Start Your Week Off Write: Book Review – My Reading Life By Pat Conroy

image courtesy Tom Murphy, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

As a writer I want to share here on the blog books that have impacted my creative life. Some are instructional, some are inspirational, some are new friends and some have had a home in my heart for many years.

The book My Reading Life by Pat Conroy qualifies for the first three, and though I recently finished reading it, has already rooted itself in my soul. Sounds kind of dramatic, but it’s true.

Pat Conroy has established himself as an author extraordinaire with novels like The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline and The Great Santini.

He continues to dazzle with My Reading Life, which is a memoir that uses the life changing books Pat has read as a backdrop to key personal events such as his relationship with his mother and his season of writing in Paris, but focuses mostly on how books shape us as people.

This book is filled with insights and a passion for books expressed with beautiful prose. In speaking of his mother, who instilled her love for books in her son, he wrote:

“My mother hungered for art, for illumination, for some path to lead her to a shining way to call her own. She lit signal fires in the hills for her son to feel and follow. I tremble with gratitude as I honor her name.”

In reference to Gone With the Wind, one of his life-influencing books, Conroy says, “This book demonstrates again and again that there is no passion more rewarding than reading itself, that it remains the best way to dream and to feel the sheer carnal joy of being fully and openly alive.” 

I love how Pat helps the reader understand that the choice of reading a book is intimate and even sacred.

“Great words, arranged with cunning and artistry, could change the perceived world for some readers.”

“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 teach me how to die.”

That’s why, especially if you are a writer, you need to make time to read. You need to be careful what you choose to read. It marks you. Read beautiful words, even if the story is ugly, sad or violent, the beautiful words are what pierce your heart. Don’t make your heart dull with dull words. Choose books that sing. Then write books that sing.

“I take it as an article of faith that the novels I’ve loved will live inside me forever.” 

-Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

My Reading Life has contributed to solidifying the decision I made last year to work towards a Lifetime Reading Plan. It’s kind of like a bucket list of books for me. I feel like I am in catch up mode because though I have always been a big reader, I was not discriminating.

I’ve missed a lot of great books, both classic literature and contemporary works. I hope as I read more wonderful books my writing will continue to improve as well. You can see how many books I have on my Lifetime Reading Plan (so far) on My GoodReads Page. Are you on GoodReads? It’s a great place to talk about books!

Want to get motivated to read? Check out these links:

Related post: Book Review – You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) By Jeff Goins 

What book has made a lifetime impact on you and why?

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3 thoughts on “Start Your Week Off Write: Book Review – My Reading Life By Pat Conroy

  1. Your quotes from Pat Conroy’s book are beautiful and inspirational. I’m going to do a Kindle search when I’m done here and read his book. I’d have to say that Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh leads my list of life changing books. A slim volume, I enjoy how she cloisters herself in a cabin on an island to write and then writes about her life back home, encapsulating what it meant to be a wife, mother and writer back in the day. Each chapter/life phase is represented by a shell and after I read the book while on vacation in Florida, I made it my mission to find each shell, if not on the beach then at the souvenir stores.

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Jeff Goins from your last post too!


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