Title: My Life with Bob
My rating: 4/5
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.
“There is a risk to reading your life more than actually living it” (Paul 102)
Books about books are my absolute favorite! This memoir by Paul does not disappoint. Throughout, I was pondering what my Book of Books is and I believe most recently it is this blog as well as my Moleskine Book Journal I began this year. I have fallen into a habit of speed reading but not spending time on how it impacts my current life and/or reflections on a larger scale. The quality versus quantity is where my focus should be, especially after immersing myself in Pamela Paul’s stories through adolescence to adulthood and parenthood. Additionally, the cover page showed a snippet of a page in Bob BUT I wanted to see more!!
Quotes to remember:
“diaries contained all kinds of things I wanted to forget…Bob contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened” (Paul 3)
“As I got older, it began to dawn on me that nobody really knew or cared what I did inside a book, or why I was there” (Paul 18)
“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” (Paul 40)
How do you keep track of books read?