How Reading Changed My Life, by Anna Quindlen
Title: How Reading Changed My Life
Author: Anna Quindlen
Originally Published: 1997
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Ballantine Books
This was my first introduction to Anna Quindlen. I’ve heard her name bounced around for years but hadn’t had a chance to read anything of hers. And then, some blogger, who I cannot now remember, recommended this little book. So, I added it to my Amazon wishlist and got it for Christmas from my little brother.
Quindlen used to be a columnist for The New York Times. And this book kind of reads like a series of little columns. My major complaint is that it felt lacking in structure. I couldn’t easily discern why the chapters were split the way they were or were presented in the order they were. At the end of the book, I also felt like I still didn’t know how reading changed Quindlen’s life. Seriously. Other than the general way that reading has changed every reader’s life. And, then, I felt the writing style was, at times, a little, tinsy bit belabored.
Notwithstanding the annoyances, I did enjoy this little book. It was a fitting book to sit down with at the dawn of this new year. If anything, HRCML is a love letter to all book lovers everywhere. While reading is solitary by nature, Quindlen rejoices that book lovers persist with the reading and tend to seek one another out. She notes a general societal dis-ease with chronic readers:
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.
There is something in the American character that is even secretly hostile to the act of aimless reading, a certain hale and heartiness that is suspicious of reading as anything more than a tool for advancement. (9)
But true readers know that reading is so much more:
All of reading is really only findings ways to name ourselves, and perhaps, to name the others around us so that they will no longer seem like strangers. Crusoe and Friday. Ishmael and Ahab. Daisy and Gatsby. Pip and Estella. Me. Me. Me. I am not alone. I am surrounded by words that tell me who I am, why I feel what I feel. Or maybe they just help me while away the hours as the rain pounds down on the porch roof, taking me away from the gloom and on to somewhere sunny, somewhere else. (21)
In sum, while I didn’t fall wildly in love with this one, I enjoyed it. And I think any book lover will get some pleasure out of meeting a kindred spirit in its pages.
How Reading Changed My Life, by Anna Quindlen [rating:3]
Have you read or reviewed this book too? Feel free to jump in with your thoughts or leave a link to your review in the comments.