My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

Audio CD, 7 disks (8 hours)
Published November 2nd 2010 by Random House Audi0

ISBN: 0307749207 (ISBN13: 9780307749208)
primary language: English
5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is also a vora­cious reader. He has for years kept a notebook in which he notes words or phrases, just from a love of language. But read­ing for him is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity. In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of passionate reading. He includes wonderful anecdotes from his school days, mov­ing accounts of how reading pulled him through dark times, and even lists of books that particularly influenced him at vari­ous stages of his life, including grammar school, high school, and college. Readers will be enchanted with his ruminations on reading and books, and want to own and share this perfect gift book for the holidays. And, come graduation time, My Reading Life will establish itself as a perennial favorite, as did Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! From the Hardcover edition.
Review:

I got this (audio) book from the library, and concluded as I approached the end that I MUST OWN THIS BOOK! Not only must I own it, but I want it in audio & hardback format. It’s that good. I LOVE that Pat Conroy narrated this particular book himself, because it is so very personal. There is nothing in the world like hearing an author narrate his own life. Under any other reading circumstance, Pat Conroy should (and does) avoid reading his own work, as he does not have the voice to do any novel justice, but with this one he positively shines. The reason, I believe, is its intensely personal and emotional nature. It was so easy to hear how affected he was – and still is – about the experiences he relates, how passionate he is about books and words, and how grateful he is that he has had the opportunity to make a living doing what he loves to do. He does not see his life through rose-colored glasses, either. It’s clear that he is not an easy person with whom to share a life, and it’s clear that the traumas of his childhood, as well as the sweetest of moments, affected him in ways that made him both a superb writer and a emotional train wreck. He is candid about this frailty, and his writing about his experiences – even in fictional form – is clearly cathartic and healing for him. This book touched me completely, and I have more respect for him as a writer now as a result of being given this gift of his personal story.

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Helen’s Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher (Photobiographies) by Marfe Ferguson Delano

Hardcover, 64 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by National Geographic Children’s Books
ISBN:  1426302096 (ISBN13: 9781426302091)
original title:  Helen’s Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher (Photobiographies)

Summary:
The epic story of Annie Sullivan’s perseverance and triumph in the face of hardship will enthrall readers of every age. This pioneering teacher overcame disability and misfortune before achieving her success as one of the most famous educators of all time.

This is the inspiring photobiography of Anne Mansfield Sullivan, a woman born into a life of daunting disadvantage and social obstacle. She grew up poor, with little education, the child of struggling Irish immigrants. By the age of eight, Annie was almost blind because of untreated trachoma. Following her mother’s death, the young girl entered an almshouse, where she spent four years among the most wretched of society’s outcasts. Her inquiring intellect and determination helped her escape this bleak detention, and she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind.

There, at the age of 14, her education began, and her lively mind soon blossomed. After graduation, she was hired as a teacher for Helen Keller, a six-year-old girl who was blind and deaf due to illness. With patience and compassion, Annie reached into the dark, silent world of the little girl, opening her mind and soul to life’s beauty. She became “Helen’s eyes.” Because of her inspired breakthroughs and accomplishments with Helen, Annie was soon known as the “Miracle Worker.” Annie and Helen spent the rest of their lives together—two complex women with feisty personalities who achieved international acclaim.

Marfé Ferguson Delano’s evocative account of teacher and student breaking down barriers to enjoy the wonders of intellectual discovery is a profoundly moving story.

My thoughts:
Beautifully illustrated, and very interesting. I loved being able to see actually photos of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, as it made their beautiful story even more compelling.

5 Stars




100+ Book Challenge

100+ Book Challenge hosted by My Overstuffed Bookshelf



DETAILS:

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate. Posting on GoodReads or wherever you post your reviews is good enough.

2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Manga, Graphic Novels, Library books, Novellas, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.

What doesn’t count: Individual short stories or individual books in the Bible.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2011. Books started before the 1st do not count. You can join at anytime.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your books will be listed. Include the URL to this post so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the sidebar of your blog, please leave your viewers the link to the sign up page. Again, so viewers can join the challenge too.





The 2011 TBR Pile Challenge


It is hosted by Roofbeam Reader head over there to join in.







The Goal:
To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile, within 12 months.

Specifics:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list forAT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review.  Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed in order to count as completed.

3. Your list must be posted by Friday, December 31st, 2010.

4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2011 TBR LIST!  Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from either Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

5.  There may be mini-challenge “check-ins” throughout 2011, to award and recognize those participants who are progressing through the challenge, such as a “Spring Break Check-In!” or a “6 Month Pit Stop!” Participants who are making equal progress to-date (6 books at the 6 month check-in, for example) could win a prize! 

6. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published pre-2010! 




LAURA’S LIST:
1. Great Expectations (audio cd) by Charles Dickens
2. Moby Dick (audio cd) by Herman Melville
3. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss
4. If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar
5. My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

6. Lucky by Ann Sebold
7. The Bitch Posse by Martha O’Connor
8. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
9. The Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik
10. Memoirs of a Geisha (audio cd) by Arthur Golden
11. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
12. The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend


Alternates:
A Thousand Splendid Suns (audio cd) by Khaled Hosseini
The Summons by John Grisham







I’ve Some Books to Give Away

Both my husband & I have done quite a bit of reading this year, and in an effort to (slightly) whittle down the pile on the shelf, I thought I’d offer some of the book we have read to anyone who is interested.


Here’s what we have:

The Sari Shop
by Rupa Bajwa
It is another working day in Amritsar, and Ramchand is late again. He runs through the narrow streets to Sevak Sari House in the heart of one of the city’s old bazaars. There, among the Bangladeshi cottons and Benaras silks, Ramchand and his fellow shop assistants sit all day patiently rolling and unrolling yards of colored fabric for wives and daughters of “status families” and for the giggling girls who dream of dressing up in silk but can only afford cotton.” One afternoon, Ramchand is sent to a new part of the city and is jolted out of the rhythm of his narrow daily life. His glimpse into this different world charges him with an urgent sense of possibility. And so, armed with two battered English grammar books, a fresh pair of socks, and a bar of Lifebuoy soap, he attempts to recapture the hope that his childhood had promised. But soon these efforts turn his life upside down, bringing him face to face with the cruelties on which his very existence depends.  (I am currently reading this one, and will pass it along as soon as I finish.)



Tsar
by Ted Bell
Swashbuckling counter Spy Alex Hawke returns in New York Times bestselling author Ted Bell’s most explosive tale of international suspense to date.
There dwells, somewhere in Russia, a man so powerful no one even knows his name. His existence is only speculated upon, only whispered about in American corridors of power and CIA strategy meetings. Though he is all but invisible, he is pulling strings — and pulling them hard. For suddenly, Russia is a far, far more ominous threat than even the most hardened cold warriors ever thought possible.
The Russians have their finger on the switch to the European economy and an eye on the American jugular. And, most importantly, they want to be made whole again. Should America interfere with Russia’s plans to “reintegrate” her rogue states, well then, America will pay in blood.
In Ted Bell’s latest pulse-pounding and action-packed tour de force, Alex Hawke must face a global nightmare of epic proportions. As this political crisis plays out, Russia gains a new leader. Not just a president, but a new tsar, a signal to the world that the old, imperial Russia is back and plans to have her day. And in America, a mysterious killer, known only as Happy the Baker, brutally murders an innocent family and literally flattens the small Midwestern town they once called home. Just a taste, according to the new tsar, of what will happen if America does not back down. Onto this stage must step Alex Hawke, espionage agent extraordinaire and the only man, both Americans and the Brits agree, who can stop the absolute madness borne and bred inside the modern police state of Vladimir Putin’s ‘New Russia’.



Last Car to Elysian Fields (a Dave Robicheaux novel)
by James Lee Burke
It is a rainy late-summer’s night in New Orleans. Detective Dave Robicheaux is about to confront the man who may have savagely assaulted his friend, Father Jimmie Dolan, a Catholic priest who’s always at the centre of controversy. But things are never as they seem and soon Robicheaux is back in New Iberia, probing a car crash that killed three teenage girls. A grief-crazed father and a maniacal, complex assassin are just a few of the characters Robicheaux meets as he is drawn deeper into a web of sordid secrets and escalating violence. A masterful exploration of the troubled side of human nature and the dark corners of the heart, peopled by familiar characters such as P.I. Clete Purcel and Robicheaux’s old flame Theodosia LeJeune, LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS is vintage Burke – moody, hard-hitting, with his trademark blend of human drama and relentless noir suspense. 



Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens
Classic Retro Theatre edition (abridged audio)
Dickens considered Great Expectations one of his “little pieces,” and indeed, it is slim compared to such weighty novels as David Copperfieldor Nicholas Nickleby. But what this cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor lacks in length, it more than makes up for in its remarkable characters and compelling story.



God-Shaped Hole
by Tiffanie Debartolo
Written with the snap, glitter and wit of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, God-Shaped Hole is a memorable, poignant love story that will leave you weeping with laughter. It is told in the wry, vulnerable voice of Beatrice “Trixie” Jordan who replies to a personal ad, “If your intentions are pure I am seeking a friend for the end of the world.” 
In doing so, she meets Jacob Grace, a charming, effervescent thirty-something writer, a free spirit who is a passionate seeker of life. He possesses his own turn of phrase and ways of thinking and feeling that dissonantly harmonize with Trixie’s off-center vision as they roller coaster through the joys and furies of their wrenching romance. Along the way they try to come to terms with the hurt brought about by their distant fathers who, in different ways, forsook them.



Water for Elephants
by Sarah Gruen
“Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.” Jacob was there because his luck had run out – orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools.” It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act – in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.



Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kevin.
by Kevin Keck
A far-too-sexual memoir about the author’s deeply disturbing crisis of faith.

In this hilarious, confessional memoir, Kevin Keck tries to come to terms with the intense lack of meaning in his life. At twenty-six, Keck felt like he was losing his mind. When anxieties about his “Ultimate Purpose” aren’t manifesting themselves in struggles with OCD or depression, they swing him into a mania that drives him from one dysfunctional girlfriend to the next…all of whom resemble his mother in their shared capacities for personalized madness. In search of sanity, he returns to his childhood home in North Carolina, only to be met with serious doses of reality in the form of his congenitally reclusive brother, manic depressive mother, and grandmother suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. His grandfather and dad are there, too, but they never leave the basement where they continually repair a single lawnmower.

Will Keck’s anxieties about the failure of his Ultimate Purpose to manifest drift away as he looks for life’s meaning in the comforting Carolina hills? No way. That wouldn’t be funny. Are You There, God? It’s Me. Kevin. is a madcap journey to faith (in life? in God?) from an insanely talented comedic genius.




The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King
Unabridged Audio CD, performed by Anne Heche
What begins as a bit of a simple tale — little girl lost — soon turns to the larger questions of what is at the center of creation, what motivates any of us, and the place where darkness and human imagination cross. I resisted this story to some extent, for King is wily. He begins with a soft lull, a bit of a dramatic moment that gets lost quickly in the sweet worry of a young girl who is resourceful enough to pick berries for survival and to do all the right — but ultimately wrong — things in order to find her way back to civilization. But soon, nature itself becomes a force, more often for ill than for good. And as Trisha’s imagination begins to re-create the dark forest around her, a slow, sure terror mounts.





Death in Venice
by Thomas Mann
Unabridged Audio CD, narrated by Simon Callow
Novella by Thomas Mann, published in German as Der Tod in Venedig in 1912. A symbol-laden story of aestheticism and decadence, Mann’s best-known novella exemplifies the author’s regard for Sigmund Freud’s writings on the unconscious. Gustav von Aschenbach is a revered author whose work is known for its discipline and formal perfection. At his Venetian hotel he encounters the strikingly handsome young teenager Tadzio. Aschenbach is disturbed by his attraction to the boy, and although he watches Tadzio, he dare not speak to him. Despite warnings of a cholera epidemic Aschenbach stays in Venice; he sacrifices his dignity and well-being to the immediate experience of beauty as embodied by Tadzio. After exchanging a significant look with the boy on the day of Tadzio’s scheduled departure, Aschenbach dies of cholera. As in his other major works, Mann explores the role of the artist in society. The cerebral Aschenbach summons extraordinary discipline and endurance in his literary work, but his private desires overwhelm him.



Fat Girl: A True Story
by Judith Moore
A nonfiction She’s Come Undone, Fat Girl is a powerfully honest memoir of obsession with food, and with one’s own body. For any woman who has ever had a love-hate relationship with food and how she looks, for anyone who has knowingly or unconsciously used food to try to fill the hole in his heart or sooth the craggy edges of his psyche, Fat Girl is an angst-filled coming-of-age story of gain and loss.” In this book, Moore describes, in vivid detail, what is was like to be “the fat girl,” both in school and in her loveless home; dreading unannounced weigh-ins in front of her class and avoiding the verbal and physical lashings of her petite and icy mother; struggling to become invisible while desperately craving attention. Through the people who shaped Moore’s early life – among them a spiteful, self-serving grandmother and a kind, homosexual uncle – we bear witness to the depths of human cruelty and the remarkable power of compassion. From the lush descriptions of food that call to mind the writings of M. F. K. Fisher at her finest, the heart-breaking accounts of Moore’s deep longing for a family and a sense of belonging and love, Fat Girl stuns and shocks, saddens and tickles.



The Shack
by William P. Young
Mackenzie Allen Philips youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.


*****************************************************************************

Here’s what to do:

If you’re interested in any of the above books, send me a private message with your address and I will mail it to you.  You don’t have to return it.  If you like it, pass it along to another reading friend.  If not, sell it, donate it, whatever…    PLEASE, NO SPAM!

I love passing along books to other readers (or listeners).  I hope you enjoy whatever you choose as much as we did.

Happy Reading!