Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Memoir Review: My Life with Bob

The last book I read for Booktopia 2018 was one I was very much looking forward to: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. This memoir about a life of reading was written by the editor of the New York Times Book Review and the host of its books podcast, which I listen to every week.

This memoir is truly a life story told through books, based on a book journal the author has kept since she was a young teen. Each chapter is headed with a book title and sub-headed with a theme, like the first chapter: Brave New World: You Shouldn't Be Reading That. The chapters, though, do progress in chronological order, starting with Paul's childhood and her earliest reading adventures and moving forward from there through high school, college, and adult life. She writes about a lot of different books that have been a part of her life or affected her in some way, but it's also the story of her life and her progress from naive child reader to editor of the NYT Book review.

I enjoyed this memoir and found I could often relate to what Paul was writing about, like when she explains how, as an avid young reader, she often mispronounced words that she had only seen in print (I still do this!). She has a self-deprecating style that put me at ease. Her story of mis-translating the title The Grapes of Wrath during a discussion in France had me laughing out loud and repeating it to anyone who would listen. On the other hand, some of her book choices were way, way beyond my realm of experience, and there is sometimes a trace of book snobbery and some name-dropping,  especially in her later accounts. But, just like when I am listening to her podcast, I could kind of ignore those bits and focus on the story and the mostly warm, friendly tone. Last year, for Booktopia 2017, I read another memoir in books, Books for Living by Will Schwalbe, which I absolutely loved. I also loved meeting Schwalbe in person, as he was just as warm and compassionate as his memoir. My copy of his book is filled with dog-eared pages and Post-it notes of books I want to read or quotes I want to remember. My Life with Bob was a different kind of reading memoir for me, but one that I also enjoyed.

242 pages, Henry Holt & Company

In addition to the New York Times Book Review podcast, I also enjoy listening to Will Schwalbe's new podcast But That's Another Story, where he interviews other writers about books that influenced them. I binge-listened to all of the episodes this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Order My Life with Bob from your favorite indie bookstore:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or order My Life with Bob from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting concept for a book! I am amazed that she has kept a book journal from her teen years; that is truly impressive.