life as a tribute to him. When I chose it from his list of works, I didn't realize how much I would love this gem of a book, how I would linger over the chapters, taking weeks to read it because I didn't want to return it to the library yet. Keeping this lovely book in my possession was a way of keeping Mr. Conroy around, for just a little bit longer.

The only Conroy book I had previously read was The Prince of Tides, which is a doozy of a novel and one I highly recommend if you like rich stories of southern family drama. But after reading this memoir, I want to read all of his works, especially The Great Santinti and Beach Music, two novels that meant so much to him he had nervous breakdowns while writing them.

My Reading Life has beautiful stories and descriptions of books, people and places that have meant a lot to him. My favorite chapters were about his mother and Gone With the Wind; a high school English teacher who changed his life; a bookstore owner who begrudgingly became his friend; his stories about being a military brat; his love letters to Thomas Wolfe and James Dickey; his tribute to Tolstoy; and an explanation of why he writes.

One section that was particularly moving was a conversation he had with a grouchy book rep, named Norman Berg. Conroy had just published his memoir The Water is Wide, and Berg thought Conroy could do better:

"Don't you want to matter?" Norman Berg asked me ... "Don't you want to be part of the literary discussion? Don't you think about your place in literature?"

"No, I haven't thought about any of that, Mr. Berg."

"Then what do you want?" he asked me. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I want to to be remembered."

Reading that weeks after Conroy's death gave me pause, to be sure.

This is a memoir made for readers, especially if you appreciate thoughtful passages and ornate descriptions, and I just adored it. Cheers to you, Mr. Conroy. I will remember you.

Favorite Quotes
"[My mother] read so many books that she was famous among the librarians in every town she entered. Since she did not attend college, she looked to librarians as her magic carpet into a serious intellectual life. Books contained powerful amulets that could lead to paths of certain wisdom. Novels taught her everything she needed to know about the mysteries and uncertainties of being human. She was sure that if she could find the right book, it would reveal what was necessary for her to become a woman of substance and parts."

"From the beginning I've searched out those writers unafraid to stir up the emotions, who entrust me with their darkest passions, their most indestructible yearnings, and their most soul-killing doubts. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through a complicated life of books that try to reach me how to die."

"If there is more important work than teaching, I hope to learn about it before I die."

"When I pick up a book, the prayer that rises out of me is that it changes me utterly and that I am not the man who first selected that book from a well-stocked shelf."

"Wolfe writes like a man on fire who does not have a clue how not to be on fire. Yes, I see the flaws of Thomas Wolfe and I could not care less. His art is overdone and yet I find it incomparably beautiful." [Similarly, I can see the flaws of Conroy, but it doesn't bother me. I appreciate the beauty in his work.]

"Tolstoy performs that rarest and most valuable of tasks, one that has all but disappeared from modern fiction. He wrestles with the philosophical issues of how people like you and me can manage to live praiseworthy and constructive lives. Reading Tolstoy makes us strive to be better people: better husbands and wives, children, and friends. He tries to teach us how to live by letting us participate in the brimming, stories experiences of his fictional world. Reading Leo Tolstoy, you will encounter a novelist who fell in love with his world and everything he saw and felt in it."

"Some American writers are meaner than serial killers, but far more articulate, and this is always the great surprise awaiting the young men and women who swarm to the universities, their heads buzzing with all the dazzle and freshness and humbuggery of the language itself."

"My mother's voice and my father's fists are the two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art."

"My hunt will always be for my mother. She could not give me herself, but she gave me literature as a replacement. I have no idea who she was, and I write my books as a way of finding out."

"I have tried to read two hundred pages every day of my life since I was a freshman in high school, because I knew that I would come to the writing of books without the weight of culture and learning that a well-established, confidently placed family could offer its children. I collected those long, melancholy lists of the great books that high school English teachers passed out to college-bound students, and I relied on having consumed those serious litanies of books as a way to ease my way into the literary life. Even today, I hunt for the fabulous books that will change me utterly. I find myself happiest in the middle of a book in which I forget that I am reading, but am instead immersed in a made-up life lived at the highest pitch. Reading is the most rewarding form of exile and the necessary discipline for a novelist who burns with the ambition to get better."

"Here is all I ask of a book — give me everything. Everything, and don't leave out a single word."
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
632 reviews349 followers
January 12, 2017
Writer Thomas Wolfe died at age 37. At the end of a chapter dedicated to him Pat Conroy wrote “Wolfe’s best novels sleep in secret on a hillside in Asheville—beside him forever, or at least, this is what I believe.” Thankfully this author lived far longer and I’d like to believe that his best were behind him but he had plans for other books and was 200 pages into one when he passed.
Recalling how Look Homeward, Angel impacted his writing life as a young man, he almost persuaded me to do a reread, but then I read a couple of reviews by friends and thought it better left to my youthful years. But that suggests how persuasively Conroy’s pen can work its magic on me.
He read War and Peace three times. “If I have one certainty in the world, it is that Adolf Hitler did not read [it] before he sent the Third Reich into the heart of Russia . . . I envy the young man or woman picking up this book for the first time more than any reader in the world” (that could be me) . . . Once you have read [it], you will never be the same. That is my promise to you.” When he describes how various authors and teachers delighted, ignited, and moved him, I had to ponder that I have no doubt missed some things for lack of strict attention to detail in my own reading life.
In this day of worship at the feet of celebrities and athletes, I found great satisfaction in the acknowledgement of how authors and teachers were the heroes and sheroes in his life. I don’t believe anyone loved books as much as Conroy did. What a fabulous reading life he had and what an equally rewarding reading experience for any bibliophile to share his journey and enthusiasm throughout these pages. His unfinished manuscripts are a great loss to those of us who were delighted and moved by his prose. Thank you and RIP Pat Conroy. I can only hope in an afterlife where you and Wolfe are discussing your unfinished works and remembering all the books that came before.
Profile Image for Negin.
629 reviews150 followers
July 5, 2020
Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors and this one didn’t disappoint. The writing is gorgeous. This book is a memoir of his love of reading and writing. Reading this felt like reading a big book review, a book review of all the writers and poets that shaped and influenced Conroy in some way.

I loved how each chapter was aligned with a certain period in his life, and with the people who were there during each time – his mother, his high school English teacher, and so on.

One of my favorite chapters was the one about his mother and Gone with the Wind. I’d never paid any attention to Pat Conroy until a few years ago when I read that book. Conroy wrote the beautiful introduction. He describes his mother reading him “Gone with the Wind” when he was five, and then she would re-read it to him again every year.

“She read the novel aloud to me when I was five years old, and it is from this introductory reading that I absorbed my first lessons in the authority of fiction. There is not a sentence in this book unfamiliar to me since my mother made a fetish of rereading it each year.”

It was that intro that got me interested in reading his books. His mother is the one person who influenced him the most and started him on his literary journey. From the time that he was a high school freshman, he set himself a goal of reading 200 pages a day. He wrote that he learned how to be a man through books. He was a military brat growing up in South Carolina. Given his dysfunctional family life, the constant moves, and his abusive father, books were what provided healing for both him and his mother. They provided some form of stability. Another chapter that moved me was the one about his high school English teacher, Mr. Norris. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about his time spent in Paris when he was writing one of his novels.

I doubt that I will be reading most of the books that he loved, the ones that formed and shaped him, but I still loved reading his take on them. I enjoyed the description of him writing using yellow legal pads with classical music playing in the background. If you are a Pat Conroy fan, like I am, you will enjoy this book.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Describing his sister:

“If I said that a sky was a pretty shade of blue, she would correct me, saying that it was lapis lazuli and only a simpleton would call it blue. She was ten when she pointed this out.”

Describing his favorite bookshop in Atlanta:

“When I die, my religion tells me I’ll go to heaven, and I hope someone got that story right. I’ll make a request that I get to live in the Old New York Book Shop on the night of a book party.”

Describing friendship with writers:
“I’ve spent most of my life avoiding the companionship of writers. I try never to be rude, just seldom available. Though I have met some of the great writers of our time, I’ve become good friends with very few of them. The tribe is contentious, the breed dangerous.”

On Political Correctness:
“Political correctness is going to kill American liberalism if it is not fought to the death by people like me for the dangers it represents to free speech, to the exchange of ideas, to openheartedness, or to the spirit of art itself. Political correctness has a stranglehold on academia, on feminism, and on the media. It is a form of both madness and maggotry.”

On Parisians:
“Parisians and polar icecaps have a lot in common except that polar icecaps are warmer to strangers.”

“There is something glacial, fishlike, and prodigiously remote about Parisians. At the sound of an approaching foreigner, their faces are as bland and expressionless as salamanders.”

On Tolstoy:
“Reading Tolstoy makes us strive to be better people: better husbands and wives, children, and friends. He tries to teach us how to live by letting us participate in the brimming, storied experiences of his fictional world. Reading Leo Tolstoy, you will encounter a novelist who fell in love with his world and everything he saw and felt in it.”

On reading:
“I find myself happiest in the middle of a book in which I forget that I am reading, but am instead immersed in a made-up life lived at the highest pitch.’

“I can’t pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket, or hand me over a promissory note of such immense power that it contains the formula that will change everything about me. Here is all I ask of a book—give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.”

Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
January 13, 2021
Pat Conroy can write beautifully and he has a way with words.And as he explains in this memoir,he really works at finding those words,which enhance his writing so much.And yet,he has an aversion to pretentious words.

This book is not just about his reading life,but his writing life too.He writes that Margaret Mitchell's book,Gone with the Wind was the biggest reason he became a novelist.

His praise for this book is fulsome and effusive,however,he does acknowledge its flaws as well.Black men and women who lived through those times would not agree with the book's description of how good life was in the American South,prior to the civil war.Conroy is fascinated by the character of Scarlett O Hara,I personally have a strong dislike for her.

Other writers he admires particularly, include Leo Tolstoy and he considers War and Peace,the greatest novel ever.Other heroes of his include the Southern novelist Thomas Wolfe and the poet James Dickey.Samples of Wolfe's writing didn't impress me much,though.

Conroy describes the Old New York Book Shop, from where he purchased thousands of book and made it his regular haunt for years.But then came a time when the shop had to close its doors.

Conroy takes considetable time describing a teacher of his,who became a father figure for him,instead of his own father.And then he returns to his most familiar subject,his own difficult father,who used to beat him and his mother,regularly.

His mother,who was not college educated,read a lot of books and got her son interested in books,too.

As for his father,Conroy took his revenge through writing. He described his father in none too flattering terms,in his book,The Great Santini.It soured his relations with his whole family,not just his father.

A very enjoyable book,notably for the quality of its prose.
Profile Image for Susan (aka Just My Op).
1,126 reviews58 followers
October 28, 2010
Mr. Conroy loves words. He loves their flow, their tumble and play. And he isn't afraid to use them. I learned this when I first start reading his fiction with its exultant, flowery phrases, with its parallels to his own life. This nonfiction book tells me why he writes as he does.

Although titled My Reading Life, this book is also about his writing life and his life in general. The fifteen chapters each address a different person or book or time that ultimately shaped who he is and how he writes.

I grew up a word-haunted boy. I felt words inside me and stored them wondrous as pearls. I mouthed them and fingered them and rolled them around my tongue. My mother filled my bedtime hour with poetry that rang like Sanctus bells as she praised the ineffable loveliness of the English language with her Georgia-scented voice. I found that hive of words beautiful beyond all conveyance.

I was horrified and embarrassed as a woman to learn how badly he was treated at a writers' conference in the early days of militant feminism, how one famous author whose work I have greatly admired dismissed him out-of-hand because he was a Southern white boy. I loved the glimpses into other authors' lives, how their writings and their personalities could be at such odds.

I hated some of the descriptions of his life in Paris, of the horse butchers, of the “fifty Algerian men bidding on the very young girl in the window.”

There was an auctioneer in front of the window chiding the men for their cheapness, and the noise rose in pitch as the bidding grew feverish. The girl was very young, fragile, and she was not smiling.

How can someone see that and not want to do something to help the girl? How can anyone wonder about the girl's thoughts but stay a passive observer?

I am one of those readers who doesn't want all the sentences I read to be lean, even though there can be beauty in their sparseness. I like the sentences that carry me off, let me smell and see and feel. Pat Conroy can write these sentences.

I long for that special moment when I take off into the pure oxygen-rich sky of a sentence that streaks off into a night where I cannot follow, where I lose control, where the language seizes me and shakes me in such a way that I feel like both its victim and its copilot.

The next time I read Conroy's fiction, I will appreciate it all the more for understanding a bit of the man who wrote it.

The quotes were taken from a pre-publication bound manuscript and may change in the published edition. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy.
Profile Image for Kathy .
698 reviews232 followers
May 16, 2011
This book is the type of book that I love and hate simultaneously. I literally found myself hanging on every word (and they are such magical, illustrious ones)as I slowly turned the pages, fearing that I might miss yet another pithy, entertaining statement from Mr. Conroy. OK, so the only hate aspect of my relationship to this book is the arduous task of noting all I wanted to remember with post-it flags and highlighter marks, not to mention looking up a few words whose meaning I obsessively had to learn. There is so much to love in what Pat Conroy conveys to us about his reading life, a prolific one to say the least. Conroy must be the best-read author ever. I'm not sure when he finds the time to write, but, of course, I'm most grateful that he does. I was fortunate to hear this wordsmith speak at a book festival, and remember hanging on his every word then, not just smart this Southern charmer is but laugh-out-loud entertaining. Reading this book was akin to listening to the silver-tongued tale spinner himself. Insights into Pat Conroy's life and growth as an artist are, of course, an inexorable part of what he has read and why. Seemingly ordinary people, starting with his bibliophilistic mother, places, authors, and books devoured are given separate chapters in which Conroy brings each alive with his memory and their value. Gene Norris, a high school mentor/teacher may be singularly responsible for my beloved author channeling his love or reading and writing into a path of genius. I felt a moment of epiphany when Conroy talks about "exactness" as being a "virtue" and responsibility of a writer. As with all meaningful writing, this love story to reading will prompt you to read more, both of Conroy and others. I count meeting Pat Conroy at that book festival as one of the highlights of my reading life. Fortunately, I didn't know just how smart he was at the time, as his down-to-earth Southern civility and habitual smile belie the erudition of his demi-god status. His bearing and manner invite you to blurt out whatever is on your mind, and he greets it with interest and grace. Reading his story of his reading life, as if there is any other kind, one gains understanding of how an author so sublime could be so humble.
Profile Image for Lormac.
524 reviews63 followers
March 14, 2016
In all of my reading life, I have never read a Pat Conroy book. I couldn't tell you why - probably because I saw "Prince of Tides" and thought "yuck" which may (or may not) have been a complete misjudgment on my part. So when a friend gave me "My Reading Life" as an especially thoughtful Christmas gift, I did not know whether I would love his writing or hate his writing. Turns out a little of both.

Conroy himself admits his prose can be viewed as overwrought, and I cannot agree more. Here is a sample sentence from his chapter on the works of Thomas Wolfe: "He kept the howlings and incoherences and bawlings, these hymns of tongueless, inchoate madness that rise up in nightmare, in the moonless wastelands of sleep when the ores of greatness move through the soft cells of all artists, then disappear when the full light of day is upon us and we blush at the ravings and lunacies of our deepest selves." Phew! That's a mouthful. And what exactly was his point again? I forgot in all of the opulent language he just threw at me. Now imagine an entire book chockfull of sentences just like this, and even more so!! (BTW, do you think he actually meant "oars" not "ores"?) This is why it took me nearly six months to finish this reasonably short book - I had to digest it in small bites or I would have gotten sick the way finishing an entire chocolate layer cake in one sitting would make you sick. This is also why this book did not turn me into a reader who wants to read all of Pat Conroy's books. If they are even half-way full of this type of writing, I would simply expire.

BUT I loved the message of this book! He has devoted this book to an explanation of how and why he grew to love reading. When you are a dedicated reader, you love to be with other readers (thank you, Goodreads). You love to read books, read about books and read about reading books. Conroy has thought his love of reading through carefully, and he is able to acknowledge how his mother, his high school literature teacher, a certain bookstore owner, the city of Paris, and certain authors, among others, turned him into a diligent and delighted reader and a writer, to boot. Have you ever thought why you like to read? I know I haven't, but this book resonated in me with its explanations. Here is one sentence I loved: "I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food and drink, because a writer has possessed me, crazed me with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next." This explains to me why readers read.

PS: Nora Ephron has just died. I loved her essay on the pleasure of reading - find it if you can and read it in her honor. I just know Pat Conroy would say "Amen."
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,533 reviews9 followers
June 15, 2022
I knew I'd enjoy this even before I knew what it was about, just because Pat Conroy wrote it. And in the audiobook, he read it as well. He said that in his adult life he tried to read 200 pages a day, certainly more than he wrote each day. And here he shared some of his favorites and what he liked about them. It all started with his mother reading Gone With the Wind to him every summer. She wanted him to become a writer, and Conroy attests that before you can write, you must read, voraciously. He did. He was influenced by other books too numerous to mention (all very long books like War and Peace), and several people in his life as well. His tastes ran to books I've never read and have no intention of reading, but his descriptions of them, book reviews really, were so interesting and well written, I didn't care that I had little to no idea what he was talking about. He was one of America's treasures.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,082 followers
January 27, 2016

I fell in love with this book about books – it wasn’t perfect, but it came as close as I’ve found to explaining a deep love of all that is books and reading, shooting at it from different directions. Pat Conroy may be wordy, but he writes beautifully and clearly loves books, shaping his life around them. And he does it in nifty ways – influences on him people-wise, place wise, life wise, and books themselves.

In order it starts with his childhood, and what a fascinating perspective that was for a booklover. His southern upbringing would clearly influence what kind of writer he’d later become, but I had no idea how much credit was owed to his mother, someone he devotes several chapters and points to. She was fascinated with reading books of all sizes and genres, making it clear to the children how important the literary world was, how enriching. Hard not to be hooked when he’s starting by gushing about his mother and her love of books.

“Since she did not attend college, she looked to librarians as her magic carpet into a serious intellectual life. Books contained powerful amulets that could lead to paths of certain wisdom. Novels taught her everything she needed to know about the mysteries and uncertainties of being human."

The second chapter is entirely devoted to that epic book, Gone with The Wind, showing how it was his mother's favorite and how she modeled her life from it. It was such an important, revered book in their house that his mother encouraged him, if he should become a published writer, to use the voice of the south. Maybe the longest book review I have read on it, ending with it intertwined with his life and future. I’ve rarely seen someone credit so much influence to one book.

The third chapter, longer than the others, shows the other person in his life who helped form him, an important teacher who would pick him up from home month for trips, who took kids for their driving license tests, who stood before the school board to save his job from encouraging "The Catcher in the Rye!" His stories were potent reminders of how important a role teachers can play, and I loved every word of it. Heartfelt and intimate, the teacher became a beloved character that I was fascinated by as Conroy covers his life and influence. A hero of books.

Charles Dickens and Daufuskie Island was short and sweet, speaking of a play he participated in with an undernourished group of black children. It’s interesting because it shows the limited of mentality of schools and how he came to be removed as a potential helper to the children and delivering literature/love of reading to them. Such a shame.

The Librarian is no wonderful story of a typical librarian in the way we typically view them – authors and readers hold charming memories of people want to help foster a love of reading. This woman was the opposite. Anyway, he believed racism cost him the job of trying to be a teacher to the children, which I’m sure has happened to a lot of people. The politics with the librarian and misconceptions was hard to stop reading about, as unpleasant as the reality is.

‘The Old New York Book Shop’ was a fascinating chapter. From the magic of the bookstore with how it positioned itself into his life, to the developing friendship with the owner, to the stories of the quirky, relative customers. The stories were a lot of fun, while holding insightful validity.

It cuts views and answers a question I had – was his family threatened by models of them being in his books? Did they find the written dysfunction insulting? Apparently with the book The Great Santini, it not only helped shatter his marriage as he lost himself in writing it, but permanently cut his grandmother out of his life and drew threats from other relatives. Reactions from his father weren’t pretty either.

“My mother's voice and my father's fists are two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.”

The rest of the book covers everything from traveling in Paris to help his writing and the people he encounters there with cultural difference (interesting), his experiences with his book rep and promotion (another viewpoint that was cool to read about with books), his experience at his first writing conference with its beneficial – and disappointing – results, his admiration for Thomas Wolfe, another teacher he respected in college life, his adoration with words, and just about everything else you can think of.

It’s hard to figure my favorite section, but I have to keep returning to the magic of that Old New York Book Shop and the bookseller there. He spent years in the walls of that place with colorful stories and adventures. Conroy tells about the bookseller and his life and all the changes with it, the future parties held there, other author experiences as it grew, and it’s eventual (sad and nostalgic) closure.

On the negative side, some of its wordy and this book is part memoir (that itself is okay). Sometimes there’s a little rambling, but his love of words is evident and I absolutely loved and cherish this book. Great stuff for anyone who wants to dive into another book lover’s mind and see how they were affected by stories and the layered experiences of reading.

Highly recommended!

“Even today, I hunt for the fabulous books that will change me utterly. I find myself happiest in the middle of a book which I forget that I am reading, but am instead immersed in a made-up life lived at the highest pitch.”
Profile Image for Marc.
236 reviews4 followers
September 20, 2023
Who's a complete fan (and sucker) for anyone writing a love letter to reading, to teachers, to librarians, to parents reading aloud to children, to audiobooks, to enumerating favorite authors (and the reasons why they are favorites)? Count me IN that circle!

Not to mention reading (and enjoying) memoirs of fine authors overcoming a difficult childhood in substantive part due to books, parents reading aloud to the author as a young child, as well as the power of caring & empathetic teachers/mentors helping the author see the world beyond their present hurt and challenges.

My Reading Life is such a book and it was a joy to listen to Pat Conroy narrate and read his love letter to reading aloud to me. The book is a series of reflections-- impressionistic in its organization and structural sequencing, but it works. The narrative and the book has a cohesion in the love of reading and what reading can do for any of us. Conroy's tributes to his mother, his teacher Gene Norris, and the writers Charles Dickens and Thomas Wolfe are all affecting and seminal to Conroy's growth as a writer and as a human.

My only issue with Pat Conroy's book? My TBR list has grown immeasurably, but I'm not complaining, just laughing!
Profile Image for Yelda Basar Moers.
186 reviews145 followers
June 29, 2019
"I’ve searched out those writers unafraid to stir up the emotions, who entrust me with their darkest passions, their most indestructible yearnings, and their most soul-killing doubts. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate…I take it as an article of faith that the novels I’ve loved will live inside me forever...That the book accompanies the reader forever, from that day forward, is part of literature’s profligate generosity."

I absolutely loved this book and actually devoured it. I did not want it to end— I wanted to keep listening to novelist Pat Conroy talk about books and his life (his written voice is so intimate, it's as if he is speaking right to you!). As he writes about his passion for books, reading and writing, it reads like the tune of a songbird— I was so moved by its melody. Now I know that I need to read his novels— among them the famous The Prince of Tides. I encourage all serious readers to read this book!

We call ourselves dedicated readers, but having Pat Conroy's reading life meant something entirely different. He writes, "reading and prayer are both acts of worship to me." Beginning in high school and through college, his mother read with him every single short story, poem and novel that he read. How touching is this act of accompaniment! She was a prolific reader too. And from his freshman year of high school until he died, he aimed to read two hundred pages a day! Among his favorites: War and Peace (he devotes an entire chapter to Tolstoy), Gone with the Wind, the novels of Dickens and Thomas Wolfe. What I found most incredible--though--was the beauty of his language to express his deep love for the reading life.

"That’s what a good book does—it puts readers on their knees. It makes you want to believe in a world you just read about—the one that will make you feel different about the world you thought you lived in, the world that will never be the same."
Profile Image for Denise.
758 reviews73 followers
May 11, 2016
Pat Conroy in My Reading Life, explores his love of reading and how it shaped him as a writer. After hearing of his death, I had to read this book. I chose the audio version and listened to his voice describing his love of reading that was fostered by his mother and a special teacher. My to read list has grown due to Conroy's enthusiastic, educated, and friendly manner.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
915 reviews
September 21, 2022
3.5 rounded up because I admire the writing of Pat Conroy.
I listened to the unabridged audiobook My Reading Life read by the author Pat Conroy, which included an interview with the author.

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 period he spent in Paris, as well as reflecting on other pivotal people, places, and experiences. His story is a moving and personal one, guarded by wisdom and and 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 defence of that credo.
Profile Image for Joanie.
1,297 reviews68 followers
December 26, 2016
This book has had me thinking for days. It got inside my head and under my skin in ways I didn't expect.

First off, there's the dedication "This book is dedicated to my lost daughter, Susannah Ansley Conroy. Know this, I love you with my heart and always will. Your return to my life would be one of the happiest moments I could imagine." I have not been able to stop thinking about these lines, wondering what Pat Conroy did to cause his daughter to stop talking to him. What would it take for my me to stop talking to my parents? What could I do that would make my sons shut me out of their lives? It is truly unfathomable to me.

I poked around a little on the internet and learned that Susannah Conroy hasn't really spoken to her father since he and her mother divorced in the mid 90's. I also learned that Conroy's sister Carol (the poet) doesn't really talk to him either. Apparently she didn't appreciate him modeling the suicidal poet Savannah Wingo after her and they have been estranged ever since. Other members of Conroy's family refused to talk to him after he published "The Great Santini," going so far as to picket his book signings.

I get that people (especially people of a certain generation) don't appreciate having their dirty laundry aired for the whole world but I can't help thinking that there's more to the story. It's hard to read this information without thinking that some of it must be dear old Pat's fault. I don't know why I am stuck on this-I can't shake it. It really has no bearing on the book itself and yet in definitely colored my response. The whole book felt sad to me, heavy. In a lot of ways, Conroy still seems like that sad, lonely military brat seeking solace in books. I keep wanting to tell him to stop holding grudges, forgive the people in his life, put his arms down and let people in. Ridiculous, I know, considering I know next to nothing about the real situation, but that's what this book has done to me.

Okay, now on to the book itself. Conroy writes about his love of books and they way they have shaped his life and his craft. He writes about his favorite books, teachers, bookstores, and places to write. He writes about books with the same luminous prose he uses to create characters. He talks about his love of words and poetry and how he'll use five adjectives to descibe something that could be summed up simply with one. He is a passionate, voracious reader, a lover of words and writing. He says that since he was a freshman in high school he has attempted to read 200 pages a day. 200 pages a day through high school, through college at the Citadel, through his days as a teacher? I feel incredibly lazy just thinking about it and that doesn't even begin to touch on the amount he writes each day.

Reading this book has made me want to read all the classics I've missed and re-read the ones I've already read. It's made me edgy, antsy, itching to read, it's made me want to be a better reader.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,114 followers
October 7, 2012
I have a confession to make: I have never seen the movie The Prince of Tides. I have also not read a single book by Pat Conroy, a southern author who is prevalent in every book store I walk into in my three-state radius.

That is going to change now. After reading his love letter to books, and to the people who led him to those books, I want to see how his reading has been the breeding ground for the books he has produced.

Unfortunately, the book does not have an index of books he discusses, and I'm probably going to work on one, because after you read how they impacted him, you're going to want to read them too. I found a list of "influential writers" on his official website, but I can pretty much guarantee he didn't make the list. You see, it is clear in My Reading Life that he had a horrific encounter with Alice Walker, but one of her books is listed, while James Dickey is not. An entire chapter is devoted to the influence of Dickey on Conroy, and he claims he reads him every damn day. So in protest of that incomplete list, stay tuned.

I'm not usually a fan of flowery, sentimental writing, which Conroy himself admits is his biggest flaw (but one he can't or won't kick). I despise it in descriptions of relationships or nature, but for some reason, on the topic of books and reading, I just can't get enough. I sat and read this book on a single Sunday afternoon, with two cups of coffee. I have slips of paper marking a lot of different bits that I will include in my blog post because they are too long to go here. Suffice to say this book connected with me deeply.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,851 reviews147 followers
December 14, 2020
This a lovely book. Pat Conroy takes us behind the curtain of his writing journey.

From being a victim of an abusive father to becoming a famous writer, Conroy shares his many ups and downs. It is an honest and entertaining trip.

Throughout the book, I found myself relating to his experiences. His favorite bookstore was similar to one I frequented at Penn State in my undergraduate studies. It was in an old and charming house that made the buying experience warm and cozy.

For those aspiring writers, this book is a must because it is chocked full of tips and ideas.

I recommend this book for all.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,388 reviews581 followers
April 27, 2016
Conroy's books have been appreciated reads over the years. I've read most of them. And in tribute, I thought I would read his take on his own reading life.

It held my interest. It's a thorough self study of his own developments through reading and the mentors and influences that surrounded his reading paths. And some of it applied to his own progression to successful and selling book copy.

His sensitivity to nuance, Southern USA identity, and hold over hatred and disdain for forceful bullying come across in nearly every intersect in all these categories / chapters. They grew him. And he often picked the "different" person to closely identity with, it seemed to me.

It reads more like short episodes. And I didn't much like the War and Peace and the Wolfe portions.
They seemed like fillers plastered on the end for length. Reviews and responses to those didn't say much about Pat Conroy himself, IMHO.

I wish he would have exposed more of his core. Or his own lacks to continuity. He seems to have shed closeness in family and elsewhere quite easily for his age group/era. His depth in writing came out of "hurt" and yet we really only know the first "father" one.
550 reviews7 followers
November 16, 2010
This is classic Pat for Conroy fans. As usual, he reveals a lot about himself and his family. When I told one of my friends that I was going to meet Pat Conroy and have him sign my book she asked if it was a list of books he has read. He names very few books in this book. Instead each of the 15 chapters is devoted to a person in his life, beginning with his mother, who encouraged him to read or to write.

I agree with him on many things: his love of story (he says, rightly so, that many authors today look down on storytelling and their books are dull as a result) and his preference to read from books rather than electronic devices.

This is a book for people who love Pat Conroy's writing, as I do. I devoured every word. He is a great storyteller and has a gift for words that few writers possess. This book may not be for everyone, but as I was waiting to meet him, I thought if he wrote the phone book, I would be dying to read every word of it.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
442 reviews22 followers
October 1, 2019
“Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next ten years. If you do them the favor of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.”

I utterly adore books about books and reading and authors...and this did not disappoint.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
October 12, 2011
If you enjoy the books of Pat Conroy, you will enjoy this book. If you don't, you won't.

My first introduction to Pat Conroy was through the movie "Conrack," starring Jon Voight. I had never heard of Conroy, much less read him. However, the movie sent me in search of him. When I found the paperback movie tie-in, I was hooked.

From that time forward, I have read Conroy's books. I have met him, spoken with him, and seen him several times on the book circuit. His voice is a familiar sound to me, and when I here it, I can recognize it, before I see the face from whence the words flow. So when I pick up a new Conroy now, or return to one I have read, Pat Conroy's voice whispers to me as my eyes flicker over the words on the page. It is a most pleasant reading experience.

This book is not so much about the books which have influenced Conroy's life, but about the people in Conroy's life who introduced those books to him. It is surprising to see the venomous statements of some who have reviewed this literary memoir who proclaim that Conroy is a racist because he glorified the South of "Gone With the Wind." How sad. Those readers seem to have just skipped over the whole point that the chapter concerning that novel is a prose poem in homage to Conroy's mother who fired his imagination by instilling him with the love of books and reading them.

"My Reading Life" has its high points and its lows. The finest sections are those relating to Conroy's family, his English teacher Gene Norris, the owner of the Old New York Bookstore in Atlanta, and his first book rep who pushed countless "essential" novels into Conroy's hands, all the while telling him he would never be a great writer.

Here you will find Conroy's dry humor when relating his experiences of meeting Alice Walker, being thrown out of an Adrienne Rich poetry workshop for being male, and being an American in Paris while writing "The Lords of Discipline."

Here you will find Donald Conroy, "The Great Santini," who still holds a swaggering control of Pat Conroy's life, whether he will admit it or not. Conroy would have the reader believe that his soul is at rest with his father's ghost. However, this haunted relationship appears to pervade all the works of Pat Conroy.

The low points of Conroy's memoir are, for this reader, those sections dealing with an author or book for which there is no living connection with Conroy, a book which was not put into his hands by a person influential in his life. The section on "War and Peace" felt forced, that Conroy felt he could not address the issuer of reading without including what some consider the greatest novel ever written. Conroy himself says he would prefer Anna Karenina. Well, Mr. Conroy, why didn't you write about that instead?

The final chapters of "My Reading Life" seem the be the target of the reading public. Even I, a staunch devotee of Conroy's works, found myself thinking, "My, he doesn't know how to end this." So, perhaps the few final chapters detract from what is good in this book. One goodreads friend remarked, "It just petered out." I would love to see the look on Conroy's face if this lady were to say that to him. After all, this is the American in Paris approached by circles of confident ladies of the night, calling him "Beeg Boy." This is the man befriended by a free spirited poet who relished in revealing her sexual experiences with her many lovers. Conroy remarked, to the effect, "Gee,I'm glad we never ended up in the sack. I would hate to see I had been revealed to have chipmunk sized genitalia."

Profile Image for Jan Rice.
532 reviews460 followers
April 5, 2015
An autobiography or memoir via the books of one's life--are there more of these? I've only read one previous book of this sort and it was good, too. It also struck me that Pat Conroy was born the same year as me--actually, two days before my husband's birthday. Much of the book also took place in Atlanta, very, very close to where I live now and lived back in the '70s. He lived on Rosedale, behind Callenwolde for part of his childhood, and wrote about that in Prince of Tides. As a young writer, he attended his first writers' conference at Callenwolde, too. He memorably got kicked out of a presentation by Adrienne Rich, the feminist poet, in the early days of feminism, when the audience voted all the males out. Not being much of a poetry reader, I had never heard of her--and then, while I was still reading this book, her obituary appeared in the local paper. She had died at 82.

Also, Pat Conroy wrote about the impact on his life of "The Old New York Bookseller" Clifford Graubart, whose shop was in midtown Atlanta back in those days. I was living in and around the area, yet don't remember ever seeing that shop. In those days, I just was going around with my head in a cloud so busy and trying to cope with life and don't remember half of what happened--at least the external side of events, but a couple of years ago I myself was referred to this gentleman (Mr. Graubart). I inherited my grandparents' library, and he made a house call to see if any of the few books I'd gone through so far were worth anything, and I sold him several. If/when I go through some more I'll call him again, and then I'll be able to tell him I read about him. (He has since relocated out to the suburbs.)

In Pat Conroy's book there is a whole chapter dedicated to Gone With the Wind. The book is worth reading for that essay alone. It was his mother's favorite book, and she immersed him in it from an early age. He dealt with the love of people for this bygone era and also with the terrible ethical problems of that world. He also spent a lot of time on War and Peace which (shh) I haven't read. Apparently it poses dilemmas similar to Gone With the Wind, since the Russian aristocracy was built on the backs of the serfs. He makes me want to read it.

One other mark in his favor--while not making a big deal out of it, he does not boycott Israeli literature, that is, has not let himself be cowed into book banning.

I had the audio, but now I'll have to get a copy so I can refer back to other books he went into that I now want to read. For Pat Conroy, books are his scripture, his Western Canon, through which he figures out how to live life, and his love for them is contagious. Then, too, he has helped me reclaim some of my own past that I missed the first time around.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,216 reviews114 followers
February 28, 2013
Pat Conroy is my favorite author, he is an amazing storyteller. The first book I read by him was "South of Broad.", I remember being mesmerized with the language and how he wrote his characters with so much depth and substance. Since then, I have read his other novels and he never failed to captivate me with his writing. All of his characters are so rich and lively and his writing style is beyond description, he makes you feel sympathetic with the characters he promises to have a lasting effect on you for years to come.

This book was no exception, reading about the different people who has shaped Pat's life as a writer was rewarding. I learned a lot of new facts about what he experienced growing up and how he overcame difficult obstacles. Although this book was mainly about his life, he also paid tribute to his great heroes who changed his life tremendously over the years. There were many highlights in this book but the best chapter was "Why I write.", it was outstanding how he clearly defined the reasons behind his writing and how he turns rejections into motivations.

God peserve Pat Conroy, there is not one author that I know if that can match his writing style or come close to how he develop stories into reality.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,735 reviews477 followers
July 20, 2013
Pat Conroy pays homage to his mother, teachers, booksellers, and writers that shaped him into being a very popular Southern author. He loves the beauty of language, and reads a poem every day to jumpstart his creative juices before he begins writing. Conroy writes, "I grew up a word-haunted boy. I felt words inside me and stored them wondrous as pearls. I mouthed them and fingered them and rolled them around my tongue. My mother filled my bedtime hour with poetry that rang like Sanctus bells as she praised the ineffable loveliness of the English language with her Georgia-scented voice."

Conroy grew up as a military brat, attending eleven schools in twelve years. He was inspired by his book-loving mother, and abused by his fighter pilot father. He writes about both his mentors and his life of reading that helped him cope with his situation at home when he was young, and influenced his writing as an adult. He writes that Thomas Wolfe, Leo Tolstoy, and James Dickey were all profound influences. After reading this entertaining book, I've got another of his works waiting by my favorite reading chair to enjoy.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,325 followers
March 3, 2017
I once gave a client presentation where I explained the magical way that words can either add or subtract value to the physical object known as a book. A hardbound journal can be found in one section of a store for $20, owing its value to its nice binding and empty pages that welcome the potential of capturing one's own genius. Across the store, a similarly hardbound novel can be found in the dollar clearance bin, owing its lack-of-value to the words on its pages. Case in point, you can't even give away 50 Shades of Grey these days. But if you could delete all the text, voila, the physical book itself is again worth something.

With that in mind, "My Reading Life" is priceless. The words it contains equate to taking a literature course from Pat Conroy, something that is impossible given his passing in 2016. His love for reading, specific authors, and various works is infectious. I was entertained by his stories and also inspired to read great works of literature I've previously thought of as intimidating.

I am ashamed to say this is the first Pat Conroy book I have ever read, but my own reading life will certainly include his novels in the future.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
781 reviews61 followers
October 6, 2016
3.5 Stars. Pat Conroy is a lovely writer and I enjoyed reading about books he has loved and books that have made a difference to his life. What I liked best is reading about how his mother was the impetus to his becoming a life long reader.
Profile Image for lucia.
48 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2021
A soaring love letter to the ways in which books and the people around them shaped Conroy throughout his life. I usually try to stay away from books about books and writing books, but this glowed. Classic Pat. Multiple times, I read paragraphs out loud to whoever was nearest (sorry Mom). Also loved the further insight into his stories about writing some of the books I love so much—he worked on The Prince of Tides (!) in Italy? And wrote in Paris? South Carolina? Atlanta? The stories about the bookstore in Atlanta...amazing. I feel recharged to write.

I do think recognizing his own books that he references and some of the people he reintroduces from them adds a lot to this book. Feels like I’m getting a special behind the scenes. But even if you haven’t read Conroy’s books, I recommend it anyway if you’re a book lover or have been raised by books. So many fun surprises hidden in it, and maybe it’ll introduce you to some new favorites (Conroy or otherwise).

Grr, I wish I could quote whole chapters. Here’s a great quote to fill that hole: “Here is all I ask of a book—give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.”
Profile Image for Sharon Huether.
1,502 reviews10 followers
March 5, 2023
Pat Conroy's mother was his most influential person in his life.
One of his best teachers was Gene Norris, he kept Pat on the straight and narrow.

Being an alter boy, created his knowledge of the Latin Mass. Being a Military Brat, his home life was
extremely military, which was hard on his mother and his siblings.

While living in Atlanta he discovered a book store close to where he lived. He even help put books on the shelves.
The characters in Pat Conroy's books take on some of his family's history. In his stories there is a type of healing for the author. He invites the reader to make the journey with him.
1,642 reviews92 followers
July 18, 2022
This is a memoir of the books and people that influenced Conroy as an author. Conroy has a gift of creating an intimacy with the reader. I was totally engrossed.
Profile Image for Teresa.
689 reviews
March 5, 2016
This is the Pat Conroy I loved. I have loved his books until reading "South of Broad" which I found to be a "big hot mess" - not up to my high expectations of a beloved author. But, Pat Conroy is at his best here in describing the books and people that have influenced his writing life. I loved it.

I particularly loved the chapter in which he writes a tribute to his mother and how she directed him in his love of books, the chapter about the relationship with a teacher who saved him - Gene Norris, the chapter about "The Old New York Book Shop" & his family's reaction to "The Great Santini" (one of my all time favorite books - the movie is pretty darn good, too!) and, the chapter about being a military brat. He writes beautifully and with real emotion and I want to own this book and re-read whenever the mood might hit me.

When Conroy talks about his writing process and style of writing, he is brutally honest and insightful. "The most powerful words in English are 'tell me a story,' words that are intimately related to the complexity of history, the origins of language, the continuity of the species, the taproot of our humanity, our singularity, and art itself. I was born into the century in which novels lost their stories, poems their rhymes, paintings their form, and music its beauty, but that does not mean I had to like that trend or go along with it."

I can identify with Pat Conroy when he writes that he attended 11 schools in 12 years as I attended 14 schools before I left for college.

I can commiserate with him over the closed beloved book store. I still miss our 2 local Borders bookstores and having bookstores in the malls. Booksellers are in real danger of extinction because of Amazon. I miss getting a cup of coffee, listening to local musicians and talking about books with other shoppers.

I can read this Pat Conroy with a lump in my throat for the beautifully written word again. In tribute to his teacher, Gene Norris, he writes "...'Tell me a story,' he commanded, and I did. Those were the last words he ever spoke to me, and they formed an exquisite, unimprovable epitaph for a man whose life was rich in the guidance of children not his own. He taught them a language that was fragrant with beauty, treacherous with loss, comfortable with madness and despair, and a catchword for love itself. His students mourned Gene all over the world, wherever they found themselves. All were ecstatic to be part of the dance."
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