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A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 1996 'Without books how could I have become myself?' In this wonderfully written meditation, Lynne Sharon Schwartz offers deeply felt insight into why we read and how what we read shapes our lives. An enchanting celebration of the printed word. A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 1996 'Without books how could I have become myself?' In this wonderfully written meditation, Lynne Sharon Schwartz offers deeply felt insight into why we read and how what we read shapes our lives. An enchanting celebration of the printed word.


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A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 1996 'Without books how could I have become myself?' In this wonderfully written meditation, Lynne Sharon Schwartz offers deeply felt insight into why we read and how what we read shapes our lives. An enchanting celebration of the printed word. A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of 1996 'Without books how could I have become myself?' In this wonderfully written meditation, Lynne Sharon Schwartz offers deeply felt insight into why we read and how what we read shapes our lives. An enchanting celebration of the printed word.

30 review for Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (2.5) This 1996 memoir was sparked by reading a quote from a Chinese Buddhist in a New York Times article: he suggested that reading is dangerous as it imposes others’ ideas on you and doesn’t allow you to use your own mind freely. Schwartz, of course, begs to differ. As a novelist, reading has been her lifeline. She looks back at her childhood reading and her pretentious college student opinions on Franz Kafka and Henry James, and explains that she lets serendipity guide her reading choices now (2.5) This 1996 memoir was sparked by reading a quote from a Chinese Buddhist in a New York Times article: he suggested that reading is dangerous as it imposes others’ ideas on you and doesn’t allow you to use your own mind freely. Schwartz, of course, begs to differ. As a novelist, reading has been her lifeline. She looks back at her childhood reading and her pretentious college student opinions on Franz Kafka and Henry James, and explains that she lets serendipity guide her reading choices nowadays, rather than a strict TBR list: “reading at random – letting desire lead – feels like the most faithful kind.” It’s a bibliomemoir; I should have loved it. Instead I thought it unstructured and thin. There are some great lines dotted through, but I wasn’t very interested in the examples she focuses on. Five pages about a children’s book by Eleanor Farjeon? Yawn! Favorite passages: “Like the bodies of dancers or athletes, the minds of readers are genuinely happy and self-possessed only when cavorting around, doing their stretches and leaps and jumps to the tune of words.” “How are we to spend our lives, anyway? That is the real question. We read to seek the answer, and the search itself – the task of a lifetime – becomes the answer.” Recently reviewed, along with five other novellas, on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie (jjmachshev)

    As a self-confessed readaholic, I was immediately drawn to "Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. What did the author mean by this title? What would her story be about? Who could consider reading a ruination of life? After asking myself these questions, I, of course, HAD to get the book. While reading Schwartz's book, I felt wrapped up in a warm blanket. So many times, I thought "Wow. That's me." Without preaching, Schwartz understands and imparts in circular thought how As a self-confessed readaholic, I was immediately drawn to "Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. What did the author mean by this title? What would her story be about? Who could consider reading a ruination of life? After asking myself these questions, I, of course, HAD to get the book. While reading Schwartz's book, I felt wrapped up in a warm blanket. So many times, I thought "Wow. That's me." Without preaching, Schwartz understands and imparts in circular thought how those of us who read almost compulsively and obsessively feel. The story of her love affair with books in some ways reflects how I feel about my reading and it was nice to realize that I'm not alone in my 'illness'. In the end, I think the title is meant to grab the attention of those who will appreciate its sometimes sharp and biting humor and irony. Everything we read changes us in some small or not so small way. And those of us who read in volume do indeed live 'a life in books'.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    For many years, my passion for reading was considered by others to be a waste of time, a nuisance, a light weight hobby. However, I knew that my love for the written word was an essential part of my being, without which I would not be the person I am - or was. This is one of the reasons why I loved Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books. Lynne Sharon Schwartz explores her own life in reading and in doing so reveals some of my own feelings and thoughts. I believe there are three "beings" involved when For many years, my passion for reading was considered by others to be a waste of time, a nuisance, a light weight hobby. However, I knew that my love for the written word was an essential part of my being, without which I would not be the person I am - or was. This is one of the reasons why I loved Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books. Lynne Sharon Schwartz explores her own life in reading and in doing so reveals some of my own feelings and thoughts. I believe there are three "beings" involved when we open a book. There is me, the reader, a unique person; there is the book, which may have been read by thousands of others and then there is the writer - again, a unique being, sharing some of their innermost thoughts and experience. It is this amazing, unique coming together which fuels my passion for reading. This is just one aspect of reading that the author explores in her short, but powerful memoir. I am very glad that I own this book, as it's one which will warrant several readings.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Reid

    Beware. Ruined by Reading amounts to a confession and the author means her title to be quite literal. Most of it deals with her childhood experience, one of reading, of course, but also one of parental criticism and personal fear of not conforming. “I accepted, in a confused, half conscious way, that I was whatever my parents...defined me as being.” She felt absolutely powerless as a child, due to her hearing “a great deal of rage - vocal and terrifying when I was small,” so she read solely as a Beware. Ruined by Reading amounts to a confession and the author means her title to be quite literal. Most of it deals with her childhood experience, one of reading, of course, but also one of parental criticism and personal fear of not conforming. “I accepted, in a confused, half conscious way, that I was whatever my parents...defined me as being.” She felt absolutely powerless as a child, due to her hearing “a great deal of rage - vocal and terrifying when I was small,” so she read solely as an escape and to gain a modicum of control of her life. Hence, she does not even remember details of most of the books she read, and she was compelled to keep reading and says it was “a duty”, her “addiction,” and that she was “often detached” and “uninterested” in the books she read. The main thing to be obtained from reading, she claims, is enchantment, not knowledge or insight, not ideas or compassion or inspiration. I hated this book when I read it, but perhaps it can serve as a warning to controlling parents, or some consolation to grown children with a similar experience, or as a prompt to examine one’s own reading compulsions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennine G. (Living On Purpose)

    Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books, by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, is a memoir about how her life was affected by books and reading. It may seem silly to so enjoy a book that is about reading, but to hear your own thoughts and feelings on a subject you so dearly love written by a woman who was born at the onset of WWII - 40 years before you - is the ultimate "I'm not alone!" feeling. (Of course, my book buddies are good for this too ;) Schwartz talks about her avid readership starting at age 3. She f Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books, by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, is a memoir about how her life was affected by books and reading. It may seem silly to so enjoy a book that is about reading, but to hear your own thoughts and feelings on a subject you so dearly love written by a woman who was born at the onset of WWII - 40 years before you - is the ultimate "I'm not alone!" feeling. (Of course, my book buddies are good for this too ;) Schwartz talks about her avid readership starting at age 3. She found much of her thoughts and wonders about herself and life confirmed through stories she encountered. Books taught her lessons and one she points out in this memoir I can relate to...Passion. And I don't mean passion as in a love of something, but passion as in exploding and freaking out about stuff. Not only can I relate to it, but it is a current revelation in my personal life. I've been reading books on the topic, trying to make changes in myself for about four months. In her favorite childhood book, The Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1905. You may better recognize her book The Secret Garden), the main character Sara is thrust into many situations with a loud and intimidating adult. Being a child there isn't much she can do, but even with feelings bouncing inside, this is the wisdom the character Sara imparts to the reader: "I don't answer very often. I never answer when I can help it. When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them as not to say a word - just look at them and think...When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage...There's nothing so strong as rage except what makes you hold it in - that's stronger" (49). Talking about how reading this affected her, Schwartz relates her personal experience: "I heard a great deal of rage - vocal and terrifying - when I was small; in a way my household was not what I could call ordinary. And I thought rage must be powerful. It was certainly loud. I have spent the rest of my life learning that loudness is not a show of strength, and that the spirit is kept alive by trust in the inner voice and by holding firmly to the unnamed thing that Sara found at age eleven: the stronger thing that makes you hold rage in" (49-50). And on another note, Schwartz and I share a common memory problem, which she discusses in her memoir. Neither of us can remember what we read last week in any amount of worthwhile detail. I've always lamented this. Schwartz thinks through the reasoning of reading in light of this fact. If reading is not the main transformation of life (after all characters can be pretty messed up people), and not the amassing of knowledge (because she forgets the details of content soon after), and not to pass time (there are so many ways to do that more actively/quickly), then reading has to be for the opposite reason...to live and be still in the moment. She describes it as "unlike other classic activities of the moment...in reading, the body is still. Indeed what reading teaches, first and foremost, is how to sit still for long periods and confront time head-on. The dynamism is all inside, an exalted, spiritual exercise so utterly engaging that we forget time and mortality along with all of life's lesser woes, and simply bask in the everlasting present. So I see, finally, why it hardly matters whether I remember the contents of a book. Mere information is nothing compared to this silent flurry" (115-116).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Too many people have set up their responses to reading. At one end is the disillusioned student, proud to portray a dislike of reading as one of their few independent achievements: "Reading is boring" they say using the vocabulary picked up by one who doesn't read. At the other end is the vacuous airhead who, equally stunted in choices to make on the verbal paradigmatic axis, opts for faux affectation and words that end in "holic". "I'm a readaholic!" they croon. Or ""I'm a bookoholic". They'd c Too many people have set up their responses to reading. At one end is the disillusioned student, proud to portray a dislike of reading as one of their few independent achievements: "Reading is boring" they say using the vocabulary picked up by one who doesn't read. At the other end is the vacuous airhead who, equally stunted in choices to make on the verbal paradigmatic axis, opts for faux affectation and words that end in "holic". "I'm a readaholic!" they croon. Or ""I'm a bookoholic". They'd claim to be happy only in their reading; that they would rest on a spike on an Andean plateau if only they were able to read. "It doesn't matter which one, just so long as its the next." "Reading is good for you" is the bumper sticker. It's backed up by all of those stagey posters you find in English school libraries of Ryan Giggs of Manchester United or Frank Lampard of Chelsea (these posters are rarely up to date but claim a "down-with-the-kids" sort of authenticity reminiscent of the embarrassing uncle dancing to Tupac at a wedding) pretending to read a book. There's a huge (though half-hearted) drive towards promoting reading that doesn't work. Reading, like going to church or the theatre, is kept alive by a few. The many are actually put off by the evangelists. It doesn't help that many of the evangelisers are English teachers who don't read much themselves. I've read a few books about reading over the last year or so. Most don't question the value of reading; take it's worth as a given; and end up being tedious autobiographical boasts of how the author had "a book-a-day habit" as a child and that reading made them the person they are today: namely, a bit of a wind-bag. This one is different. It challenges the validity and usefulness of reading as an activity. It challenges it in a way that is both rigorous and entertaining. This here is a truthful book; not a boasting book. It asks reading to explain and justify itself. It's written by someone who knows a bit about life and has gone through the different stages (including the stage of finding reading boring and the one where reading is going to make complete sense of the world). Someone who has other interests; I engaged in the book during the section where she talks about a passion for baseball. It doesn't come up with a whole lot of answers; and the ones it does come up with are ones you could have managed for yourself. But it does engage with a whole lot of interesting questions. It's a short book. It feels like a bloody good key-note speech at the start of a conference on reading. It will (and has) upset a few people (but why come to the conference with a closed mind?) I wouldn't say my mind is entirely open but this book has certainly broken up the deposits of acceptance and got me thinking. I'm like the author and am a slow reader who can have forgotten a great deal about a book I read last week. I don't know how much of this book will still be stimulating my thoughts this time next year. But its got me asking questions and questioning assumptions. I think I'll keep it on the middle shelf because I think I'm probably going to be reading this book again. * Note to Self: The opposite of The Child that Books Made. Intelligent, experienced, opening out debate, questioning, engaging; at times very funny; and a darned good book. (None of which are true of the Francis Spofford)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is less a book than one long essay reflecting on reading and life and memory. Schwartz begins with a quote from a Chinese Buddhist scholar who said "To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." She then takes this quote with her and reacts to it as she evaluates her lifetime of reading. I always love to compare my own reading to those of "book-book" authors; like Schwartz, I began reading ve This is less a book than one long essay reflecting on reading and life and memory. Schwartz begins with a quote from a Chinese Buddhist scholar who said "To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." She then takes this quote with her and reacts to it as she evaluates her lifetime of reading. I always love to compare my own reading to those of "book-book" authors; like Schwartz, I began reading very young, did most of my reading outside of school, and we read many of the same books and poems when young. Some tidbits I especially enjoyed: Schwartz posits that the reason many of us have trouble with operating modern electronic devices is that the reader's mind runs on narrative, and devices don't. She has a hilarious "narrative" her daughter wrote called "Instructions for a Happy VCR". Hey, I like this idea better than just blaming my age. Loved this quote: [Reading] didn't replace living; it infused it, till the two became inextricable, like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in a bead of water. (ok, she means ATOMS, but still) Another: There is nothing to match the affinity of people who were defined and nourished by the same book, who shared a fantasy life. More: Maybe the words on the page are not even the true book, in the end, only a gateway to the book that recreates itself in the mind and lasts as long as we do. I loved her reflection when one of her children learned how to read: "And so the younger one was launched on the perilous journey, crossing the bridge that can never be recrossed. I could only watch as mothers do when children leave home to seek their fortune, knowing that from now on her adventures would be beyond my ken, I could neither protect nor accompany her. The written word was about to carry her off like the tornado took Dorothy." I'm not sure I totally agree--I did try to "accompany" my children a bit by reading TO them, and still do--but I do know (actually, I hope and pray) that they have their own internal relationship with books that I know little about. I liked this thought on book lists and choosing books: Months, even years, go by. I return to my list to find I've read perhaps a third of the books on it, not bad, under the circumstances. But by then I am a new person, with a new list under way. The unread books get carried over, and over, until eventually I cross them out. They are no longer necessary. I can hardly recall what allure they held for the person I used to be. And this on reading randomly: Or perhaps randomness is not so random after all. Perhaps at every stage what we read is what we are, or what we are becoming, or desire. Loved this sentence, she is discussing "public" speech like that by news anchors and politicians: "Have any of them, lately, spoken a sentence bearing the shape of the thought that inspired it?" This seemed a very Charlotte Mason thing to say. This was thoughtful, contemplative, slow, delightful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    This is a book that I expected to like more than I ultimately did. It seemed like two books: one book is about reading books and the impact of that reading on one's life, and the other is about the obsessions of a young girl with books like Little Women and The Little Princess. The latter aspect of this book I found interesting as a sociological or psychological statement about young girls but not as a statement about the nature and impact of reading. We all have our obsessions as readers and so This is a book that I expected to like more than I ultimately did. It seemed like two books: one book is about reading books and the impact of that reading on one's life, and the other is about the obsessions of a young girl with books like Little Women and The Little Princess. The latter aspect of this book I found interesting as a sociological or psychological statement about young girls but not as a statement about the nature and impact of reading. We all have our obsessions as readers and some, like those of the author, started at a young age. I have read and reread books like Jane Eyre and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland my whole life, but they have changed as I have grown and matured, just as my interest in books has changed. Ruined by Reading provides an interesting narrative introduction to reading a variety of books. For those, like myself, who enjoy reading books about books that would be recommendation enough. The discussion of the importance of style and the difference between books in which style is preeminent and those that rely on plot and perhaps an exciting character or two is informative. But I cannot say the same about the digressions into details of some books which are of marginal interest or discussions of movie versions of books that the author has not read. In spite of these aspects of this short book I did enjoy reading about the impact of reading on the author's life even if I found that it was neither ruinous nor enchanting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    I liked this book, though at first I thought it could have been better. Perhaps that means I just wanted it to be more relevant to my own experience. There was a lot about specific books (that I haven't read). It's a long rambling essay that could have been improve by some organization and section headings. But I liked it more the further I read. I found much to savor, highlight, and copy out. I enjoyed the musings on what we ought to read versus what we want to read, and how oughts are often fo I liked this book, though at first I thought it could have been better. Perhaps that means I just wanted it to be more relevant to my own experience. There was a lot about specific books (that I haven't read). It's a long rambling essay that could have been improve by some organization and section headings. But I liked it more the further I read. I found much to savor, highlight, and copy out. I enjoyed the musings on what we ought to read versus what we want to read, and how oughts are often foisted on us — faux wants. The book made me want to write my own personal history of reading — if only for myself. (Also enjoyed the meat grinder story. My mother and grandmother both had them. So I inherited one — and actually use it.) I don't at all agree with her re the issue of text vs. subtext. She seems to think this is a useless dichotomy that should not be applied to writing at all. She says, "All fully realized works are about exactly what they are about." Well, yes, but. A fully realized work of literature can be read on many levels. A fully realized work is one in which the levels are interwoven in such a way that they work with and against one another, so that the work adds up to more than the sum of its parts. There is always a surface and a subsurface. Good fiction is almost always that way. The story we read and the emotional story we feel. The former has a rising, then a falling action. The latter has a falling, then a rising action. Moreover, a literary work, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, cannot be fully realized without a reader. And every reader brings something different to the reading. Thus, a work is not static, does not mean one thing and not another. Its meaning depends on what is brought to it. I disagree with her on the matter of dreams, too — that "dream images and events are not 'really' what the dream is about [that part I agree with], but the available detritus of the day, slyly adapted to shield the dream's actual 'meaning.'" This implies that the dream has some inherent meaning other than what the dreamer concocts to explain its images. In a manner similar to what happens with reading, it's the dreamer who brings the meaning to the dream. A few quotes I like: "How are we to spend our lives, anyway? That is the real question. We read to seek the answer, and the search itself – the task of a lifetime – becomes the answer." p, 13 "For here is the essence of true reading: learning to live in another's voice, to speak another's language. Reading is escape — why not admit it? — but not from job or troubles. It is escape from the boundaries of our own voices and idioms." p111-112 "Still more remarkable, these inky marks generate emotion, even give the illusion of containing emotion, while it is we who contribute the emotion. Yet it was there an advance too, in the writer. What a feat of transmission: the motive powers of the book, with no local habitation, pass safely from the writer to reader, unmangled by printing and binding and shipping, renewed and available whenever we open it." p. 117 "If we make books happen, they make us happen as well. Reading teaches receptivity. Keats's negative capability. It teaches us to receive, in stillness and attentiveness, a voice possessed temporarily, on loan. The speaker lends  herself and we do the same, a mutual and ephemeral exchange, like love. Yet unlike love, reading is a pure activity. It will gain us nothing but enchantment of the heart. And as we grow accustomed to receiving books in stillness and attentiveness, so we can grow to receive the world, also possessed temporarily, also enchanting the heart." p. 118

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christine Zibas

    There are books that you race through, anxious to see what happens next, to learn where the storyline will take you. Then there are books that are meant to be savored, drawn out slowly to enjoy their mastery of the written word. It’s only fitting that a book like “Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books” by Lynne Sharon Schwartz should be one of the latter. The first thing that makes a reader want to undertake this longish essay (with no chapter breaks, unhappily) is its title. Anyone who loves to rea There are books that you race through, anxious to see what happens next, to learn where the storyline will take you. Then there are books that are meant to be savored, drawn out slowly to enjoy their mastery of the written word. It’s only fitting that a book like “Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books” by Lynne Sharon Schwartz should be one of the latter. The first thing that makes a reader want to undertake this longish essay (with no chapter breaks, unhappily) is its title. Anyone who loves to read, who adores books, and is likely to be drawn to read a book on just that subject will likely find the title confusing. How can anyone be ruined by something so wonderful? The paradox is finally revealed, although not until very far along in the story. Revealing the secret is not something that anyone who actually plans to read this book will want to know ahead of time, but suffice it to say, the event that leads the author to conclude such a thing is intertwined with family events. So, too, is much of the book, which is what gives reading its power. Even when one is talking about a “classic” a book so designated as something worthy of reading by all, not everyone will read a particular book. Reading is a very individual pursuit. It is shaped by what the reader brings to the book as much as it shapes the reader after. Schwartz talks about those books recommended by friends which languish on her shelves unread. Or those she felt compelled to buy because of a review she read. “I should have bought the reviewer’s book,” she laments. For reading is a gamble. It’s hard to determine just what a book can give a reader or whether that brilliant cover is merely a good sales job for a bad product. And why are books that contain such treasures (like Modern Library classics) wrapped in covers so subdued as to make them seem positively dull, when in fact, they are just the opposite? As you can see, there is much to contemplate in the arguments and history documented here of Schwartz’s own life with books. It’s amazing to me that she can remember so much about her early life (learning to read, being a prodigy whose parents have her read from the “New York Times” for friends). However, I did find myself returning to warm childhood memories. Another enjoyable aspect to the book is how the books fit the author’s life, yet do not insert feelings of guilt in the reader that they may not have had the same reading list growing up or as an adult. In other words, this is guilt-free reading, not the type of book that has you creating a long list of books you “should” have read by now. That is the wonder of “Ruined by Reading.” The author makes you appreciate your own experience and suggests that “reading is escape-why not admit it?” It’s not such a bad thing to put our own lives and worries aside for awhile and take up a new life and thoughts via a book. In fact, it can be quite wonderful.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Bibliophiles will cherish this book, charmed as I was by its writing and the intense love affair with the printed word that its author describes. Not only does she share important memories from her own early reading days, but she also mentions writers and books that have had an impact on her and the adult she became. For Schwartz, as for many of us, reading and writing go hand in hand, and readers often become better writers by soaking in the genius of the authors whose books they read. Although Bibliophiles will cherish this book, charmed as I was by its writing and the intense love affair with the printed word that its author describes. Not only does she share important memories from her own early reading days, but she also mentions writers and books that have had an impact on her and the adult she became. For Schwartz, as for many of us, reading and writing go hand in hand, and readers often become better writers by soaking in the genius of the authors whose books they read. Although reading is a solitary act, it is also, for many of us, a social act since it connects us to ideas, times, and individuals, and helps us understand ourselves and the world around us. As I read her book, I couldn't resist thinking back to those books that have mattered to me during a lifetime of reading, some of which mattered only briefly and others than still stay with me, influencing my current behavior, and even my current reading habits. Many college instructors require their students to write their own reading or literacy biographies. This one might serve as an exemplar or as a place to start. I smiled at almost every line and basked in the authors from whom Schwartz quotes. Ruined by reading? I'd gladly have my life ruined or changed by books than any other pursuit I've ever had. As I read, I felt that my passion was honored, validated, and that I was in the company of a kindred spirit.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Ahhh. As C.S. Lewis says, we read to know we are not alone. This book is not for everyone. It really isn't a book, at all. It is a glorious love letter to the written word, to how the books that come into your life at various times change, shape, enrich it, their words stitching themselves into the fabric of your soul till you don't know which pieces are yours and which ones were left there by Charles Dickens or Dr. Seuss. As such--if your bookshelf has more books on it than you will ever read, a Ahhh. As C.S. Lewis says, we read to know we are not alone. This book is not for everyone. It really isn't a book, at all. It is a glorious love letter to the written word, to how the books that come into your life at various times change, shape, enrich it, their words stitching themselves into the fabric of your soul till you don't know which pieces are yours and which ones were left there by Charles Dickens or Dr. Seuss. As such--if your bookshelf has more books on it than you will ever read, and a stack on the floor in front of it besides; if the contents of that bookshelf transcend such petty labels as "Juvenile," "Classic," "Fantasy," "Children's," "Book Club," and Laurie Halse Anderson snuggles comfortably between Douglas Adams and Jane Austen; if you can write your favorite book from memory and still find joy in re-reading it every year; if you have left your house without your wallet but remembered to bring something to read; if when out on a Friday night you have been distracted by the ghost of the fat new novel on your night-table at home--this volume will speak to you. If none of these sound applicable to you or even reasonable, then congratulations on maintaining your sanity, but don't bother picking this one up. This book is strictly an indulgence for the hopeless cases.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris Padgett (thebookaholic1 )

    In many ways this was a philosophical presentation by Schwartz on the importance of literature/ writing/ reading in her life. A biography which allowed for many “soap box” ramblings, musings and analysis. I found the book, not “text”, to be okay. Because I am one who enjoys reading books about books, or even works by others discussing why they love books, this second hand piece was picked up on a recent visit to half priced books in Pittsburgh, PA. I did like many of her insights concerning the In many ways this was a philosophical presentation by Schwartz on the importance of literature/ writing/ reading in her life. A biography which allowed for many “soap box” ramblings, musings and analysis. I found the book, not “text”, to be okay. Because I am one who enjoys reading books about books, or even works by others discussing why they love books, this second hand piece was picked up on a recent visit to half priced books in Pittsburgh, PA. I did like many of her insights concerning the beauty of the written word, and I can also relate with her struggle on which book to read next; facing the 'ought' to read pile and the 'want' to read pile with a tense expectancy. There were occasional reflections on classic literary works which I would have liked to have read more about. She is extremely bright, a master of the written word, and very well read. I think she would have been a striking professor and critic, and possibly she is that already. She has other works in print so it may be worthwhile investigating Schwartz’s other works to get a different take on her style.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anna Louise Kallas

    As a self-confessed readaholic, I was immediately drawn to "Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. What did the author mean by this title? What would her story be about? Who could consider reading a ruination of life? After asking myself these questions, While reading Schwartz's book, I felt wrapped up in a warm blanket. So many times, I thought "Wow. That's me." Without preaching, Schwartz understands and imparts in circular thought how those of us who read almost compuls As a self-confessed readaholic, I was immediately drawn to "Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. What did the author mean by this title? What would her story be about? Who could consider reading a ruination of life? After asking myself these questions, While reading Schwartz's book, I felt wrapped up in a warm blanket. So many times, I thought "Wow. That's me." Without preaching, Schwartz understands and imparts in circular thought how those of us who read almost compulsively and obsessively feel. The story of her love affair with books in some ways reflects how I feel about my reading and it was nice to realize that I'm not alone in my 'illness'. In the end, I think the title is meant to grab the attention of those who will appreciate its sometimes sharp and biting humor and irony. Everything we read changes us in some small or not so small way. And those of us who read in volume do indeed live 'a life in books'.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    The book begins with a quote from The New York Times: a Chinese scholar named Cha says, "Belief in Buddhism has curbed my appetite for books. To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." Oh, my God, that is such a load of nonsense. Here is one thing all humanity needs to learn before it is too late: "Thinking requires knowledge. You cannot think clearly without knowledge. One of the best ways to acqu The book begins with a quote from The New York Times: a Chinese scholar named Cha says, "Belief in Buddhism has curbed my appetite for books. To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." Oh, my God, that is such a load of nonsense. Here is one thing all humanity needs to learn before it is too late: "Thinking requires knowledge. You cannot think clearly without knowledge. One of the best ways to acquire knowledge is to read." Perhaps the biggest problem the world faces now is human ignorance. How else do you explain Donald Trump? Or our failure to deal with climate change? Or coal power plants? Or dying oceans? And so on. The book did remind me of my own reading history. I wrote one story about it here: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    Published in 1996, but new to me when I stumbled across it in a used bookstore in Yellow Springs, Ohio a few weeks back, I had to pick this one up, if only for the title. Reading has certainly ruined me for any other occupation, and there is no escape: Happily, I am not looking for escape, with the obvious exception of the escape into a really good book. I enjoyed the book, but unless you are also "ruined" there is no reason for you to read this. If you are, you may enjoy it. If not, skip on to s Published in 1996, but new to me when I stumbled across it in a used bookstore in Yellow Springs, Ohio a few weeks back, I had to pick this one up, if only for the title. Reading has certainly ruined me for any other occupation, and there is no escape: Happily, I am not looking for escape, with the obvious exception of the escape into a really good book. I enjoyed the book, but unless you are also "ruined" there is no reason for you to read this. If you are, you may enjoy it. If not, skip on to something else (unless you are trying to understand the readers in your life, and need some help). Keeping in mind that this was written when the web was new, and before Google, iPhones, YouTube, etc., this passage that I am about to quote struck me as a prescient indictment of the horrid world imposed on us by Apple user interface designers, aka Devils (he says, writing on his iPad!): "Incidentally, living by the word, by organized series of words, which is narrative, is a handicap when it comes to operating modern electronic devices like telephone answering machines or VCRs (not to mention computers and the phantasmagoric reaches of E-mail). Such ineptness is not due, as laughing children suppose, to quaintness or premature senility. It is simply that readers are accustomed to receiving information in the narrative mode. A row of minimally labeled buttons means nothing if the nerve paths aren't trained for it. True, the machines come with instructions, but those hover near the borderline of language....When my younger daughter translates the manuals into narrative form, I, too, can make the machines work....I feel the familiar comfort of language performing its original task. If those of us who live by language become superfluous in years to come, it will not be because of the advance of technology, but the loss of coherent discourse."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    "Reading was the stable backdrop against which my life was played. In daylight I would pay what I owed the world. Reading was the reward, a solitary, obscure, nocturnal world. It was what I got everything else (living) out of the way in order to do." "Twice a week we repaired to an unusually pleasant room for a public school at that time--big windows, lots of light, thriving plants, walls lined with books, blond wood tables comfortably seating six. Maybe memory embroiders--it sounds too lovely. O "Reading was the stable backdrop against which my life was played. In daylight I would pay what I owed the world. Reading was the reward, a solitary, obscure, nocturnal world. It was what I got everything else (living) out of the way in order to do." "Twice a week we repaired to an unusually pleasant room for a public school at that time--big windows, lots of light, thriving plants, walls lined with books, blond wood tables comfortably seating six. Maybe memory embroiders--it sounds too lovely. On the first day, the librarian, a gentle gray-haired woman with no special subject to impart and thus no anxious fervor, told us to choose a book from the shelves, any book, and sit and read it. This was familiar; I did it all the time at home. But I had never done it in a room with thirty other people. In fact, reading was about the last activity I would have associated with school. I got absorbed, as I did curled on my bed, and almost forgot the surroundings. But not entirely. Any private pleasure appropriated by an institution is in danger of losing its savor, and alas, reading took on an official tinge."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aman Mittal

    Let’s talk about reading books on books. Reading books on books is a constant reminder on why I love to read. Ruined by Reading offers a somewhat a deep insight on why we read and how what we read might shape our lives. It provides an interesting, curiosity arousing introduction to reading variety of books. Also, the title is captivating as well as ironical. As we grow up and pretend to become more mature, our reading changes with us. The desire to read almost every book still remains but has tak Let’s talk about reading books on books. Reading books on books is a constant reminder on why I love to read. Ruined by Reading offers a somewhat a deep insight on why we read and how what we read might shape our lives. It provides an interesting, curiosity arousing introduction to reading variety of books. Also, the title is captivating as well as ironical. As we grow up and pretend to become more mature, our reading changes with us. The desire to read almost every book still remains but has taken a different form and shape inside me. We understand more, with age, the usefulness of reading a book. Reading Schwartz book reminded me of times when I was indulging myself into this vast world. Schwartz understand and clearly observes that how obsessive are the readers. She then discusses how books have small part, which can be a tiny bit, or major rotation in the development of the reader who reads them. In her book, Lynne Schwartz clearly observes that every individual develops his or her own internal relationship with books. I have read a few books on reading in the last year and this one certainly joins the list. 3 out of 5!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chet Herbert

    . . . "reading at random--letting desire lead--feels like the most faithful kind. In a bookstore, I leaf through the book next to the one I came to buy, and a sentence sets me quivering. I buy that one instead, or as well. A book comes in the mail and I begin it out of mild curiosity, to finish spellbound. A remark overheard on a bus reminds me of a book I meant to read last month. I hunt it up in the library and glance at the old paperbacks on sale for twenty-five cents. There is the book so ta . . . "reading at random--letting desire lead--feels like the most faithful kind. In a bookstore, I leaf through the book next to the one I came to buy, and a sentence sets me quivering. I buy that one instead, or as well. A book comes in the mail and I begin it out of mild curiosity, to finish spellbound. A remark overheard on a bus reminds me of a book I meant to read last month. I hunt it up in the library and glance at the old paperbacks on sale for twenty-five cents. There is the book so talked about in college--it was to have prepared me for life and here I have blundered through decades without it. Snatch it up quickly before it's too late. And what we read is as wayward and serendipitous as any taste or desire. Or perhaps randomness is not so random after all. Perhaps at every stage what we read is what we are, or what we are becoming, or desire."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    "If we make books happen, they make us happen as well. Reading teaches receptivity, Keats's negative capability. It teaches us to receive, in stillness and attentiveness, a voice possessed temporarily, on loan. The speaker lends herself and we do the same, a mutual and ephemeral exchange, like love. Yet unlike love, reading is a pure activity. It will gain us nothing but enchantment of the heart. And as we grow accustomed to receiving books in stillness and attentiveness, so we can grow to recei "If we make books happen, they make us happen as well. Reading teaches receptivity, Keats's negative capability. It teaches us to receive, in stillness and attentiveness, a voice possessed temporarily, on loan. The speaker lends herself and we do the same, a mutual and ephemeral exchange, like love. Yet unlike love, reading is a pure activity. It will gain us nothing but enchantment of the heart. And as we grow accustomed to receiving books in stillness and attentiveness, so we can grow to receive the world, also possessed temporarily, also enchanting the heart" (118). Schwartz tells us and shows us, in all ways imaginable, that reading is a sensual rather than intellectual pleasure.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek

    I could not fathom what the writer was trying to say. It is so easy to tell a writer who has "practiced" all the "skills and rules" of writing from those who write not as a science but as an expression. Not to say that latter does not require skill (on the contrary) but it at least reads as an original writing, devoid of the artificiality of following 'writing rules' such as to add details, overload with analogies and made up intellectual expressions. I could not fathom what the writer was trying to say. It is so easy to tell a writer who has "practiced" all the "skills and rules" of writing from those who write not as a science but as an expression. Not to say that latter does not require skill (on the contrary) but it at least reads as an original writing, devoid of the artificiality of following 'writing rules' such as to add details, overload with analogies and made up intellectual expressions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Engaging and thought provoking book, centering around the question why we read what we read. Bookish examples are sometimes a bit difficult to relate to for non-English readers (who obviously have a different reading history, esp. during childhood and in school) but Schwartz's intelligent contemplations on reading are nevertheless very worthwhile. Engaging and thought provoking book, centering around the question why we read what we read. Bookish examples are sometimes a bit difficult to relate to for non-English readers (who obviously have a different reading history, esp. during childhood and in school) but Schwartz's intelligent contemplations on reading are nevertheless very worthwhile.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Blackbook

    This is a wonderful small book about reading and the influence of books. A perfect read for bookaholics.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Have thoroughly loved this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruby

    A lovely memoir on a lifetime of an avid reader.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    This small book helped me finish the Morrisson Reeves Library Summer reading program. It's length is about the length of a piece in the "New Yorker," and the flow and content felt similar. Schwartz considers how reading has shaped, transformed, and "ruined" her life since the age of 3 when her father would tout her early reading abilities as a quaint parlor trick. I enjoyed reading this combination memoir/philosophy in one day. This small book helped me finish the Morrisson Reeves Library Summer reading program. It's length is about the length of a piece in the "New Yorker," and the flow and content felt similar. Schwartz considers how reading has shaped, transformed, and "ruined" her life since the age of 3 when her father would tout her early reading abilities as a quaint parlor trick. I enjoyed reading this combination memoir/philosophy in one day.

  27. 5 out of 5

    astried

    the usual three stars The difference of this book to other books-on-books/reading/writing is that it started by questioning the wisdom of a life with reading addiction attached on it. Honestly I've never questioned it. Reading is just a part of my life as breathing or eating. My oldest remembrance already has some sort of reading, children magazine, pocket money saved to buy some extra books, school library after school library. There was time when it relapsed, I can't remember what I did with al the usual three stars The difference of this book to other books-on-books/reading/writing is that it started by questioning the wisdom of a life with reading addiction attached on it. Honestly I've never questioned it. Reading is just a part of my life as breathing or eating. My oldest remembrance already has some sort of reading, children magazine, pocket money saved to buy some extra books, school library after school library. There was time when it relapsed, I can't remember what I did with all the not-reading time; though when I said relapsed it just meant it dropped down from always having a book to read to finishing a book in a month time. Once it flares up again, there's no limiting it. And all those time the question never popped up. Have I ruined my life by reading? Would I've been a kinder, friendlier, outgoing person without the bookworld constantly fighting for attention? But who would she be? The me without all the reading? Unimaginable. Would I even try to question it now? Or would it be for me the classic comment that people say to a smoker, he/she could've bought a car with all the money he spent on cigarrette; knowing full well the non-smoker is standing there without the car that he could've bought with the money he didn't buy cigarrette with. Would I've been a different person without my reading? Most definitely. Would I've used my time for more exalted purpose? Highly doubtful. Well Schwartz, she hasn't been really questioning either. she used the question as an opening to tell her fully read life but I don't think she has ever doubted that it ever ruined her life, despite her elaborating the lack of benefit she received from devoting all the reading time. She's in to it deep, deeper than me since it's her way of living. I suppose this is the way it should be; after all, only avid reader (fellow addict) would read this type of book, it's basically preaching to the convert. Therefore it's just the usual three stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    When I this at the Friends of the Library booksale, one of my favorite quotes (from Louisa May Alcott) came to mind, "She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." There were many times the narrative struck close to home -- I too am a book addict, and would be a member of readers anonymous, were there such a group. Some bookish habits and delights the author and I share, while we branch out a bit on others. My parents were also People of the Book, (though I did tire of that refrain a b When I this at the Friends of the Library booksale, one of my favorite quotes (from Louisa May Alcott) came to mind, "She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." There were many times the narrative struck close to home -- I too am a book addict, and would be a member of readers anonymous, were there such a group. Some bookish habits and delights the author and I share, while we branch out a bit on others. My parents were also People of the Book, (though I did tire of that refrain a bit), and my children learned early on that though I might say no to an impluse buy of Power Rangers or My Little Pony, I would probably never refuse them a book. Despite our shared love of books, what I liked best about this volume were the glimpses into the world of Brooklyn that my mother and grandmother inhabited. We have our own family stories about iceboxes and the stoops of brownstones. She also brought to mind my earliest memories, mostly centered around reading and books. Maybe someday, I'll write it all up so that others can stumble upon the stories at a booksale, and awaken a loving, lingering walk through memories of People of the Book. I didn't know much about the author prior to finding the volume, and when I looked her up, found she was part of that generation a half step before me, and that our roots had some commonalities. Prior to this book, I had only stumbled upon a commentary and a children's book she had written. Her final book was published posthumously (http://www.lynnesharonschwartz.com/).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Of course I was hooked by the title. The impetus for writing the book is a NY Times piece by a Chinese scholar whose Buddhist belief "has curbed his appetite for books" because "To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." This is the foil for Schwartz' ode to reading as the portal to richer life experience. If this be ruin, then bring it on. Her earliest reading experience consists of charming ad Of course I was hooked by the title. The impetus for writing the book is a NY Times piece by a Chinese scholar whose Buddhist belief "has curbed his appetite for books" because "To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." This is the foil for Schwartz' ode to reading as the portal to richer life experience. If this be ruin, then bring it on. Her earliest reading experience consists of charming adults by "reading" words on the page of the New York Times at three and a half. She describes a childhood of passionate, free-range reading, followed by a college epiphany that these individual books are part of a vast landscape of "literature". As an adult she relishes the freedom to read books whether they are found by design or by serendipity. In the best passages, she describes the reading as a sort of magical communion between author and reader through the medium of narrative. However, she is presumptions when she dismisses literary criticism because somehow the magic triangle of the author, book, and reader vanishes in the instant book becomes "text"--as if there is no further insight beyond the author's voice. Also, there is a bit too much conceit in her preference for dead authors because, "I know my own times. I am in them ... It is the times of the dead I do not know." Certainly a lot of dreck is published, but I find the best living authors provide fresh perspective on contemporary experience.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Scott Jones

    I first read about this book in Alan Jacob's 'Reading for Pleasure in an Age of Distraction'. I felt the author as a kindred spirit as she quantified so many of my own thoughts on reading. Some examples: '... as I grew up, I came to prefer reading late at night, when the intrusive universe had gone to bed.' (p. 30) (on reading) 'It didn't replace living; it infused it, till the two became inextricable, like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in a bead of water.' (p. 24) 'I have done what people do, m I first read about this book in Alan Jacob's 'Reading for Pleasure in an Age of Distraction'. I felt the author as a kindred spirit as she quantified so many of my own thoughts on reading. Some examples: '... as I grew up, I came to prefer reading late at night, when the intrusive universe had gone to bed.' (p. 30) (on reading) 'It didn't replace living; it infused it, till the two became inextricable, like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in a bead of water.' (p. 24) 'I have done what people do, my life makes a reasonable showing. Can I go back to my books now?' (p. 15) 'For the only way to oppose a greater power is with inner might' (p. 49) 'Whenever I eat alone and read, I retrieve the whole emotional apparatus that was mine before education and independence and all the experiences that make us unable to respond to books as children do.' (p. 85) There are many, many more, but since the book is just over 100 pages I suggest you pick up a copy! The other great thing is all of the books, poems, and authors she describes. I came away with several tomes I was familiar with, but many more I had not read. Now I have more books to add on my 'want to read' list. There are also several stories of her childhood that were touching. I was reminded of my dad's love of science fiction and how I tried many times to read some of the old paperbacks he had. Alas, I could never get past the first several pages of any of them. Even today I read maybe one sci-fi book a year. I suggest this book to anyone who loves reading. I was happy I wasn't the only oddball out there!

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