Pat Conroy shares love of words in ‘My Reading Life’

Best-selling author Pat Conroy’s love of books and reading has shaped his life in ways that most readers could only dream about.

Conroy’s mother passed along her fascination for books, and that admiration of the written word gave him comfort and strength, taught him patience and, most importantly, inspired him to create works of his own that contributed to his success as a world-renowned author.

In his new memoir, “My Reading Life,” Conroy writes about the books that have meant so much to him and his family, as well as the people who introduced him to the wondrous world of reading and encouraged his voraciousness.

Conroy’s mother, Peg, was a dedicated Marine’s wife, and their family moved many times during the author’s childhood. In each town, Mrs. Conroy would become a frequent visitor to the area’s libraries and made sure her children were intimately familiar with the world of books.

When Conroy brought home a suggested reading list from school, his mother would devour the books on the list, taking the time to discuss them with him and his sister Carol. “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was a favorite book of his mother’s, and she made sure it became a favorite of her son’s as well.

Reading was not only a source of pleasure for Conroy, but also a means of escape from his abusive father, the Marine fighter pilot who was the model for the main character in Conroy’s “The Great Santini.” Reading was a sign of weakness to his dad, and for years, his father refused to acknowledge that he was anything like the character in Conroy’s book.

Not all of “My Reading Life” deals with the darkness of Conroy’s childhood. His stories of discovering the world of antique and collectible books and his friendship with the perpetually crotchety owner of his favorite used-book store in Atlanta are highly entertaining.

For many years, Conroy has kept journals filled with words and phrases he wanted to remember and information about books that thrilled him or from which he learned something new. “My Reading Life” is his way of sharing his enchantment with literature and spreading that fascination to as many others as possible.

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