The Reading Life

I was curious to know how other authors wrote about their reading lives. I figured it was valuable research as I plan to do the same in Categorically Well Read. I didn't find many titles. But the sheer quantity of books these authors claim to have read seriously intimidates me. I also wanted to find book suggestions that were more than just moldy old lists of should be read "classics". I have issues with the value of using my valuable reading time reading a book just because it is a classic--it also has to be a good read. Such as Middlemarch by George Eliot, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. 

After reading The Shelf and Morningstar-- my category ran into a little technical difficulty. As I was exploring other "reading and book themed" websites I stumbled across Modern Mrs. Darcy a popular blog created by Anne Bogel. It is very easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole on her site. I noticed she had written a book about her reading life. During a deep dive on her website I found another author, Kathleen Norris with a very intriguing somewhat theme related title and topic. While I was on Amazon buying these two books I found Amazon recommending a third, titled "Book Girl" and I bought it as well.

What I failed to note at first glance was the Christian slant of ALL of these books and websites. While Anne Bogel does a good job keeping her book and her website "secular" rather than overtly "spiritual" -- her book is ranked on Amazon under Christian living and a lot of her followers are definitely living Christians. Nothing wrong with this, to each their own...Anne has a very good eye for very good reading material. In fact I have another category going based on a list of can't put down books I found on her website. And I will be ever grateful for stumbling across Kathleen Norris's book on her site.

I am giving Kathleen Norris a pass on the religious front as the word "monk" is included in the title and particularly because her book gave me the key to unlocking the mysterious malaise I often feel about living life. I have been unable to accurately describe it and now I can. I knew going in that this was a religious book written by a woman with a devout faith, but the demon of which she writes is a universal element in the makeup of human minds. 

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

The demon of acedia--also called the noonday demon--is the one that causes the most trouble of all...he strikes during the heat of the day, you are hungry and fatigued, and open to the suggestion that commitment to work, your dream, your passion, your meditation is not worth the effort. Nothing is worth the effort and the demon laughs and mocks you for ever thinking anything ever was. You lay down and struggle to get back up. This demon certainly lives in my head, but I think it is a universal element of the human brain. Kathleen is in the end way too "religious" for me, that she suffers from acedia (and depression) rolls off of every page. I really hopes she finds her peace. 

I consider this book a starting point for a major research project as I need more secular scientific answers and thanks to Ms. Norris I have plenty of places to look. For the record this book is way more about her writing life than it is about her reading life. 

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

I liked her book, I liked reading about her life, I like her website (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and often go there for reading inspiration. While I am amazed at the quantity of books she reads, personally I would never get the same amount of reading satisfaction out of giving a book a "quick" read. I am slow, I savor and ponder, indeed I approach my whole life at the pace of a leisurely stroll. 


Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood

An autobiographical exploration of the books that influenced an Italian girl growing up in Rhode Island in the 60's and 70's. I too am a child of this era, I too was influenced by the author Herman Wouk but I am not sure I ever read Marjorie Morningstar, I know I read War and Remembrance and Winds of War and liked them both. My plan is to rectify this omission, she is going into a category soon. I really enjoyed this book and plan on reading more by this author, hopefully soon.

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose

I was a little afraid to read this book as I was sure I would feel compelled to either read "her shelf" or pick a "shelf of my own" but in the end I felt neither urge. I will admit it is an intriguing idea--although if I do succumb it will consist of me reading through one of my "home composed shelves of unread books"--that idea might be worth pursuing! My "Umberto Ecco Anti-Library" currently consists of at least five such shelves. (Thanks Mr. Taleb for making me proud of this fact.) The shelf Ms. Rose read was very unappealing to me and in the end I think mostly to her as well. This book has a lot of filler--interesting filler but filler none the less and her writing about these books/filler was way more interesting than the books.

Books Like This


Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.