Who else but Pat Conroy could write a book about the books he likes to read and turn it into a masterpiece of literature? My Reading Life is a squat little volume containing the history of Conroy's reading life and what led him to be a writer. You learn about the books that changed his life, how Conroy himself writes, and the power that good literature can have on society.
The book opens with a young Pat Conroy being given a love of books from his mother, Peg, who never went to college, but was determined to educate herself through the works of Austen, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare. She used Gone with the Wind as a handbook for how a proper Southern woman should behave and in turn Margaret Mitchell's inspiring novel taught Conroy how to be a man. Books created an unbreakable bond between Conroy and his mother and helped them escape from the world where Conroy's abusive father beat and belittled his family for a lifetime.
Conroy's chapter on a beloved English teacher puts me in mind of the teachers who introduced me to great literature and much of the book reads like a giant thank you to all teachers who dedicate their lives to students.
Reading 200 pages a day, everyday, since he was a freshman in high school, Conroy developed an amazing command of the English language which allowed him to write books like The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, and more. You learn when reading My Reading Life just how much of Conroy's own life goes into his writing and how the thousands of books he has read helped develop his craft. I also enjoyed learning that Conroy writes all his books with a fountain pen, like myself. This is probably the only similarity between Conroy's writing and my own.
My Reading Life is a beautiful creation about the love of books. Conroy writes in a very conversational manner and I found myself writing down quotes from the text which made me laugh as well as think. Whether you have read all of Conroy's works or this is your first foray into his literary genius, you're sure to enjoy the read.