How Reading Changed My Life

(No Series)

Reading lists of some of the author's favorite books accompany her thoughts on the role of books and reading in her life. — The Library of Contemporary Thought is a groundbreaking series where America's finest writers and most brilliant minds tackle today's most provocative, fascinating, and relevant issues. Striking and daring, creative and important, these original voices on matters political, social, economic, and cultural, will enlighten, comfort, entertain, enrage, and ignite healthy debate across the country.

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”

I've been in such a mood to read books about books and love of reading. This short book has an author who always loved reading - the first part of the book was the best. After that it became a little flawed, but overall there are points in each chapter worth noting.

So far I'm in love with this author's writing style! It's interesting how she opens the book with not only her love of reading, but making points of being isolated from it, sharing others stories like Oprah Winfrey for the negative stigma, and how there is a cloud of literary snobbery over America for its duration. Fascinating thoughts that I kept nodding to and agreeing with while reading.

She focuses a lot on her childhood and how she preferred books over playing outside. She touches upon the isolation of a reader, something sometimes overlooked. It's not a straight rule all readers are strictly loner personality types, but it does sometimes go hand-in-hand. She focuses on this isolation and difference as a child and teenager growing up.

Did you experience any comments or negatives for being too much of a reader as a kid? I had a few run-ins with insensitive comments and misconceptions myself.

“While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading, the truth is that there is still in our culture something that suspects those who read too much, whatever reading too much means, of being lazy, aimless dreamers, people who need to grow up and come outside to where real life is, who think themselves superior in their separateness.” 

Her points about some people being driven to books and their isolated, soothing worlds could be because of troubles or pains they were experiencing. Needing to go outside themselves into safer worlds in between pages. I don't want to stereotype and say this is true for every child that is a heavy reader; I do know in my own case it is true.

Her next emphasis is on the dangers of literary criticism and the proper pedigrees of college, how so many get it wrong, not just to pretend to understand things they do not, but to shape their views according to the popular thoughts and beliefs of the institution. Ironically this is the opposite that should be done when considering literature, which dares to be different about controversial topics for its day and age.

"Not for nothing did the Nazis light up the night skies of their cities with the burning of books. Not for nothing were free white folks in America prohibited from teaching slaves to read, and slaves in South Carolina threatened with the loss of the first joint of their forefingers if they were caught looking at a book; books became the greatest purveyors of truth, and the truth shall make you free."

I didn't personally encounter any of this in college since I didn't live in campus or study literature, but I found it fascinating anyway. Her words about the dangers of professional critics and how so many get it bent was interesting and something I agree with. She's definitely against snobby.

The second half loses some cohesiveness - it strangely scatters random thoughts, which brought it down a star.

She ends the book with some short top ten reading lists. I have high respect for her as a reader and want to check out some of her fiction as soon as I can. Not sure how much I'll like her work, but I know she is what I consider a "true reader to heart"

Overall I dug the parts that were biographical (find other readers experiences reading fascinating - yes, I'm a dork.) I also dug the reading and book history she put in that I wasn't aware of, as well as her unconventional notes on snobbery and isolation (very true stuff, loved those sections.)

   Book Quotes:

“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” 

“the joy of someone who had been a reader all her life, whose world had been immeasurably enlarged by the words of others.”  

   Misc. Tidbits:

Author's Website 

A list from the back:

Big Thick Wonderful Books That Could Take You a Whole Summer to Read
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy
Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Henry and Clara by Thomas Mallon
Underworld by Don DeLillo
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry