My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (2010)

Pat Conroy fell in love with words as a young boy the way that other boys fall in love with baseball or fire trucks.  He went on to write 10 books, and though I haven’t read his last few, I was a big fan for many years, and The Prince of Tides still ranks high on my list.  As readers, we’re dying to know who shaped the minds and the writing skills of those authors dear to us, and Pat Conroy delivers well in this non-fiction book.    Having read 5 of Conroy’s books, I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through his literary world which included not just the books that most influenced him but also the experiences and people (including his mother, a high school teacher, a cranky bookseller, and other authors) who played a significant role in his writing life.  And every time I read a book like this, I feel like I’ve read so little.  He references book after book after book that impacted him in some way, and I kept thinking about how many of them I haven’t read–and some I hadn’t even heard of. Yet he also hit on several that have been favorites of mine. His book offered me the following reminders: I want to reread Madame Bovary, I need to read Anna Karenina and War and Peace, I’d like my 12 year old daughter to read Gone with the Wind (Conroy’s life in the  South was shaped by it), I’d like to remember that “hurt is a great teacher, perhaps the greatest of all ” (160) and finally, I’d like my students and I to remember that “good writing is the hardest form of thinking.  It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear” (304).   (Non-fiction)

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