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How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
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How Reading Changed My Life

by Anna Quindlen

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A tribute to the reading life....lovely! ( )
  Sherri68 | Mar 30, 2013 |
If I wrote this book it would be titled How Books Made My Life. For I do not remember a time when I was not surrounded by books, visiting the library and reading books. Anna Quindlen, in a sense, lived a life made as well as "changed" by books. She shares the impact of books on her dreams and beliefs in delightful narrative vignettes of her experiences reading books. I remember from my reading as a young boy feeling the same excitement she describes (p 21) becoming friends with strangers. Crusoe and Friday. Pip and Estella, Jack Hawkins, Alice, and Jane Eyre. These and other literary characters remain friends to this day and to them I have added Daisy and Gatsby. Ishmael and Ahab. Marcel and Robert Saint-Loup, Achilles and Odysseus. There are also tragic characters whose experiences have enriched my life; they include Jude and Tess, Oedipus and Antigone, Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary, and others. The list also includes searchers like Binx Bolling and Harry Haller. Many of these characters have become friends and their adventures have become part of my reading life. In addition to her soothing prose Anna Quindlen adds a few "arbitrary and capricious" suggestions for her fellow readers. These are also worth the price of the book. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Oct 4, 2012 |
Those of us who have read since childhood understand that there are certain books that will always hold a nostalgic appeal for you. Those novels that you read over and over again before you worried about critics’ reviews, literary merit, etc. For me it was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, Howliday Inn, The Mystery of the Cupboard, The Westing Game and Matilda, along with a few others. My grade school days were filled with those pages and I never tired of reading them. Later I went on to explore classics, mysteries, nonfiction, fantasy and so much more. Each new genre opened a world to me as I discovered the places it could take me.

Quindlen’s book is an ode to the joy of reading. She talks about reading as an escape or just for the pleasure of it. I never tire of hearing why others love reading as much as I do. It makes me feel connected to them in a powerful way.

BOTTOM LINE: The slim volume is a joy to read and the end is filled with lists of books to read, which is always a treat! ( )
  bookworm12 | Aug 14, 2012 |
"…there are letters from readers to attend to, like the one froma girl who had been given one of my books by her mother and began her letter, ‘I guess I am what some would call a bookworm.’ ‘So am I,’ I wrote back."

How Reading Changed My Life is a series of short essays by Anna Quindlen about the impact that reading has had on her life. I read this a number of years ago and decided to pick it up again as a way to pass the time one afternoon. Each essay is headed by a quotation; and the author discusses everything from the books she read as a child to the impact on electronic readers on the public (and this book was published in 1998!).

What I enjoy about Quindlen’s writing is that her style is so lyrical. She writes about books as though they’re her best friends (which, if you’re a reader, they are!). The childhood books she mentions make me want to go back and re-read them, especially something like Girl of the Limberlost or Charlotte’s Web. I think it’s also interesting what she has to say about girls in children’s books being readers; while books aimed towards boys focus on adventure stories, books for girls focus on friendship and reading (think Little Women, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). It’s definitely true that girls are readers more than boys, and children’s fiction certainly reflects that.

Quindlen also covers the history of the printed book, the invention of the book group, so pervasive amongst women everywhere in America, and what makes a book a Great Book (totally subjective to every reader!). Quindlen talks about the power that books have, as a means of escape from the reality of our daily lives. I know that was definitely true for me growing up as a socially awkward girl, and true even today as a socially awkward adult. This short book is definitely one to read, even if to reaffirm what we already know and love about reading and books. ( )
  Kasthu | Aug 13, 2011 |
When I picked this book up, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Was it going to be a serious discourse on certain key books, like Francis Spufford's The Child that Books Built? Perhaps a few bookish essays in the vein of Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, or a sentimental autobiography about hardship and bookish redemption? Actually, it is none of those things.

Instead, what Quindlen offers us is an extended essay on books and reading, split into sections and garnished with bookish quotes from the likes of Thoreau and Whitman. In delicious prose that exudes enthusiasm, Quindlen meanders skilfully across a range of topics including the feeling of a being a book-lover in the midst of others who just don't 'get it', book snobbishness, academic elitism, book clubs, libraries, how men and women read differently, banned books and coming-of-age reading. Perhaps the most telling part is that on the future of the book and the rise of modern technology. This book was published in 1998, and Quindlen seems to find the idea of e-readers and online reading a bit of a curiosity, comparing it to the old fantasy films in which we were all eating capsule meals by the year 2000. I guess it just goes to show how quickly technology is leaping forward these days!

Though the final result bears little resemblance to what I'd expected from the rather self-centred title, this was even better than I'd hoped - a marvellous, well-reasoned look at the world of books, with enough of an 'every woman' feel to the anecdotes and examples to make it more inclusive and therefore more enjoyable to read. There is also a section at the back of the book with 'top ten' reading lists like '10 Books That Will Help a Teenager Feel More Human' and '10 Mystery Novels I'd Most Like to Find in a Summer Rental', which is a nice touch and added a few more titles to my wishlist... Highly recommended! ( )
2 vote elliepotten | May 4, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345422783, Paperback)

A recurring theme throughout Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life is the comforting premise that readers are never alone. "There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books," she writes, "a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but never really a stranger. My real, true world." Later, she quotes editor Hazel Rochman: "Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere." Indeed, Quindlen's essays are full of the names of "friends," real or fictional--Anne of Green Gables and Heidi; Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen, to name just a few--who have comforted, inspired, educated, and delighted her throughout her life. In four short essays Quindlen shares her thoughts on the act of reading itself ("It is like the rubbing of two sticks together to make a fire, the act of reading, an improbable pedestrian task that leads to heat and light"); analyzes the difference between how men and women read ("there are very few books in which male characters, much less boys, are portrayed as devoted readers"); and cheerfully defends middlebrow literature:
Most of those so-called middlebrow readers would have readily admitted that the Iliad set a standard that could not be matched by What Makes Sammy Run? or Exodus. But any reader with common sense would also understand intuitively, immediately, that such comparisons are false, that the uses of reading are vast and variegated and that some of them are not addressed by Homer.
The Canon, censorship, and the future of publishing, not to mention that of reading itself, are all subjects Quindlen addresses with intelligence and optimism in a book that may not change your life, but will no doubt remind you of other books that did. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:47 -0400)

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen uses the mastery of the medium in which she works to send an utterly compelling message as she explores the importance of books in her life and their vital role in society. THE LIBRARY OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT is a groundbreaking series where America's finest writers and most brilliant minds tackle today's most provocative, fascinating, and relevant issues. Striking and daring, creative and important, these original voices on matters political, social, economic, and cultural, will enlighten, comfort, entertain, enrage, and ignite healthy debate across the country.… (more)

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