I received multiple copies of My Life with Bob as a gift for my birthday; evidently several people believed I would enjoy it and of course, they were right! As a reader, what’s not to like about a book about someone who loves books.
Author Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review kept a record of everything she read in her Book of Books (Bob) for almost 30 years. Her memoir takes us along her life journey with the list of everything she read along the way from her teen years to adulthood. This journal, Bob, is synonymous with her, representing a diary with hopes and dreams, the good, the bad and the ugly. The books she read impacted her life and her life influenced the books she read. She mentions so many, lots of titles I haven’t read and some I have never heard of, but no matter, the story of her life is intriguing and interesting and her story about Bob is inspirational and motivating.
Pamela is open and honest as she shares stories from her travels, relationship issues, family matters and personal disappointments along with joys and celebrations. When she recounts the toast her husband, Michael, made at their wedding, mentioning books she gave him early in their relationship and quoting from Great Expectations, I admit, I shed a tear. She conveyed experiences that touched her in such a way that they touched me too; beautifully written creating a wonderful connection between author and reader.
Pamela talks about her bookclub and everyone’s answers to the question Why Read?
“I read for sheer entertainment.”
“I read to learn.”
“I read to make sense of the world.”
“I read to find out something new.”
“I read to escape.”
“I read because it makes me happy.”
“I read for discovery.”
“For each of us, there seemed to be one core need that drove us to read on. But it was more complicated than that, as the ensuing conversation soon revealed. Everyone experiences most of these urges at different moments, or during certain periods of our lives, which is why most good readers read widely, even if they tend to go deep into one genre or another.”
I enjoyed thinking about the various styles of books I read, and much like how music of a certain time in your like evokes feelings and memories for so many, books can do the same and more. Pamela travelled all over the country, got married, divorced, remarried, had children, changed jobs, yet her Book of Books remained with her to ground her, keep her accountable and motivate her to continue plowing ahead, all the while representing her journey. Each title has significance during a time in her life and the draw to keep adding to the list is real. I wish I kept a Bob from the beginning but more recently I began to record what I read on My Goodreads Account.
Although I haven’t read nearly as much as she has and I’m sure I retain only a small percentage of what I read compared to her, I feel a connection to Pamela and a kinship over the love of books and reading. My Life with Bob is a real treat and a lovely gift for the reader in your life!
As Seen in Goodreads:
Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.
Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.
Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley High to Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.
But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.
About the Author: