I’ve always been a huge fan of what I call “reading biographies.” Usually but not always written by notable people, they recall not just an individual’s life, but the different books that person encountered and how they might have helped shape him or her in some way or another. Therefore, during one of my weekend library visits when I came across a copy of Pat Conroy’s 2010 memoir My Reading Life, I eagerly grabbed it. Later that week, while sitting on my couch and in need of a new book to read, I optimistically picked it up and began to read. After only a few paragraphs I was hooked. I found this memoir by the celebrated author of The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides a beautifully written and inspiring creation.
Throughout the course of his memoir Conroy recalls both the people who helped shape his life, as well as the books. He begins the memoir with his mother, who despite not having a college degree, was nevertheless a voracious reader and was a huge influence on Conroy, inspiring him to not only use the public library but also read quality literature. Later he would be challenged by one of his school teachers to not only read, but aspire to be a great Southern American writer. Additional influential individuals include booksellers, literary agents, expats and contemporary writers. As far as books go, Conroy credits a ton of them. Gone with the Wind, War and Peace, Look Homeward, Angel, Deliverance and The Baron in the Trees (one of my personal favorites, by the way) all figure prominently in Conroy’s life story.
But what sets this reading biography apart from others, and even other memoirs in general is the writing. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it but this is the book of Conroy’s I’ve ever read. Beautifully written with passion, sensitivity and a rich vocabulary, I can see now why many people love the writing of Pat Conroy. This is a wonderful memoir and I highly recommend it.