This year’s One Book: Conroy’s “My Reading Life”

Tony Tallent, the Director of Literacy and Learning at Richland Library, announced this year's selection.

Tony Tallent, the Director of Literacy and Learning at Richland Library, announced this year’s selection.

Last night, I dropped by Richland Library for the unveiling of the chosen book for the 2014 “One Book” program.

It’s My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy. Everyone was pretty pumped about it, in part because the author himself will be participating in the program.conroy

I look forward to reading it myself, and joining in discussions of it. As you may recall, I moderated a discussion at the library for this past year’s selection, A.J. Mayhew’s The Dry Grass of August, a book I enjoyed much more than I had thought I would.

Which I suppose is kinda the point of participating in a program that gets you to read something you might not have. It’s broadening to get pulled away, however briefly, from my obsessive re-reading of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series (I’m currently on about my sixth trip through some of the books — I still haven’t allowed myself to read the very last two in the series).

Now, to digress…

After the announcement, I got involved in a discussion of the strong-mayor referendum with Mike Miller, Tim Conroy (the author’s brother and a longtime Columbian), and City Councilman Sam Davis. All of us, except Mr. Davis, had been deeply disappointed by the outcome. He listened patiently to us, and we listened patiently to him, but I don’t think any minds were changed.

We were joined late in the discussion by our old blog friend James D. McAllister, a writer and owner of Loose Lucy’s. He was against strong-mayor, but Kathryn would probably discount his opinion, since, like me, he doesn’t live in the de jure city.

Anyway, back to the book… maybe we should all read it and have a good discussion of it here on the blog. Whaddya think?

No, that is NOT me. That's Mike Miller with Tim Conroy.

No, that is NOT me. That’s Mike Miller with Tim Conroy, later in the evening at First Thursday on Main.

19 thoughts on “This year’s One Book: Conroy’s “My Reading Life”

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I see the folks at Richland Library posted a picture of me from the event. I was Tweeting out the news of this year’s selection.

    I think it’s the first published photograph of me with my new glasses.

    It’s also, I believe, the first pic ever posted of me in which I weigh more than 180 pounds. That was not a good angle for me…

    1. Dave Crockett

      I’ll see if I can hitch a ride on my wife’s library card at the Oconee County Public Library….

      1. Dave Crockett


        I just spent the whole, cotton-pickin’ day wading through “My Reading Life”. Just a few random thoughts at this point…

        I am the first to admit that I am woefully less well-read than Conroy but sometimes he comes off as a literary title-dropper (compared to being less of a name-dropper). And I am probably no more inclined to read “War and Peace” now than I was before he felt it necessary to provide an extensive book report on the novel.

        The stories about Conroy’s mother and father, and that of his amazing teacher gave me a lot of appreciation for the roles they played in his development as a person and a writer. But his gushing adulation of Thomas Wolfe, James Dickey and others left me a bit cold after a while.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Don McAllister deals with echt in-town issues as former president of the Five Points Association and owner of a business at the depth of the flooding zone!

    I don’t understand One Columbia….a book club, you can sit and drink and argue about the book. This?

    I have so much I want to read already…..

  3. James D McCallister

    Thanks for the shout-out Brad. I had no idea that was Pat’s brother standing there. I should’ve said hello.

    And Kathryn, you are correct, I do have a vested interest in the city’s governance, even if I can’t vote. As far as being against strong mayor, I may simply be against this particular would-be strong mayor, whom I have come to worry may be too interested in nepotism and future political ambition. Just my peanut-gallery opinion there. Doesn’t make him much more worse than 99% of politicians, I suppose…

  4. C J Watson

    I just requested the book from the Irmo branch of LCPL. I’ll read it as soon as I get and would enjoy discussion, but I’m an admittedly slow reader, even when I have ample time to read. I’ve always followed Pat Conroy. I grew up in Beaufort in a Roman Catholic Marine Corps family. There were times when I thought PC wrote the script to my life.

  5. Bill

    I’ve read most of his books,but stopped after,”Prince Of Tides”,which I didn’t care for.It had shades of classic Conroy,but fizzled out half way through…”Beach Music” was an impossible read.Since this is non-fiction,I might give it a try.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Definitely skip South of Broad. Makes Beach Music look like the Great American novel. His early books are sooooo much better!

      1. Bill

        Thanks for the tip.
        Although it got mixed reviews,and is not for everyone,my favorite book of the year is,Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates;very scary and graphic.She’s due for a Nobel.What an incredible body of work…

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          JCO is a favorite! Will check it out. My father-in-law was on the English faculty with her at the University of Detroit back when she was a young thing in the sixties!

  6. Bryan Caskey

    Pat Conroy is a great modern Southern writer. I actually romanced my wife by reading Beach Music out loud to her. Go read the dolphin scene. He’s a Southern poet. Lords of DIscipline and Beach Music are my favorites. My Losing Season is also very good.

    I actually stole the title of my bog “Permanent Press from Pat Conroy. The line “The South is permanent press, it doesn’t wash out.” is all his.

  7. Bill

    He’s very good,but his early work is the best.It’s odd,the term,’Southern writer’-sounds a little condescending ;’they can write books’?.A fairly ‘modern’ SOUTHERN writer,I much prefer is ,Walker Percy.LANCELOT is in my top 5 all time works of fiction. Conroy is not in the same league.

    If you made it through,Beach Music,my sympathies to your wife.;-)

    I’d rather hear some:

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Southern writers compete with Chicago writers for top honors among the English lit set! Hardly a derogatory term to us!

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I was simply using the term “Southern” to be descriptive – since Conroy is from the South. Take it for what you will.

      The thing I like best about Conroy’s writing is his sense of humor. He cracks me up. I find myself laughing out loud during more than a few parts of “The Lords of Discipline” and “Beach Music” with the way the cadets/brothers talk to each other.

      I haven’t ready anything by Percy, so maybe I should give Lancelot a try. So many books; so little time.

  8. Phillip

    You know a Pat Conroy book I really like? “Recipes From My Life”. Each recipe, or group of them, is accompanied by an autobiographical tale about how those foods relate to his life, or to Southern culture in general, or sometimes relating to his travels overseas, specifically Italy. Dude obviously loves to eat, and I’ve tried a lot of the recipes. From the fanciest Tuscan dishes right down to Vidalia onion dip and ham salad, all mighty tasty, and amusing anecdotes to go with each.

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