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Columbia's Reading Life

Here's your chance to recognize your favorite book or favorite author.

Pat Conroy's love letter to good books, good writers, and the people who introduced him to both, My Reading Life, has been chosen as the One Book, One Columbia selection for 2014, with public programs to be held throughout February. The best-selling South Carolina author writes about how he developed his love of books and about some of the people and books that have most impacted his life.

In keeping with that theme in February, Free Times plans to publish a selection of brief reflections from people in our community about a book or a writer that has greatly influenced their lives, attitudes or ideas. Send us your praising prose -- up to 50 words -- on your favorite book or writer as if the author had asked you to write a few sentences to be quoted on the dust jacket of his or her book.

How to Enter?

  • Email your entry to ReadingLife@free-times.com
  • Put "Reading Life" as the subject line
  • Deadline: Friday, January 17th

    Submissions will be printed in the Free Times starting with the February 3rd issue and continuing throughout February.

    Below are some of the books and authors that have influenced Conroy. Is your favorite among them?

    Join us on Thursday, February 27th at 7 p.m. at the Township Auditorium for Live with Pat Conroy - an author talk and book signing with Pat Conroy, author of The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides and this year's One Book, One Columbia selection, My Reading Life. Conroy will be interviewed by notable South Carolina historian Dr. Walter Edgar. This event is free and open to the public. Tickets are available now at all library locations, and will also be available at the Township on the night of the event.


    My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
    Amazon Says: Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. Pat Conroy, the beloved Amer more...
    Amazon Says: Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader. Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy’s portal to the world, both to the farthest corners of the globe and to the deepest chambers of the human soul. His interests range widely, from Milton to Tolkien, Philip Roth to Thucydides, encompassing poetry, history, philosophy, and any mesmerizing tale of his native South. He has for years kept notebooks in which he records words and expressions, over time creating a vast reservoir of playful turns of phrase, dazzling flashes of description, and snippets of delightful sound, all just for his love of language. But for Conroy reading is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity.   In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of reading through an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes: sharing the pleasures of the local library’s vast cache with his mother when he was a boy, recounting his decades-long relationship with the English teacher who pointed him onto the path of letters, and describing a profoundly influential period he spent  in Paris, as well as reflecting on other pivotal people, places, and experiences. His story is a moving and personal one, girded by wisdom and an undeniable honesty. Anyone who not only enjoys the pleasures of reading but also believes in the power of books to shape a life will find here the greatest defense of that credo. less...
    Amazon


    You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
    Amazon Says: With an Introduction by Gail Godwin A twentieth-century classic, Thomas Wolfe’s magnificent novel is both the story of a young writer longing to make his mark upon the wor more...
    Amazon Says: With an Introduction by Gail Godwin A twentieth-century classic, Thomas Wolfe’s magnificent novel is both the story of a young writer longing to make his mark upon the world and a sweeping portrait of America and Europe from the Great Depression through the years leading up to World War II. Upon the publication of You Can’t Go Home Again in 1940, two years after Wolfe’s death, The New York Times Book Review declared that it “will stand apart from everything else that he wrote because this is the book of a man who had come to terms with himself, who was on his way to mastery of his art, who had something profoundly important to say.” Driven by dreams of literary success, George Webber has left his provincial hometown to make his name as a writer in New York City. When his first novel is published, it brings him the fame he has sought, but it also brings the censure of his neighbors back home, who are outraged by his depiction of them. Unsettled by their reaction and unsure of himself and his future, Webber begins a search for a greater understanding of his artistic identity that takes him deep into New York’s hectic social whirl; to London with an uninhibited group of expatriates; and to Berlin, lying cold and sinister under Hitler’s shadow. He discovers a world plagued by political uncertainty and on the brink of transformation, yet he finds within himself the capacity to meet it with optimism and a renewed love for his birthplace. He is a changed man yet a hopeful one, awake to the knowledge that one can never fully “go back home to your family, back home to your childhood . . . away from all the strife and conflict of the world . . . back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time.” less...
    Amazon


    The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Amazon Says: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it more...
    Amazon Says: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. The text in this 372-page paperback edition is based on that first published in Great Britain by Collins Modern Classics (1998), and includes a note on the text by Douglas A. Anderson (2001). Unforgettable! less...
    Amazon


    Amazon Says: Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhe more...
    Amazon Says: Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel. Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years. less...
    Amazon


    For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
    Amazon Says: In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge more...
    Amazon Says: In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight," For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise. "If the function of a writer is to reveal reality," Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, "no one ever so completely performed it." Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time. less...
    Amazon


    Amazon Says: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. . . . I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend more...
    Amazon Says: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. . . . I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” —from The Sound and the Fury   The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and  one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. less...
    Amazon


    Great Expectations by Charles / Weintraub, Stanley (INT) / Davis-Goff, Annabel (AFT) Dickens
    Amazon Says: Presents the classic story of the orphan Pip, the convict Magwitch, the beautiful Estella, and her guardian, the embittered Miss Havisham Title: Great Expectations A more...
    Amazon Says: Presents the classic story of the orphan Pip, the convict Magwitch, the beautiful Estella, and her guardian, the embittered Miss Havisham Title: Great Expectations Author: Dickens, Charles/ Weintraub, Stanley (INT)/ Davis-Goff, Annabel (AFT) Publisher: New Amer Library Classics Publication Date: 2009/02/03 Number of Pages: 508 Binding Type: PAPERBACK Library of Congress: bl 98002067 less...
    Amazon

    Book TV: Author Interview with Pat Conroy, "My Reading Life"
    Sarah G. Says: In this Book TV interview, Pat Conroy talks about some of the books and authors that have had a profound effect on his life and his writing.
    YouTube Says: Novelist Pat Conroy recounts his voracious reading appetite and how books have played a significant role in his understanding of the world in his soon-to-be published book, My...
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