My Reading Life

Many of my friends have been recommending Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life, and I finally picked it up the other day.

Conroy tells us what books have shaped him the most over the years. He moves beyond discussing the books that have influenced him as a writer – he focuses more on how books changed his life. A quote from the first chapter: “Great words, arranged with cunning and artistry, could change the preceived world for some readers.”  I have read and loved many of the books Conroy mentions, and he has made me think about my own reading life.

The first book I truly fell in love with was To Kill a Mockingbird. Not an original choice, I know, but the reason I read the book stays with me to this day: every Wednesday when I was growing up, I went to the library with my mother and grandmother. When I was in the fifth grade, my grandmother saw me walking to the check out counter with my typical stack of Hardy Boys titles and Tom Swift books from the children’s section. She handed me a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and said: “Read this. You’ll like it.”

And, of course, I did. I then watched the movie with her on our black and white TV, and my reading life changed forever. Harper Lee’s classic is important to me not just for its message, but for the story behind why I read it… and I will forever remember and thank my grandmother for influencing my reading life.

Conroy’s biggest influence was his mother, and his book is the perfect example of how specific memories from one writer can spark so many of our own memories. As I sit and look at all the books I love in my library, Conroy has inspired to think about the people who recommended these books, the places where I bought them, and the time in my life when I first read them.

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