About My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.

Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.

Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley High to Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.

But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.

Praise for My Life with Bob

My Life with Bob is a sweet and heady book that casts a serious charm. Our lively and fetching heroine’s journey becomes more thrilling by the page as Pamela Paul perfectly captures the joys of a lifetime devoted to books, as well as the attendant pressure, doubt, and insecurity. Reading this memoir is pure pleasure — funny, brainy, far-reaching — but more than anything, it feels like a call to arms to recommit to our best self: the book person.”
—Maria Semple

“Any book that helps me remember reading the Betsy-Tacy-Tib series as well as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is a book I like. Pamela Paul’s My Life with Bob is an absorbing, delightful amalgam — it’s a recommended reading list, a personal reflection, and a paean to reading. I’m sorry I never wrote down all the books I read (or even practically any), but I’m so glad Pamela Paul did.”
—Meg Wolitzer

“In this hilarious, wise, and elegiac account of a life led half in the world and half in books, Pamela Paul writes with courage and exuberance about the bumpy road to maturity. Her voice—tender, moral, madcap, nostalgic, generous—will captivate all but the most stony reader. My Life with Bob is full of hope, full of love, a joyful and poignant reflection on the well-written sentence and the well-lived life.”
—Andrew Solomon

“Pamela Paul’s My Life with Bob is absolutely essential for those of us to whom books are more or less everything. This is a book I was born to read!”
—Robert Gottlieb

“Pamela Paul recalls the stories that have given shape to her own narrative in her appealingly roving memoir…. which includes…undersung marvels that boldly take measure of the world—and challenge us to write our own story.”

“Readers will rejoice for My Life with Bob”
Vanity Fair

“[Pamela Paul] is reflective, open and at times achingly funny. My Life with Bob is the book that she was put on this Earth to write.”
The Economist

“A rollicking, intimate expedition through abrilliant booklover’s heart, mind, and life…. My Life With Bob is a fun, accessible, well-written bookalogue; the kind of memoir Pamela Paul would have raved about in the venerable New York Times Book Review if she hadn’t written it.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“Paul is inspired to question why we read, how we read, what we read, and how reading helps us create our own narratives. Readers will be drawn to this witty and authentic tribute to the extraordinary power of books.”
Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“A witty, heartfelt, deeply optimistic narrative…Titles about reading and books abound, but this memoir stands in a class by itself. Bibliophiles will treasure, but the addictive storytelling and high-quality writing will vastly increase its audience.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Intelligent, unique, and wise, Paul’s book not only remembers a life lived among and influenced by books. It also reveals how the most interesting stories exist less as words printed on pages and more as ‘stories that lie between book and reader.’ A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books.”
Kirkus Reviews