Bob = Book of Books. Of course, Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, is a reader. She's also compulsive, as many of us are, about keeping a list of the books she reads. Paul has kept that list since 1988 when she was a junior in high school. It's kept in "Bob", a book that lists all the books she's read since then. Now, she examines her life, based on the books she read at certain times, the places she went, and the relationships she had. They were all based on books, and Bob knows all her secrets. Her story is My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.
Paul admits she was a failure as a diary writer. "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." It's what she was reading in high school, in college, including her time in Paris. It's what she was reading when she decided to live in Thailand, not knowing anyone there, but inspired by a book that said women should be unafraid to travel. Her friendships and love life were based on the books they shared. And, perhaps the only disappointment she had with her children came about because they didn't like the books she liked as a child.
Classics, children's literature, memoirs, travel books. Pamela Paul devoured all of them. And, she found a way to put her passion for books to work, first as a writer, then as the children's book editor for The New York Times Book Review. Her children, who benefited from the books she brought home, saw it as a demotion when she went from children's book editor to editor.
If you're a passionate reader, some parts of Paul's book will undoubtedly strike your heart. As someone who met and married her husband at the library, and always said we only married to read, that connection with books resonated. The part about the reader only wanting to be left alone to read is so true. The "inner fangirl" moments when meeting authors is spot-on. But, perhaps most of all, Paul's book expresses that always present need for the next book. "My personal catch-22 was the unquenchable yearning to own books - to own books and to suck out the marrow of them and then to feel sated rather than hungrier still. I couldn't have been more deluded."
Passionate about books? Obsessed with them? Do you keep lists of what you read? Have books influenced your entire life? Pamela Paul's My Life with Bob is a book lover's companion.
Pamela Paul's website is www.pamelapaul.com, and she's on Twitter @PamelaPaulNYT
My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. Henry Holt and Company. 2017. ISBN 9781627796316 (hardcover), 242p.
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