I really liked Karen Swallow Prior’s memoir Booked. It is a memoir that is organized around the books that she read growing up. I have read several good reviews of Booked, and here is another good review that was written by Nick Olson and posted at Books and Culture magazine.
“Modernity is eighth grade stuck on repeat,” Karen Swallow Prior humorously muses in her recently released memoir of literature-loving. The unexpected turn-of-phrase—and the chapter revolving around Jane Eyre from which it comes—is, in a way, representative of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, for it alludes both to the angst of becoming a self-possessed individual and to the desire for loving acceptance that the development calls for. The story of Prior’s life, not unlike Jane Eyre’s generally speaking, is about the sometimes painstaking, sometimes joyous process of individuation. Of course, the rise of the modern individual in the novel is coincident with the uniquely modern emphasis on self-creation. Yet, Prior’s comparison of modernity to eighth grade also reveals that she knows something of the alienating condition which can accompany the illusion of total self-sufficiency in the creation of the self. In a way, Booked offers a counter-narrative about how the self is formed, one that is rooted in sensibilities which predate modernity (and self-help books). A story about how books have been a means of grace to Prior’s soul, Booked is, more than that, a story about the inextricable relationship between narratives and human beings.