How Reading Changed My Life

by Anna Quindlen

Paperback, 1998




Ballantine Books (1998), 96 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Sociology. Women's Studies. Nonfiction. HTML: THE LIBRARY OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT is a groundbreaking series where America's finest writers and most brilliant minds tackle today's most provocative, fascinating, and relevant issues. Striking and daring, creative and important, these original voices on matters political, social, economic, and cultural, will enlighten, comfort, entertain, enrage, and ignite healthy debate across the country. From the Trade Paperback edition..


½ (215 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carmenere
This is just a little book but it is packed with author Anna Quindlen’s feelings of love for and joys of reading books. Her love of books began as a young child and many chronic readers will say “Yes, yes, I did that too” or “That’s my favorite book as well.” Quindlen then proceeds to
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give some history as how the written word has changed governments and religion and how it is a unifying factor which puts many diverse people on the same playing field. She affirms that reading is not a dying art and books are not dead, they are strong and alive and the many book clubs that have formed throughout the world attest to that fact. She also weighs in on electronic vs. conventional media with interesting and reassuring results. Ms. Quindlen chose her career in writing partially due to the fact that “words on a page could make my father laugh and my mother cry.” She yearned to be a part of that world which she so deeply loved and others were so affected.
If the reader is a diehard booklover many of the author’s comments will sound very familiar yet Quindlen has a charming way of saying it so eloquently and leaves the reader with a feeling of pride to be included amongst booklovers everywhere. In fact, many of us will agree to this little gem by Quindlen, “We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming.”
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LibraryThing member elliepotten
When I picked this book up, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Was it going to be a serious discourse on certain key books, like Francis Spufford's The Child that Books Built? Perhaps a few bookish essays in the vein of Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, or a sentimental autobiography about hardship and
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bookish redemption? Actually, it is none of those things.

Instead, what Quindlen offers us is an extended essay on books and reading, split into sections and garnished with bookish quotes from the likes of Thoreau and Whitman. In delicious prose that exudes enthusiasm, Quindlen meanders skilfully across a range of topics including the feeling of a being a book-lover in the midst of others who just don't 'get it', book snobbishness, academic elitism, book clubs, libraries, how men and women read differently, banned books and coming-of-age reading. Perhaps the most telling part is that on the future of the book and the rise of modern technology. This book was published in 1998, and Quindlen seems to find the idea of e-readers and online reading a bit of a curiosity, comparing it to the old fantasy films in which we were all eating capsule meals by the year 2000. I guess it just goes to show how quickly technology is leaping forward these days!

Though the final result bears little resemblance to what I'd expected from the rather self-centred title, this was even better than I'd hoped - a marvellous, well-reasoned look at the world of books, with enough of an 'every woman' feel to the anecdotes and examples to make it more inclusive and therefore more enjoyable to read. There is also a section at the back of the book with 'top ten' reading lists like '10 Books That Will Help a Teenager Feel More Human' and '10 Mystery Novels I'd Most Like to Find in a Summer Rental', which is a nice touch and added a few more titles to my wishlist... Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member realbigcat
I love to read books about peoples love of reading. It seems readers are in a monority and you can take comfort in joys of others and their love of books. Anna Quindlen in her book makes it clear why she loves books and hoe reading has influenced her life. He love of books and knowledge of
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literature and great books is apparent in this short book. I found it very informative, honest and well thought out. Her life has always been about reading and I find that a common theme in other books on the love of reading. If you love reading and you must or you wouldn't be reading this review then you can't go wrong investing your timer in this book.
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LibraryThing member dissed1
Anna Quindlen's slim treatise on the merits of reading was insightful and enjoyable to read. She made me proud to be an avid reader. By the end of the volume I found myself wanting to pass it out to every English teacher in every corner of the globe. Ms. Quindlen has not only written a love letter
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to books and the act of indulging in them, she has created a reason and an incentive to read, read often and read freely. Bravo!
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LibraryThing member burnit99
An eloquent account by a favorite writer about the impact that books and reading have had on her life. It's a pleasure (but not a surprise) to find in Quindlen a kindred spirit in this area; I have occasionally throughout life been given the hairy eyeball for my literary compulsions.Quindlen echoes
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my own convictions about the value of a reading life, and this slim volume would be a good place to steer somebody who is taking flak for being a bookworm. I don't think it will convert the unwashed, but it will provide support and ammunition for the rest of us. The book concludes with an assortment of quirky and creative suggested reading lists ("10 Books That Will Help a Teenager Feel More Human").
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
This long essay/short book captured Quindlen's evolution as a reader (and a writer) and her thoughts on reading as a way of life.

I was anticipating a bibliography of what Quindlen read when I started this slim book, but I was pleasantly surprised that she offered so much more. Quindlen drove to the
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core of why she reads, why others read and why reading is an activity like none other. Her writing is philosophical but pedestrian. So many times when I read Quindlen's words, I nodded my head in agreement and thought "that's exactly how I feel." And I bet many of you would find her words equally resonating.

Quindlen contended that reading - and what people like to read - goes beyond a desire for a learning experience. Instead, reading is more of a social exercise: " can a book be personal, political and entertaining all at the same time." She furthers: " [A book] is not simply that we need information, but that we want to savor it, carry it with us, feel the heft of it under our arm, We like the thing itself."

Book lovers and fans of Anna Quindlen should enjoy this short book about reading, and I highly recommend How Reading Changed My Life to these audiences,
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
If I wrote this book it would be titled How Books Made My Life. For I do not remember a time when I was not surrounded by books, visiting the library and reading books. Anna Quindlen, in a sense, lived a life made as well as "changed" by books. She shares the impact of books on her dreams and
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beliefs in delightful narrative vignettes of her experiences reading books. I remember from my reading as a young boy feeling the same excitement she describes (p 21) becoming friends with strangers. Crusoe and Friday. Pip and Estella and Jane Eyre. These and other literary characters remain friends to this day and to them I have added Daisy and Gatsby. Ishmael and Ahab. Marcel and Robert Saint-Loup. Achilles and Odysseus. And many others including searchers like Binx Bolling and Harry Haller. The characters have become friends and their adventures have become part of my reading life. In addition to her soothing prose Anna adds a few "arbitrary and capricious" suggestions for her fellow readers. These are also worth the price of the book.
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LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
This is a very thin volume which talks about the author's experiences with books and reading. She mentions those books which she liked the most, advises us that reading for pleasure is as valid as reading for education, and reminds us of those books we most treasured as kids. My own was a
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falling-apart book of Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales which I read over and over and kept rubber-banded so I wouldn't lose any of the pages.
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LibraryThing member carka
This was an extended essay on how reading infiltrates a good book changes you and changes with you. She wove in so many memories of books she loved and books she didn't that it made me think of my own top books. She concludes with several Top 10 {Category} reading lists, so it caused my
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to-read list to grow quite a bit.
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LibraryThing member Kasthu
"…there are letters from readers to attend to, like the one froma girl who had been given one of my books by her mother and began her letter, ‘I guess I am what some would call a bookworm.’ ‘So am I,’ I wrote back."

How Reading Changed My Life is a series of short essays by Anna Quindlen
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about the impact that reading has had on her life. I read this a number of years ago and decided to pick it up again as a way to pass the time one afternoon. Each essay is headed by a quotation; and the author discusses everything from the books she read as a child to the impact on electronic readers on the public (and this book was published in 1998!).

What I enjoy about Quindlen’s writing is that her style is so lyrical. She writes about books as though they’re her best friends (which, if you’re a reader, they are!). The childhood books she mentions make me want to go back and re-read them, especially something like Girl of the Limberlost or Charlotte’s Web. I think it’s also interesting what she has to say about girls in children’s books being readers; while books aimed towards boys focus on adventure stories, books for girls focus on friendship and reading (think Little Women, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). It’s definitely true that girls are readers more than boys, and children’s fiction certainly reflects that.

Quindlen also covers the history of the printed book, the invention of the book group, so pervasive amongst women everywhere in America, and what makes a book a Great Book (totally subjective to every reader!). Quindlen talks about the power that books have, as a means of escape from the reality of our daily lives. I know that was definitely true for me growing up as a socially awkward girl, and true even today as a socially awkward adult. This short book is definitely one to read, even if to reaffirm what we already know and love about reading and books.
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LibraryThing member Sherri68
A tribute to the reading life....lovely!
LibraryThing member bookczuk
Yum. What reader isn't gonna give it 5 stars?
LibraryThing member murderbydeath
For a such a slim volume, this book left me with many, many thoughts. I think it would make an excellent book club read because the issues it raises are many and conversations could go on for hours. TL;DR version: it's good and worth the read.

My personal feelings about this book jumped around like
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a yo-yo: at the beginning I was saying to myself "she's describing my childhood!" and in the next breath I was saying "Oh stop making sweeping generalisations about things you don't know!" and then back again to "yes, that's precisely the point!".

This slim volume consists of 70 pages of Quindlen's musings concerning reading and the importance of it to her life thus far (and so many of us).

She makes some generalisations about gender that I didn't agree with (why women read what they read vs. why men read what they read). My feelings (and I recognise they are just my own) are that she's trying to give meaning to something that doesn't need to have it. Knowing what MT gets out of reading Bosch and what I get out of reading Kate Daniels isn't going to give any great insights into my marriage. The important insight is that we share an enjoyment of reading.

Quindlen also touches upon the great upheaval concerning The Canon and the collective wig-out pretentious idiots around the world are having at the inclusion of female and culturally diverse authors. I found this part pretty amusing, because both camps are right and wrong but ultimately doing exactly what they should to move things forward. Do women and culturally diverse authors need to be part of The Canon? Yes. Are there people who want titles accepted as part of The Canon not for merit but because they are diverse, or financially successful? Yes. But this acrimonious tug-of-war is exactly what literature ultimately needs because the titles that survive the brouhaha are the ones that will actually deserve to be called great works of literature, regardless of color or gender. So while I think the fight is ultimately silly, I think it's ultimately vital too.

I was also amused by her attempt to argue the merits of reading for pleasure and entertainment; I agree with her - I wholeheartedly do, but her attempt to relate to everyman fails spectacularly. She uses her own guilty pleasure read as an example, to say that it's ok to read 'low brow' books. Her guilty pleasure? The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, who by-the-by, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. Now, if I was someone who suffered self-consciousness about what others thought of my reading choices, I don't think her Nobel prize winning guilty pleasure is going to make me feel vindicated or proud about my love for Deborah Harkness.

What I do think she nailed perfectly is the subjective mire of book banning and the importance of educational reading lists that focus more on instilling a love of literature and less on Important Books that contain Important Thoughts. She deftly handles the digital vs. print debate (spoiler: both will win) and she definitely, perfectly, describes the sheer joy of reading: for knowledge, for entertainment, for understanding, and for the places it can take you without ever leaving your chair. A worthy and thoughtful read.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
Those of us who have read since childhood understand that there are certain books that will always hold a nostalgic appeal for you. Those novels that you read over and over again before you worried about critics’ reviews, literary merit, etc. For me it was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM,
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Howliday Inn, The Mystery of the Cupboard, The Westing Game and Matilda, along with a few others. My grade school days were filled with those pages and I never tired of reading them. Later I went on to explore classics, mysteries, nonfiction, fantasy and so much more. Each new genre opened a world to me as I discovered the places it could take me.

Quindlen’s book is an ode to the joy of reading. She talks about reading as an escape or just for the pleasure of it. I never tire of hearing why others love reading as much as I do. It makes me feel connected to them in a powerful way.

BOTTOM LINE: The slim volume is a joy to read and the end is filled with lists of books to read, which is always a treat!
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LibraryThing member engpunk77
Before sending this to an interested fellow bookcrosser, I flipped through the pages as a way of saying goodbye. I ended up reading the whole book again! Initially, this book was required reading for a college seminar course about "how we read." It was the best course of my life for many reasons,
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but this book was one of probably 20 books I was reading in a 3-month period. So I'm sure I got more out of it this second time.
It's wonderful! Inspiring! Quindlen is an outstanding writer who makes any topic enjoyable to read about. In this book, she discusses the politics of books, the stupidity of labeling some books "low-brow" as if they're not worthy of reading, and makes a good case for the value of such books. This book is about how reading (especially lowbrow books) can inspire students to become writers and how reading can, as the title states, change your life! Any reader will relate to the truthful musings of this established writer and you will have a deeper appreciation for your books and yourself as a reader after reading this. :)
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LibraryThing member bell7
I suppose it's fitting that my 100th book of the year is a book that features short essays ruminating on reading. Anna Quindlen is the author of One True Thing and other fiction. In How Reading Changed My Life she talks about reading as a child, how central it was to her, and how much of a book
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lover she is. Book lover to book lover, it's a wonderful homey feeling to read and feel like she "gets" me. She touches on the way our culture tends to look askance at readers (put down your "stupid book" and come play!), and also divide itself into the highbrow critics and "lowbrow" reading while the book lovers stand somewhere in the middle in their own special subculture.
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LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
This is a very thin volume which talks about the author's experiences with books and reading. She mentions those books which she liked the most, advises us that reading for pleasure is as valid as reading for education, and reminds us of those books we most treasured as kids. My own was a
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falling-apart book of Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales which I read over and over and kept rubber-banded so I wouldn't lose any of the pages.
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LibraryThing member AbbyR
I loved this book - Quindlen speaks for everyone who loves books and reading and hopes to pass on the legacy.
LibraryThing member Mialro
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen is a short, slim little volume of collected essays on the author's life as a reader, her thoughts on reading, and her favorite books (including lists of book recommendations from her and her friends). I read and liked Quindlen's columns in the newspaper
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when I was younger and remember her to be a relatable, open, and intelligent writer. If you're a book person, you're probably familiar with this famous quote from this book:
"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
Don't you just love that? I very much enjoyed this book, although the books she mentions and lists as recommendations are very white and straight. I highly recommend reading this book if you're a book lover.
Trigger warnings: mentions of sex, virginity, birth control, probably trigger-y stuff from books' plots mentioned
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

96 p.; 5.5 inches


0345422783 / 9780345422781
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