Book Review of “My Reading Life” by Pat Conroy

Posted: November 15, 2017 in Book Reviews
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My Reading LifeMy Reading Life by Pat Conroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear.” – in the chapter “Why I Write” in My Reading Life

Pat Conroy was a consummate storyteller and I can’t think of a novelist who even comes close to crafting sentences so beautiful that they make me cry, so vivid that I am transported in all my senses to the places described, so profound that I catch myself nodding my head, so true that they tug deeply at my soul, and so shocking that they make me shudder visibly and gasp audibly.

I rarely read modern fiction – except for the latest John Grisham novel when I’m flying – because it lacks what Conroy brought to his writing life: he always bared his soul and in the process peeled back the layers on the reader’s soul as well.

In this book, Conroy talks about how reading – including teachers and others along the way who opened up a treasure trove of wider reading to him – from an early age not only impacted his life, but also awakened and matured the writer he would become.

His picks are interesting, but the insights into why he chose the works he does are key in understanding Pat Conroy the author.

That doesn’t mean I will ever run out and read Gone With the Wind (I have never made it even close to all the way through the movie and I can barely stomach Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara – Carol Burnett’s curtain-rod gown comedy sketch rings dead true with my take on Miss Scarlett) or Deliverance (although Conroy’s description of a real life adventure on the rapids of western North Carolina rivers sparked by James Dickey’s novel is quite amusing and surprising in that no one got seriously injured or died), but I can appreciate how Conroy’s choices shaped him as a writer, just as my choices – I know some of the earliest ones would include Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and 1984 by George Orwell – have shaped me as a writer.

Good, quality reading (reading junk doesn’t count) is an essential part of good writing. Conroy’s book is another testimony to that fact.

While fiction is in purview here, good, quality non-fiction reading is just as important. Even in fiction writing, veracity counts – historical accuracy, scientific accuracy, mathematical accuracy, etc. – and good, quality non-fiction reading provides that accuracy.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Quintessential leaders must be well-read and must be excellent communicators.

When someone who is in a leadership position says they don’t read, then they are announcing that they are not quintessential leaders. If all their communications max out at 280 characters, then they are also announcing that they are not quintessential leaders. 

We who are striving to be quintessential leaders are also lifelong dedicated students.

Students study in depth. Students think critically, logically, and deeply. Students analyze from all angles to draw conclusions and prove things wrong or right. Students write to convey their knowledge and understanding of their studies, their thoughts, and their analyses and conclusions.

As quintessential leaders, this should be daily life for us. 

How are we doing?



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