Găsiți următorul dvs. carte preferat

Deveniți un membru astăzi și citiți gratuit pentru 30 zile
My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

Citiți previzualizarea

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

evaluări:
4.5/5 (33 evaluări)
Lungime:
258 pages
5 hours
Lansat:
May 2, 2017
ISBN:
9781627796323
Format:
Carte

Descriere

People Pick • O Magazine Title to Pick Up Now • Vanity Fair Hot Type • Glamour New Book You’re Guaranteed to Love This Summer • LitHub.com Best Book about Books • Buzzfeed Book You Need to Read This Summer Seattle Times Book for Summer Reading • Warby Parker Blog Book Pick • Google Talks Harper’s BazaarVogueThe Washington PostThe Economist The Christian Science Monitor • Salon The Atlantic

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.

Lansat:
May 2, 2017
ISBN:
9781627796323
Format:
Carte

Despre autor

Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and oversees books coverage at The New York Times. She is also the host of the weekly podcast, Inside The New York Times Book Review. Prior to joining the Times, she was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist; her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, and Vogue. She is the author of My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues; By the Book; Parenting, Inc.; Pornified; and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.

Legat de My Life with Bob

Cărți conex

Previzualizare carte

My Life with Bob - Pamela Paul

father

Introduction

Why Keep Track?

Like anyone else with a marriage and a home and children and family and work, and more work, I always have something to worry about. And if for some inexplicable reason, I don’t have anything to fret over, I will easily find it. Should it be resolved at 4:16 a.m. one sleepless night, it will swiftly be replaced with something new. I am, alas, a worrier.

Through practice, I’ve become pretty good at it. I can toggle efficiently among a range of potential threats, even as I blanch or shudder at various imagined catastrophes: the satanic undertow out of nowhere. The chairlift that inexplicably derails. The child who tumbles down the stairs, me careening just a moment too late after. We won’t even mention air travel.

And of course there’s the old standby, something most of us have pictured at one point or another: The house on fire. Everything bursting into flames. Only moments to decide what to save beyond children, spouse, small animals. Do I grab the birth certificates, the tax backup, the passports—if only to spare myself the paperwork? Do I go with the valuable or with the irreplaceable? My grandmother’s ring, my poorly collected letters, the computer in case the cloud evaporates?

I wouldn’t bother with any of those things. In my heart, I know that were everything burning to ashes at my feet, I’d leave behind the laptop and the photo albums and even, forgive me, my children’s artwork, because there is one object I’d need to rescue above all else—my true precious, Bob.

Bob isn’t a pet or a teddy bear, though he does hold sentimental value and has been with me since my school days. Unimaginatively abbreviated, BOB is my Book of Books, a bound record of everything I’ve read or didn’t quite finish reading since the summer of 1988, my junior year in high school. It’s my way of keeping track. Because if I didn’t write it all down, I worry (naturally), I would forget it.

He’s nothing fancy, this Book of Books of mine. He isn’t hand woven by artisanal craftsmen from a Himalayan village or decoratively embossed. No, he is factory-made, gray and plain, with a charcoal binding and white unlined paper, an inelegant relic from the days before bookstores stocked Moleskine notebooks, before blogging and scrapbooking and journaling as a verb. Within his covers lies a running account of authors and titles, which I dutifully enter upon the completion of every book I read. After around twenty books or so, when I remember to put it there, a vague date breaks up the catalog.

I first wrote about Bob, with no small amount of trepidation, in an essay for the New York Times Book Review in 2012. Further exposing myself, I allowed the text to be accompanied by a photograph of Bob’s first page, displaying to millions of strangers my early stabs at depth and intellectualism, fleeting girlish obsessions, deliberately obscure annotations, and all. I had revealed my inner life in a very public way, but at least, I reasoned, I’d done so in a safe place, among fellow readers. As soon as the Book Review’s art director scanned in the appropriate page, I recovered Bob from the seventh-floor art department and spirited him safely back home. He hasn’t left since.

My Book of Books is still a private place. It’s not a traditional diary, to be sure. It’s about me, and yet it isn’t about me. It’s impersonal and yet deeply personal. And in my case, it has worked better than a real diary, that basic prerequisite for anyone who fancies herself a future writer. Bob has lasted a lot longer than any of my abandoned teenage journals—I write in it still—and here’s why: diaries contained all kinds of things I wanted to forget—unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends and angsting over college admissions. Bob contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened.

Now in his middle age, Bob offers immediate access to where I’ve been, psychologically and geographically, at any given moment in my life. How I decided on a certain book. What I’d read previously that had either put me in the mood for more of the same or driven me toward something different. Was I in a Civil War stage or up for a good spy novel? Had I read the author previously and, if so, when? Why had I left him and what drew me back? Bob may not always seal into memory the identities of individual characters—much of that is still lost in the cavern—but he does tell me more about my character.

Each entry conjures a memory that may have otherwise gotten lost or blurred with time. Opening Bob, I remember lying in a dormitory in Mauriac, an unspectacular hamlet in central France where I was installed on an American Field Service program, when I wrote my first entry: The Trial, fittingly, an unfinished work. This summons a flood of attendant recollections: seeing Baryshnikov perform in Metamorphosis, on Broadway, which led me to the paperback Kafka I packed with me that summer—an entire swath of Sturm und Drang adolescence reemerges from the fog of those other things I’d rather forget.

The immediacy of these recollections often startles me. Whereas old diaries later read like transcribed dreams—Who wrote that? Was it really me who got so worked up/wanted that guy/obsessed about X?—book titles easily and accurately manage to evoke an earlier state of mind. Yes, I think, reading over the entries: I remember that. I remember that book jacket, that edition, the feel of those pages. For a girl who often felt like she lived more in the cozy world of books than in the unforgiving world of the playground, a book of books was the richest journal imaginable; it showed a version of myself I recognized and felt represented me.

Over the years, Bob has become an even more personal record than a diary might have been, not about my quotidian existence but about what lay at its foundations—what drove my interests and shaped my ideas. There’s where I was physically, sitting in the cat-wallpapered room I’d ambitiously decorated in the second grade or at a leftover table in the high school cafeteria—and then there was where I lived in my mind, surrounded by my chosen people, conversing with aplomb in carefully appointed drawing rooms or roaming in picturesque fashion across windswept English landscapes.

Today my life is engulfed in books. Built-in shelves line my bedroom, adjacent to my Japanese platform bed, purchased for its capacious rim, the better to hold those books that must be immediately accessible. Yet still they pile on my nightstand, and the grid of shelves continues in floor-to-ceiling formation across the wall, stampeding over the doorway in disorderly fashion, political memoirs mixed in with literary essays, Victorian novels fighting for space with narrative adventure, the Penguin classics never standing together in a gracious row no matter how hard I try to impose order. The books compete for attention, assembling on the shelf above the sofa on the other side of the room, where they descend by the window, staring back at me. As I lie in bed with another book, they lie in wait.

The books don’t stop there. They gather on a coffee table in front of that sofa, and in my home office, where they mount according to intended destination—books to donate to my kids’ school, books to give to the local library, books meant for my husband, my mother, my in-laws in California, one of my three children. They fill up totebags that loiter by the staircase, ready to be hauled onto the train, commuting back and forth, some making the return trip, others staying on.

In my office at the New York Times Book Review, they are greeted by like-minded company. Books of interest, books with a purpose, books that are there for a reason. A shelf in front of my desk contains books I may want to refer to someday, by authors who’ve piqued my interest, or who are worth considering as potential reviewers for our pages, or whose work has already been praised. Books to be read, books to be read, books to be read. Books that may one day make their way into Bob.

When I come home and look back through my Book of Books I see a personal narrative I didn’t recognize at the time. I went from escaping into books to extracting things from them, from being inspired by books to trying to do things that inspired me—many of which I first encountered in stories. I went from wishing I were like a character in books to being a character in my books. I went from reading books to wrestling with them to writing them, all the while still learning from what I read.

The prospect of losing Bob has become more vexing as he and I have gotten older. I no longer take him on trips. Now he stays safely at home and I tend to his pages as soon as I unpack, logging in the books read on planes and trains and between meetings. With each entry, I grow more guarded about his contents. I feel as protective of Bob as I do of myself.

Though I thought he’d have long been filled by now and succeeded by a second book, there is still only one of him. He is less than half full, almost exactly mirroring my place in expected life span. He still has so much work to do, so many pages to fill. Yet after nearly three decades, Bob is showing his age. I am sometimes careless with him, which I then feel guilty about. A decade ago I unthinkingly repeated a full one-hundred sequence in error; much scratching out followed. I write entries hurriedly, while standing up, underlining the titles in wavy, discordant lines. His pages betray a certain amount of misuse. At some point, I spilled coffee on him; the cover is mottled and discolored, the binding has split, one corner is woody and bare. He sits on a special shelf, right over my desk, the anonymity of his unappealingly frayed spine ensuring our privacy.

Without Bob, something feels worryingly missing—missing from my life and from the accounting of my life. A book is somehow not quite read, and my own story doesn’t quite make sense, the two inextricably linked. I don’t know where I’d be without Bob and where I’d have been if he hadn’t been there. Bob may be a record of other people’s stories, but he’s mine. If there’s any book that tells me my own story, it’s this one.

CHAPTER 1

Brave New World

You Shouldn’t Be Reading That

When you’re a child, reading is full of rules. Books that are appropriate and books that are not, books that grown-ups will smile at you approvingly for cradling in your arms and those that will cause grimaces when they spy you tearing through their pages. There are books you’re not supposed to be reading, at least not just yet. There is a time and a place.

But for me it felt like there was never enough time, and the place was elusive. Bringing a book of your own to school was a no-no, and not to recess either, where you were supposed to be getting balls thrown at your head. Carrying a book was practically against the law at summer camp, where downtime was for forced mass song. Children were meant to be running around, engaged in active, healthy play with other hardy boys and girls.

I hated running around.

Before every elementary school classroom had a Drop Everything and Read period, before parents and educators agonized more about children being glued to Call of Duty or getting sucked into the vortex of the Internet, reading as a childhood activity was not always revered. Maybe it was in some families, in some towns, in some magical places that seemed to exist only in stories, but not where I was. Nobody trotted out the kid who read all the time as someone to be admired like the ones who did tennis and ballet and other feats requiring basic coordination.

While those other kids pursued their after-school activities in earnest, I failed at art, gymnastics, ice skating, soccer, and ballet with a lethal mix of inability, fear, and boredom. Coerced into any group endeavor, I wished I could just be home already. Rainy days were a godsend because you could curl up on a sofa without being banished into the outdoors with an ominous Go play outside.

Well into adulthood, I would chastise myself over not settling on a hobby—knitting or yoga or swing dancing or crosswords—and just reading instead. The default position. Everyone else had a passion; where was mine? How much happier I would have been to know that reading was itself a passion. Nobody treated it that way, and it didn’t occur to me to think otherwise.

People laugh today at Roald Dahl’s idea that Matilda’s father would scream at his daughter to watch TV rather than slink off with a book, but there is a tiny sliver of truth to the satire, where, on the dark side of seventies benign neglect, parents didn’t run around boasting She’s such a reader! or try to bribe their kids into summer reading. You were supposed to be well rounded, not bookish. Reading too much hurt your eyes and made you need glasses. So did reading by poor light. My own bedside lamp, my mother pointed out, got especially hot and was a fire hazard. Reading in cars made you throw up. Squinting at too-small letters left you blind.

There was a shiftiness to kids who secreted themselves in a corner to read God knows what instead of what they should have been doing. Reading when you were supposed to be raking the leaves, reading when you were supposed to be sleeping, reading when you were supposed to be making the bed, not lying in it. I did everything I could to read my way out of doing anything else. It was the one thing I was good at.

Social skills were not my forte. I was shy as a child, and if my nose was in a book, nobody had to know about this failing. Anything to have fewer adults declare loudly right in front of me, "Oh, she’s shy! Look at her hiding—that’s okay. I didn’t realize she was shy," as if they’d found out I lacked a key mental faculty. At school, I walked around in a state of perpetual embarrassment, certain others could sniff out something different about me. Any second I might trip and fall in front of everyone or find a peanut butter smear on my pants that had been there since lunch period. Or I might accidentally sit at the wrong table, setting off some kind of social distress signal that every other kid but me could hear.

Afraid of being left out or singled out, I turned myself into an independent agent, only lightly associated with others. I read alone, I biked alone, I fed the ducks across the street alone, and I played with my cat alone. I was the only girl among seven brothers, and for the most part our interests did not align. You must have been so spoiled, so cared for! people say when they learn about my solitary femaleness; nothing could have been further from reality. Anytime I exhibited the merest sign of girlishness it was mocked into oblivion; I grew resentful of any privilege that marked me apart. Whenever my brothers were paired off into bedrooms, I felt exiled; I could hear them whispering among themselves through thin walls. At any moment, one of them might wrestle me to the ground, pin me down, and let a gob of saliva dangle threateningly over my face.

My parents divorced when I was three or four (nobody seems to remember exactly), and my father had moved to a series of small rentals on the Upper West Side and then into his girlfriend’s rent-stabilized middle-income apartment on Columbus Avenue with her two sons. My mother remarried when I was seven, and we moved to an ancient house in a new town with her new husband and his three much older sons. Though her new husband was retired, my mother worked long hours juggling multiple jobs, commuting into the city, where she was an advertising copywriter; then she worked into the night freelance editing a series of trade magazines. My brothers and I largely fended for ourselves, walking to school and returning home on our own. Arguments were to be worked out among ourselves. This usually meant threats, slammed doors, and occasional outbursts of violence. I tended to miss when I kicked.

Families seemed better inside books; in All-of-a-Kind Family and Little Women, there were sisters. (All I had was my cousin Kirsten, three years younger and always living somewhere far away—Florida, Germany, Colorado Springs.) Families in books were large and friendly; siblings hugged one another spontaneously and ate scrumptious holiday meals around a table. Nobody sat stonily through servings of boiled spinach and baked potatoes. One day, I resolved, I would have a family like that.

I had the misfortune of being an exceptionally healthy child, never having an infection or vomiting, with only one or two fevers to show for my entire school career. How I longed to be ill so I could stay home and read. No such luck. My mom could spot a faker and had little patience for anything that wasn’t a sky-high fever. It was a blow to discover that the trick that worked in books—putting a thermometer by the lightbulb—didn’t work in real life.

Reading time became my time and place, another dimension where events operated by my own set of rules. Nobody else needed to know when you snuck off with your Sweet Valley Highs whether you were a Jessica who wished she were an Elizabeth or vice versa. What you read revealed what you cared about and feared, what you hoped for because you didn’t have it, what questions you wanted answered without publicly unmasking your ignorance. I guarded this information fiercely.

Like W. H. Auden, who once wrote, Occasionally, I come across a book which I feel has been written especially for me and for me only, I considered certain books mine, and the idea that other people liked them and thought of them as theirs felt like an intrusion. (Like a jealous lover, I don’t want anybody else to hear of it—Auden, again.) I wanted to be the only one who knew about a book or at least to be the first one there.

In fourth grade, reading Forever felt like breaking the law with every turn of the page. Just acknowledging Judy Blume’s existence, with her frank acknowledgment of tweenish emotions, filled me with shame. That the procuring of such intimate books had to be public was horrifying especially because I cared enormously what the library staff thought of me. I liked to imagine the clerk surveying my outgoing stack with admiration and approval. Look at that wise little girl, he was meant to think. She’s one of us. When I checked out the Blumes, I’d wait until the coast was clear, staring resolutely away from the clerk like a thirteen-year-old buying Tampax, hoping he wouldn’t connect me with that other sage girl who read Louisa May Alcott.

I was certain I’d lose their respect entirely if they caught me when, following the gateway drug of Judy Blume, I progressed to Paula Danziger and Norma Klein, explicit and positively dirty. That there were books I knew were inappropriate, and that I wanted to read them anyway, was obviously a personality flaw. The climax of exploitative teenage lit was, of course, V. C. Andrews’s scintillating incest series that began with Flowers in the Attic, but those I got at Barnes & Noble. I wasn’t prepared to risk

Ați ajuns la sfârșitul acestei previzualizări. Înscrieți-vă pentru a citi mai multe!
Pagina 1 din 1

Recenzii

Ce părere au oamenii despre My Life with Bob

4.3
33 evaluări / 30 Recenzii
Ce părere aveți?
Evaluare: 0 din 5 stele

Recenziile cititorilor

  • (3/5)
    Paul is an editor for the NYT Book section and a big reader. Since early adulthood, she has kept a notebook with a list of all the books she reads; the Book of Books, or BOB. This seems like a great idea. I didn't start keeping a record of books I read until I joined Library Thing, and I wish I would've done so.She has written a literary biography, where she tells a bit about her life, and a bit about the books she read. This seems like a good idea, but actually is quite dull. She doesn't manage to pull up deep connections between her life and the books she reads, and her thoughts about life and reading are, honestly, kind of shallow. I did not end up adding anything to my TBR list based on Paul's descriptions.I feel a bit bad to say this, because I am sure that if I had kept a list of all my books, and then tried to write a book about the process, it would be equally dull, if not more so. Also, this suffered because I read Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express so recently, and he manages to discuss his reading and how it intersects with his life at the moment in a totally fascinating way.
  • (5/5)
    Hardcover, 256 pages Pub May 2nd 2017 by Henry Holt and Co. ISBN13: 9781627796316Coming out at this time of year, Pamela Paul’s memoir is reminiscent of a commencement speech, albeit book-length and one just as interesting for the parents as for the graduates. It is a blast to listen to an obsessive reader share her thoughts on books, her travels and travails. Bob is her lifelong companion and record, her Book of Books, the place she can note what she has read. It gives date of completion, and, because Paul tried to read books about the countries or cities she visits or lives, we deduce a sense of location. It is her book of memories then, a record of where she has been.Paul was the single daughter born into a family of seven sons. Despite the expected in-house torture and rough-housing, her psyche remained remarkably intact, though her parent’s divorce may have had more effect than discussed here. She did emerge as a reader, an introvert, and from a young age wanted to write. In this book she has boldly decided to write about what she’s read in the context of her life, and astonishingly, it is interesting. We enjoy retracing her faltering steps as a burgeoning adult, in which she recalls with uncommon accuracy the embarrassed and confused feelings of a teen.France plays a large role in Paul’s life. Although her American Field Service (AFS) experience in a small town in suburban France was not as she imagined, it set the table for her next visit and the one after that. Eventually she found a family in France that became a second home, a family that subsequently attended her weddings and met her children. This kind of close long-term relationship defines Paul, I think. We all have trajectories, but not all of us cultivate the path as we go so that it becomes personal, the impact felt on both sides.Paul’s decision after college to go directly to Thailand without the usual scramble for underpaid work at home was prescient but daring. She’d not get another chance to see that part of the world with any depth, though the China portion of the trip gave me the screaming heebies. It sounded perfectly horrendous, completely uncomfortable, filled with sickness and incomprehension. The China trip was her father’s idea, and it never became hers. The unmitigated disaster of that trip reminds us that we have to own our journey, start to finish, for us to manage it with any kind of finesse. There was a marriage that lasted a year. The utter heartbreak Paul experienced does not lacerate us: from the moment she begins to speak of her first husband we are suspicious. She is much too happy much too soon. Love is one thing. Blindness is another. In my mind I modify Thoreau to read: beware all enterprises that require giving up a large, rent-controlled flat in New York City..."…the minute a subject veered from the fictional world, the private world, the secluded, just-us-on-top-of-the-mountain world, into the greater, grittier territory below, the nonfictional world, my husband and I had serious differences…Even when we each happily read those same books about the perfidy of man, we read them in opposite ways…this kind of book contested my essentially optimistic view of the world rather than overturned it…whereas for him, the world really was that bleak, and the books proved it."Here you have, folks, a political difference so profound it can break nations in two. Ayn Rand’s work became Paul’s personal standard for judging viewpoints. Paul admits--she who practically worships books--that she threw one of Ayn Rand’s books in the trash after reading it, so that no one else would be polluted by its ideas. I laughed. I did the same thing, though I contemplated burning it before I did. In my tiny garage-turned-apartment in New Mexico, I wrestled with Rand’s horrifying vision of a society of go-getters and decided that to burn her book would invest it with too much significance. I loved reading about Paul’s poor dating experiences after that. She was inoculated against irrational exuberance after her divorce, but she still wanted intimacy. She manages to share with us chortle-inducing instances of “okay, I’ve had enough of that” with some of the men she met later. My favorite might be the time a boyfriend convinces her that he’d been to the Grand Canyon before and so can show her “the best way to see it.” Har-dee-har-har. This memoir is a great example of smart and funny, gifting us many moments of remembering our own worst histories and reinforcing for younger women coming along that our judgment may be the only thing separating us from a much worse time of it.Pamela Paul is now books editor of The New York Times and no longer has to struggle to find the coin to buy a new book. She is the best kind of editor for all of us because she is has read widely and acknowledges the draw of genre fiction while communicating her admiration for the range of new nonfiction that helps us cope with our history and our future. She is also an interested and informed consumer of Children’s lit and Young Adult titles, which aids me immeasurably since these are not my specialty and therefore necessitate me seeking assistance from a trusted source.Access to all there is out there comes with its own set of stresses, but Paul has extended her reach by asking some of the best writers in the country to read and review titles in the NYT Book Review, and to talk about their selections on the Book Review Podcast, available each week from iTunes as an automatic download. Her guests and her own considered opinions help to narrow the field for us. This is a great vacation read, not at all strenuous, yet it is involving. Imagine the unlikeliness of the concept: an introverted reader and editor writes a book about her life…reading…and it is interesting! Totes amazeballs. It occurs to me that Goodreads is one big Bob. I’m so glad Paul put the effort in to share with us: big mistakes don’t have to be the end of the world. It depends what happens after that. See what I mean about commencement?
  • (4/5)
    "We need an archeology for our own lives." - Kim Stanley Robinson, "Vinland the Dream," "The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson"For many of us, photo albums serve this purpose. The photographs show the many layers of our lives, revealing who we were and who we were with at various times and places. Others may rely on a diary or perhaps just those boxes of stuff accumulating in our attics or even the clothing in the back of our closets.For Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, there is just Bob, as she describes in "My Life with Bob." Bob is not a man but a book. It is her acronym for what she calls her Book of Books, a notebook in which she has recorded, in very small print, the titles of every book she has read since she was 17. These book titles work for her like photo albums and attics work for other people. They can take her back instantly to other times in her life.And so "My Life with Bob" is her autobiography, the story of her life told in book titles. "Brave New World" takes her back to high school. It was one of the novels she read for her honors thesis. She read "The Grapes of Wrath" as a young woman living with a family in France. The Flashman novels remind her of an old boyfriend who liked them. She didn't, and soon didn't like the boyfriend. "A Wrinkle in Time" takes her back to when her children were young and she read to them every night.Yet the books she writes about are more than just signposts for her life. They become metaphors, as the themes in novels somehow become the themes for her life at the time she read them. Such is the power of literature that it not only puts us in the stories but, at the same time, puts the stories in us. Paul sees herself as Anna Karenina, trapped in a catch-22 and even, metaphorically speaking, swimming to Cambodia.I, too, have been keeping a "book of books" for many years, although it is actually several books. I just can't write as small as Pamela Paul apparently does. As Bob does for her, these books give me an archeology of my life.
  • (5/5)
    A great read about the intersection of reading and life by a great reader.
  • (5/5)
    Enjoyed this book. BOB is Pamela Paul's Book of Books, a list of her reading selections for the last 26 years, since high school. It is a memoir of sorts and her honesty and humor add a lot to it. Paul has a delightful way with words and reflects on her life through her selection of books, many chosen because of the mile marker of her life. She tended to read books abut the country she was visiting (sometimes in their native language), baby books after becoming pregnant. She talks about divvying up books after the breakup of her marriage and the fact that, for the first time in her life, she couldn't read at all. Through it all, her love of books and sharing books, rating the possibility of a relationship with a person by what/who they read resonated deeply within me. I have kept a log for over 15 years and, like Paul, it is a diary of where I was (physically or emotionally), who I may have shared a book with, and my feelings about each book. I love books about books and this did not disappoint.
  • (5/5)
    Original, witty, for passionate readers. This book makes me want to read deeply again. Life's busy-ness has too often gotten in the way for me, but I am newly inspired by "Bob." The first half reads like a coming-of-age. Then the author relates her adult adventures in travel, love, motherhood and loss, woven through her life as a reader. I especially enjoyed her description of hate-reading.
  • (4/5)
    Ms. Paul uses her "book of books" to take a look back at her life with the idea of seeing what the list of her reading tells her about her experiences. It is a novel way of telling the story of one's own life - what were the books that informed various moments in life?
  • (4/5)
    I got this book free through LTER.This book is at its best when it talks about the author's current life as an adult with her family. The introduction, with books piled everywhere, and the second half of the book are pretty good. The early parts where she travels the world getting in scrapes through willful ignorance and severe lack of foresight, not so endearing. I like books of this genre (tagged 'metabooks' in my collection) but this one's not my favorite. Maybe I'll enjoy it more on a reread. I would read more from this author if it was about her current book life.
  • (5/5)
    When she was seventeen, Pamela Paul (editor of the New York Times Book Review), began a journal listing every book that she read. She entitled the journal Bob, or Book of books. Over the years, through every life milestone, she has faithfully recorded the books she read making this a memoir told from the perspective of the books that she was reading along the way. Whether traveling alone in Asia, marrying, recovering from divorce or any other important part of her life, she read books to see her through. Of course, any reader will highly relate to this memoir. I listen to the author's weekly podcast and felt as if I could hear her voice as I read, which greatly added to the experience. I will normally pick up any book that is about reading and books, and this one ranks near the top of my favorites list. I received this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Pamela Paul has been keeping a journal of every book she's read since junior high. In this memoir she uses that journal as a jumping off point for talking about parts of her life she was reminded of by entries in the journal. *shrug* On the face of it, this should be right up my street. I love books about books, I like bookish memoirs, I also have kept a journal of books I've read since childhood. But it didn't grab me. I never warmed to Paul, there's not enough about the actual books to please me, and I was hoping for the book journal to play a bigger, geekier part in the whole thing, I guess. YMMV.
  • (5/5)
    It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a great while a book comes along that seems to have been written just for you. It may be a book about some obscure hobby of yours that you figured no one else in the world cared about, or about some equally obscure figure from the past you imagined no one remembered (much less actually cared about) but you. And in the unlikeliest of all cases, it might be a book - imagine it now, a whole book - about some weird habit of yours that you seldom speak of in public. It is exactly that last possibility that happened to me with Pamela Paul’s My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. Who knew there was another person in the world maintaining a decades-old list of every book they ever read?Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, began keeping her Book of Books (the “Bob” referenced in this memoir’s title) in 1988 when she was just a high school junior. (As a point of reference, I began my own “Bob” in 1970, a few months before I turned twenty-one.) Paul describes Bob as “factory-made, gray and plain, with a charcoal binding and white unlined paper, an inelegant relic from the days before bookstores stocked Moleskine notebooks,” exactly the kind of non-descript little book, I suspect, guaranteed to remain forever safe from the prying eyes of outsiders. In twenty-two chapters, each chapter carrying the title of one of the books listed in Bob, Paul exhibits just how precisely she is able to reconstruct segments of her past by studying Bob’s pages. Each of the books chosen for chapters of their own remind the author of where she was both “psychologically and geographically” when she first read them. By studying the list to see which books she read before and after the highlighted title, Paul can easily see whether the earlier books put her in the mood for more of the same or pushed her toward reading something very different. Too, if her reading choices moved in a new direction, she can quickly determine how long that new interest or trend lasted. And she confirmed something concerning one’s memory about which most avid readers will readily agree: Keeping a list of fiction read does very little to solidify the recall of characters or plot details – what it does do is provide a better understanding of changes in one’s own “character.” My Life with Bob is an intimate look into the life of a woman who has made books and reading the central core of her life. She has had many roles during her life: student, daughter, wife, mother, etc., but I suspect that she takes equal joy in knowing that reader is an essential term others would use to describe who she is – and always has been. Readers are a curious lot, and one of the things we are most curious about is what others are reading. We cannot resist browsing the bookshelves of those whose homes we visit, often altering our opinions (either upwardly or downwardly) about those being visited according to what we see on their shelves. We find ourselves straining to read the titles of books on shelves sitting behind pictures of celebrities and politicians because we know that people are more likely to reveal their true nature and level of curiosity by what they choose to display on their private bookshelves than by what comes out of their mouths. We can’t help ourselves; that’s the way we are.If you are one of those people, you are going to love My Life with Bob because Pamela Paul is a kindred spirit who gets it.
  • (5/5)
    There is hardly a page in this book that doesn't have something underlined. For me, someone who is so anal-retentive about books that even my non-reader friends tease me about it, this is a huge deal. But, if you're a lifelong reader like I am, there are so many wonderful, insightful, yes-I-do-this-too, it's-not-just-me kind of things that after two chapters I just had to break out a pencil and start marking this up. It's a joy! I took my time reading this, and even so, it seemed too short. I've already purchased a hard copy and given two copies as gifts for no reason, that's how much I love this book. Pamela's sharp, self-deprecating wit, and her perfect wording for teenage/young 20's angst is so outstanding. How can one person be so specific in talking about books and her life that it feels universal? That's the kind of bookish, readerly magic that you'll find in these pages. Simply wonderful, and the best thing I've read so far this year.
  • (5/5)
    My Life with Bob, is a memoir about reading, books, and how books that Pamela Paul has read connected to her life at the time. Each chapter features a book that is recorded in her book of books, her "Bob", and each chapter is also about a phase of her life. Few of us have the discipline to record every last volume we read, and the wisdom to reflect on what they mean to us. For a serious reader, this book about a book about books is a great book.
  • (5/5)
    I LOVED this book! Pamela Paul writes about her life and the books she's read along the way (documented in her Book of Books aka "Bob") with such refreshing honesty and frightening relate-ability. I consider myself a voracious reader, but Pamela has read so much and so broadly (aided by her desire to travel around the world) that I can only hope to one day have a Book of Books as full as hers. I laughed aloud several times, nodded along in agreement with her many insights on the power of books, and cried with her when reliving her grief for a lost loved one. I cannot recommend this book about books enough!
  • (4/5)
    As a lifelong bibliophile I devoured this book. Pamela Paul's essays about the transformative power books have on our lives rang true with me, from meticulously keeping track of all the books read to finding the right book when you need to judging people by books they do or don't love, I knew exactly what she meant. I do the same things and feel the same way. At times the author could almost come off as a bit pretentious with her literary classics and disdain for mass market popular paperbacks, but it's clearly not her intention. While I do not have such high brow reading tastes (I read all over the spectrum; from self published smut to feminist essays to pulp fiction, I'm an equal opportunity reader and once I start a book I never put it down), I could see where she was coming from. I too was in awe of the library as a kid, I took a book everywhere I went (still do) and I still feel a righteous zeal when I'm endorsing a book I absolutely love to everyone. A great book for bibliophiles, librarians, and writers.
  • (4/5)
    Plot in a nutshell: voracious reader tracks what she has read over the years (starting in high school) and relates the books back to various yet significant times in her life. How many other people have done this? I know I have. I track title, author (full name because, for example, there is more than one Girls: Stories out there), reason read, dates read, whether or not I wrote a review and lastly, even which library I borrowed the copy from. I differ from Paul in that I try not to buy my books and when I do I never keep them. I borrow from every library within my state and thensome. Paul differs from me in that she decided to write a book about her reading exploits and reflect on what was going on in her personal life at that time. I blog with the briefest of hints to my personal life. What we have in common is how we read, sneaking pages in anytime we can. Our similarities and dissimilarities crisscross like highway lines on a map.But, beyond being an entertaining tale about voracious reading and where it got her in life, I found Paul's memoir informative. For example, I will read Tolstoy's War and Peace with a family tree. I will allow myself to feel real emotion for inanimate objects (like Paul did while reading Ungerer's Otto).
  • (4/5)
    This book is all too easy for an avid reader to relate to. More a paean to the books she has read than to her "Book of Books" itself, Paul uses "Bob," her diary of (almost) every book she's read since high school, as fodder to recall how the books she read throughout her life shaped her experience of it. Part memoir and part travelogue, this is a love story between a reader and the stories that changed her. I'm a bit jealous that she seemed to so easily manage to see the world and become the editor of the New York Times Book Review; even without a Book of Books, it would be hard not to make that life into an interesting story. But the fact that Paul started from humble beginnings and seemed to doubt so much of her own intellect helps shine a lot on just how important reading can be to contributing to your sense of self and your increased confidence and risk-taking. It almost makes me want to go back and put my LibraryThing account on paper.My favourite passage:"'You should read this book' almost never simply means you should read this book. It is usually far more fraught. Telling someone what to read, even asking politely, can feel more like an entreaty or an implied judgment or there's something you should know than a straightforward proposal. If you read this book, then you love me. If you read this book, then you respect my opinions. If you read this book, you will understand what it is I need you to understand and can't explain to you myself."
  • (5/5)
    My Life with Bob has so much going for it, it’s hard to figure out where to start. It’s a memoir by an avid reader who, since she was in high school, has kept a journal listing the books she has read. She calls it her Book of Books, or Bob. (Today, she’s the editor of the New York Times Book Review, which will make many readers take heart that sticking one’s nose in books can actually lead somewhere.) As a framework for the memoir, the author focuses each chapter on particular book (or several books) that were meaningful to her at one point in her life (college years, grad school, marriage, childrearing, etc.). It’s hard for me to communicate just how COOL an idea that is.A few things I like about My Life with Bob:1)The writing style is breezy and the author makes it look easy. 2)Even though the author has a pretty high-brow book list, she doesn’t insult readers whose selection of reading material doesn’t coincide with her own. 3)The author has a great sense of humor. 4)Unlike the authors of many memoirs, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. 5)Every chapter has something in it for readers to ponder AND a possible book to be added to a To Be Read pile. 6)The author comes across as a genuinely nice person. The ultimate compliment I can give to this book is that, having read it in the form of an ARC, I plan to pre-order it today so I have a hardcover edition to keep and read again. I’ve never done that before. My Life with Bob is a keeper! Review based on publisher-provided ARC.PS: My "Bob" is LibraryThing.com!
  • (4/5)
    When I first requested "My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues," I was intrigued. As someone who loves reading and books about books and likes keeping track of things, this book initially seemed to be my reading catnip. While I found "My Life with Bob" to not quite live up to the promise of its premise, it eventually won me over. Paul's candidness about her reading and personal lives made for an enjoyable and thoughtful read even though it took me a while to engage with the book.The book's premise is that Paul, author of several books and editor of "The New York Times Book Review," keeps a Book of Books (the Bob of the title) where she lists the titles of books she has read. Bob has been Paul’s stalwart companion through many life events; it travelled with her to France, Poland, and Thailand and has remained steadfast through romantic relationships, heartbreak, and familial changes.Although Bob is mentioned in each chapter, it isn’t the focus so much as it is a premise for Paul exploring different milestones in her life through the lens of reading and books. While I would have liked Bob to have more of a role, Paul’s skillful writing and ability to describe her life with candor and charm without becoming too precious or self-indulgent. As mentioned earlier, it took me a while to get into the book, but once I did, I found it fascinating. Paul undoubtedly is a well-read, knowledgeable, and voracious reader, but she also acknowledges her blind spots and follies when it comes to reading. Additionally, the books she connects to the events in her life manage to be both unexpected and meaningful, and the way she describes them makes me want to read (or, in some cases, reread) them.All in all, “My Life with Bob” is a book designed for book lovers who love talking to (or reading about) the love affair other people have with books. It might even inspire them to start a Bob of their own.
  • (4/5)
    Bibliotherapy or bibliomania? That seems to be the question that the author wishes to answer for herself within the pages of this delightfully deceptive and engagingly written book about reading and the life of the mind. “Bob,” you will understand, is not about a “Robert;” in fact, it’s not about a person at all. Rather, “Bob” is actually “BOB,” an acronym that Paul has created that stands for “Book of Books,” her personal ledger in which she dutifully records dates, titles and authors of literary works that she has tackled – not always successfully – throughout her checkered past.Begun during the summer of 1988, and added to continuously since then, Bob is really just a frame upon which Paul stretches the pelt of her story, which includes elements of memoir, travelogue, soap opera and bildungsroman. One salient feature of her writing is a brutal honesty; another is a gift for description that gives the reader a “you are there” sensation. Remembering a shy and lonely childhood (Paul was the only girl among seven male siblings), she relates that, “Whenever my brothers were paired off into bedrooms, I felt banished; I could hear them whispering among themselves through thin walls. At any moment, one of them might wrestle me to the ground, pin me down, and let a gob of saliva dangle threateningly over my face.” For Paul, reading during those early years represented an escape hatch, a portal by which she could enter another world, or as poet Emily Dickenson wrote: “There is no frigate like a book/to take us lands away.” Later, the author read for enlightenment as well as entertainment, but by her own admission, her passion for the written word could border on obsession, as detailed in this passage: “Some people are perfectly content with just the reading of books…I am one of the other sort…My sort wants the book in its entirety. We need to touch it, to examine the weight of its paper and the way the text is laid out on the page. People like me open books and inhale the binding, favoring the scents of certain glues over others, breathing them in like incense even as the chemicals poison our brains. We consume them.” Geez, Louise, show some enthusiasm, why don’t you?Although the real story here is the experiences of the author, Paul expertly weaves the disparate threads of work, family, travel, and human relationships into a telling tapestry that continually references the books that have informed and influenced her decisions. These titles, of course, are duly registered in her book of books, which becomes a metaphorical mirror, reflecting the image of a searching soul. Quoting from A Journey of One’s Own by Thalia Zepatos, Paul decides to abandon (for a time), the mind-numbing world of cube farms and corporate stooges. Concluding that the bigger the risk, the bigger the rewards, she sets off for Thailand, with no knowledge of the language, landscape or customs of that country, other than what was relayed in a Lonely Planet guidebook. “Maybe instead of just reading about other women’s stories, I could become a person worthy of my own,” Paul writes.One troubling note in all this is that Paul seems to only superficially engage with the books that she reads. Bob contains only titles and authors; there are no annotations regarding what she thought of the work itself, or how she interpreted its meaning. Also left unsaid is how she manages to read so much in a given period of time. Did Paul ever take Evelyn Wood’s speed reading course? To this reviewer, it appears to be a case of quantity over quality. However, in all fairness to Paul, in a chapter sub-titled, “Why Read?,” she digs for a deeper understanding of her own motivations and involvement with ink and paper: “It’s about experiencing something I would otherwise never have the chance to experience. To know what it’s like to be a merchant marine in the South Pacific precisely because I never will be a merchant marine in the South Pacific…Books answer that persistent question ‘But what is that really like?’ By putting you in the place of a character unlike yourself in a situation unlike your own, a good book forges a connection with the other. You get to know, in some way, someone you never would have otherwise known.” Everyone likes, perhaps even needs, a happy ending. Despite some stumbles, such as a first marriage that lasted barely a year, Paul eventually finds true love, has children and, after the requisite ink-stained-wretch period of overworked and underpaid writing jobs, is hired as editor of the New York Times Book Review. This is about as close to “having it all” as it gets, to be reader, writer, mother, wife. Flipping through the pages of Bob, and reflecting on where she has been and where she is now, Paul concludes her tale by stating, “My clues are all here, on these pages. On the pages of my Book of Books…Even if we don’t keep a physical Books of Books, we all hold our books somewhere inside of us and live by them. They become our stories.” Well said, from one exceedingly well read. This thought provoking and passionate paean to the world of the written word is highly recommended to all those who agree with William Ellery Channing, who said that “It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, [great intellects] talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.”PLEASE NOTE: This review is based on an advance reader’s edition of this book. Goodreads Giveaway randomly chose me to receive this book free from the publisher. I was under no obligation to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Passages quoted may differ from the finished product, which at the time of review, was not yet available. Review by Michael F. Bemis.
  • (4/5)
    Well, I am about to write a review of a book written by the editor of THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Pressure !Actually, it's a pretty easy job. This memoir is a candid, and often funny, story of Pamela Paul's life, punctuated by the books she was reading when life happened. I give it high marks.Like you, who is reading this on a site for readers and book collectors, I love books. I can relate to Paul's passion. Like Paul, books framed my early boyhood - not athletics or outdoor adventures. Blessedly, adolescence was a happy time for me, largely because my friends were readers and actually competed with each other in English class writing assignments. I worked in our local library from 5th grade through high school.Alas, I didn't keep a Book of Books (the "Bob" in this story). If I had, I would like to think it would be approximately the length of Paul's Bob. For Paul, books were solace, were escape, were entertainment, were instructive. I can relate to all of that.Of course, Paul is not just a consumer of books; she also is a writer of them. Her short-lived first marriage, described here (mostly through recounting arguments with her husband about books), was the launching pad for her THE STARTER MARRIAGE AND THE FUTURE OF MATRIMONY (2002). She knows how to bare her soul, and the glimpses of her inner life make MY LIFE WITH BOB particularly endearing.She now has probably the best job in the world for a book lover. And good for her !
  • (5/5)
    Dear Pamela Paul,Please come and live with me and be my literary big sister.I am,Yours devotedly in reading.No, for real. Every reader must read this book. Pamela's descriptions of the joys (and sorrows) of reading are beautiful. She is exquisitely thoughtful in connecting the books she records in Bob (her Book of Books, in which she lists everything she's read since age 17) to her life, or to her reflections of the life she was living at the time she read a particular book. She also discusses many of her travels, giving them equally thoughtful and literary treatment. Seriously, this is the book about reading that I wish I could have written.
  • (4/5)
    Keeping track of the books one reads isn't an unusual activity in and of itself; many readers, myself included, use LibraryThing for this purpose. But author Pamela Paul has taken her recordkeeping one step further in My Life with Bob. In this collection of coming-of-age essays, she connects her reading to her life's journey. She goes from being a confused child of divorce, through phases as an Ivy League student and world traveler, to her current incarnation as wife, mother, and editor of the New York Times Book Review. Throughout the collection she highlights the literary works that have influenced her, from Brave New World to Les Misérables, which she reads in the original French. I would characterize this book as pleasant and mildly engaging, but I wonder how much of it I will remember about it in a week, a month, or a year.
  • (4/5)
    This is my favorite kind of book: a book-about-books.This is my favorite kind of author: a Reader. (Capital letter intended). What is not to love?
  • (5/5)
    "Books gnaw at me from around the edges of my life, demanding more time and attention. I am always left hungry." (191)I enjoy a lot of books. I've said it before, and I'll likely say it again, but I can find something redeeming in almost every book.But I don't say this often: this book spoke directly to my soul.This book is for anyone who loves books. (Where my bibliophiles at?!) For anyone who has ever had to defend buying new books when they still have unread books on their shelves. For anyone who has ever stockpiled books, obsessively collecting and loath to purge, like a dragon defending its hoard. For anyone who has ever desperately tried to get a friend to read a book you love, and then sat on tenterhooks waiting anxiously for their response. For anyone who is admittedly a bit of a book snob. For anyone who grew up escaping into infinite worlds through pages and spines.Pamela Paul is the Editor of the New York Times Book Review, and altogether manager of all things books over at the NYT. She also is a celebrated author, even before this book was released. But I didn't really care about any of those. Paul wrote this book about her Bob, which is what she calls her "Book of Books." When she was 17, she started keeping a "diary" of every book that she read, with a date (by month), the author, and the title. Plus a sort of rating system. [SIDE NOTE: I did something similar to this for...probably 10 years until I discovered Goodreads. It was much more simplistic - no date, only author and book title, but I carried that sheaf of loose-leaf pages as it grew in the back of my current journals for a decade.Since the fall of 1988, for the majority of her life, Bob has been there with her. It has traveled with her. It has been through heartbreak and triumph and children being born with her. She uses the concept of the Bob, and her general love of reading, to write a memoir of her life. She addresses required reading, books that change your life, heroines (especially as a woman, heroines in books are infinitely important), the love for a book as analogous to the love for a person, making book recommendations (and what that really implies), about reading with her own children, tearjerkers (where she relates the death of her dad), and finally addresses the big question: Why read?Why read is actually a question I ask myself often. I'm not quite sure how I got to be such a voracious reader. I do think it started with being read to and reading at an early age. But I also think that, after that "indoctrination" phase, I have been inclined toward reading for a number of reasons. The initial reason was to escape my often-less-than-ideal home life. It's the same reason I did theatre. To abscond into someone else's story, to get to experience being someone else for a time, helped me survive an incredibly trying period in my life.That has morphed pretty seamlessly into this moment in my life where I still read to escape in a way, but for different reasons. I read to become more empathetic, to experience diversity from points of view I can't really get in other ways, to be informed, to be entertained, to be titillated. To enjoy the symbiotic relationship between a book and a reader. To retain the tradition of storytelling, passed down from the pre-history days of oral storytelling. To love a thing that may have existed for centuries before me, and that may exist for centuries after me; a thing that will endure much longer than many other earthly things.There's not much more I can say other than what I've already said, and that, if you're a bibliophile, you MUST read this book. It will have you feeling so warm and tingly and nostalgic for the books you've loved. BUT I do want to share just a few quotes that were strikingly poignant for me personally:We in this latter group like to own books, and, with our constant demands and high expectations, we're the worst—preferring some editions over others, having firm points of view on printings and cover designs. We're particular, and we're greedy. We want an unreasonable number of books and we don't like to throw them away. Some of us develop an almost hoardish fear around letting go of a book, even after it's been read an reread. (39) This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing. There is no way to finish, and perhaps that shouldn't be the goal. (40) Bookish girls tend to mark phases of their lives by periods of intense character identification. (92) PREACH! Whenever I travel, I try to pack at least three times as many books as can be expected to read, so as to always have on hand something that fits my mood at a given moment. I would load these books in my backpack, and then, unless they were truly disappointing, I would haul them back. (107) Though I was resistant to it at first, my Kindle has helped with this overpacking of books problem immensely...though I still pack probably two times as many books as I'll need...In short, read this book.
  • (5/5)
    A teenage girl starts a journal listing books she has read (her “Book of Books,” or Bob), and then sticks with it through her college years, post-graduate wanderings, and more-settled adulthood. She sketches her autobiography by interweaving it with her list of readings. That might sound mildly interesting, at best, to persons who are themselves avid readers. Once you know, however, that the author is Pamela Paul, now the editor of The New York Times Book Review, your interest is likely to escalate, as mine did (which is why I requested a free review copy from LibraryThing).Ms. Paul’s rise to that august level in the literary world was certainly not foreordained, in spite of her Brown University education (majoring in history, not literature). Nearing graduation she interviewed for a job with Quaker Oats, only to recognize that path was not for her. She claims she was re-directed by a particular book, A Journey of One’s Own, by Thalia Zepatos. Her response was to move to Thailand, for no particular reason other than her course was freely chosen and differed from the choices of her friends.Much of My Life with Bob dwells on the “flawed heroine” aspect of the book’s subtitle. In a lightly self-deprecatory tone, she covers her further travel adventures, job-hopping, and serial boyfriend relationships.She was intrepid. In one 1994 foray she backpacked in remote western China where, she writes, “… I was frequently the only tourist in town, and not just the only tourist but also the only white woman by herself and the only white woman by herself wearing inappropriate summer attire and not speaking Chinese, looking sick and tired and hungry as a lost dog.” She reports on a trip to Italy, where she made a narrow escape from men she believed to be Mafia kidnappers. In Vietnam she found herself with no money and no way to use her credit cards and was reduced to begging from Israeli and European tourists. There is more along these lines, accounts of travel episodes that will cause many readers to question her good sense at the time.Ms. Paul associates much or her reading in those years with her travels. She believes that, “Books stand out in particularly high relief when you’re traveling or otherwise displaced because during those moments of displacement they also provide a kind of mooring. It’s why our memories of what we read when we travel so often stick with us….” She suggests that books played a role in her choices of boyfriends and in the intensity and duration of the relationships. She gives the impression, for instance, that her first marriage lasted barely a year partly because she and her husband disagreed over the politics of certain authors (such as Paul Johnson), although surely there must have been other reasons.Her book journal itself is nothing elaborate. It is simply a list of authors and titles and the dates (month and year) she read the books. It assists her as a mnemonic. “We pass our lives according to our books,” she writes, “relishing and reacting against them, reliving their stories when we recall where we were when we read them and the reasons we did.”As the story of her life progresses Ms. Paul mentions many of the books entered on her list. Typically, she does not offer much exegesis, although here and there she gives succinct summaries of certain volumes. Her reading is eclectic, yet includes an impressive share of serious literature. Her first entry as a teenager was Kafka’s The Trial, for heaven’s sake. She claims (facetiously, I think) to be “… the one person alive to read through The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.” She once aspired to cover the entirety of the Norton Anthology of English Literature.She discloses many of her literary likes (Mann’s The Magic Mountain, for instance) and dislikes (for example, Rand’s The Fountainhead). Lucky for me, I suppose, I am wholly unfamiliar with what she seems to consider the most despicable of all, George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series. Several of the volumes she mentions favorably are children’s books, ones she either read herself or read to her children, or both.My Life with Bob is dedicated in part to Ms. Paul’s father, who passed away in 2013. Their relationship had its ups and downs, but it is clear how proud her dad would have been had he been alive when she was promoted to book review editor at the Times.By her own accounts, Ms. Paul bumbled enough through her early career that we would hardly suspect that she would land where she is today. In high school she was thrilled to get a job as a clerk at B. Dalton. Now she wields as much authority as almost anyone in the book world, deciding which books get reviewed by the Times and which do not. Of course she strives to be even-handed in this role. I wonder, though, whether she ever feels uneasy about some of her friendships with writers, publishers, and others in the business, thinking they may show favor toward her primarily because of her position.The audience for My Life with Bob is likely to include many persons who themselves read a great deal and thereby may share certain attitudes and traits with Ms. Paul. For instance, she hoards books, appreciating their physicality. She claims she is not a book snob, but she admits that people like herself “… judge other people by their books…. What someone reads gives you a sense of who they are. So if you really don’t like someone’s books, chances are you probably won’t like them either” (this seems a bit strong).We all have our reasons for reading, sharing many with others, of course. Ms. Paul states that she reads “to be transported,” and “to fill in the gaps and accumulate knowledge, however fleeting… I’d rather know more about what I don’t already know.” The most significant reason of all may be that reading is a principal instrument we apply to construct our narrative selves. As Ms. Paul concludes, “Nobody else has read this particular series of books in this exact order and been affected in precisely this way. Each of us could say the same about our respective reading trajectories. Even if we don’t keep a Book of Books, we all hold our books somewhere inside us and live by them. They become our stories.”If you are a big reader – the odds are high if you use LibraryThing -- read My Life with Bob and add it to your journal list. You likely will be entertained.
  • (3/5)
    I am half way through but just can't pick it up again. First, I hate the cover. It looks like pencils, not books.Second, I am disappointed in the narrator's voice. She seems too self-deprecating to make it interesting. I understand that as a young teen but by the twenties she needed to get a bit more self esteem. Third, I find her choice of reading extremely adult for the age of the narrator. I guess I forgot what a teen likes to read, but even some of these are a stretch.Just a so so book, but I hope to finish it.
  • (4/5)
    When Pamela Paul was a teen, she started a notebook she called her "book of books" or Bob in which she made note of all the books she read.This is the starting point for Paul's memoir. She's an inveterate reader, lover of "best of" lists and classics. Reading was a way for her to learn and better herself, but eventually it becomes so much more. She uses a variety of aspects of reading, from not finishing a book to reading The Hunger Games to talk about her life, growing from a rather retiring teenager who just took every book at the most literal face value to a wife and mother, reader of children's lit and editor of the New York Times Book Review. I enjoyed some parts more than others, but it's always fascinating to get a book-shaped view of another person's life.
  • (4/5)
    My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul is an interesting read especially appropriate for this site as it involves a love of books of which we can all relate. In this case it's Paul's documenting in detail all the books she has read in the last 28 years. Hence the Bob in the title means book of books. Her journal of books is really a reflection on her life. In addition her life reflects the books she chooses to read. Ultimately it's a relationship between the reader and the books we choose to read. The journey that Paul takes us on is personal and interesting. For those that love reading it is well worth checking this book out.
  • (3/5)
    I thought I would like this book better. I've been keeping a journal of everything I've read (outside of LibraryThing) since 1996. I also include a little review there. But I found some of the chapters very slow going and not interesting. I liked when she talked about children't books the best.