April 9, 2019
Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, was a New York State Writers Institute guest speaker.
Paul oversees books coverage at The New York Times and hosts the weekly podcast, Inside The New York Times Book Review.
Her memoir, My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, tells the story of "Bob," Paul's book of books, a journal she started when she was 17 years old exchange student living in France, recording every book she has read since the summer of 1988. She first wrote about Bob in a 2012 essay in The New York Times.
In an profile published in The Atlantic in May, 2017, Paul wrote: "I’m only allowed to write in my Bob when I’ve finished a book, and not a moment before. I generally finish books, but if I don’t, I have to write a little empty square next to the title to show it’s incomplete. That’s it. There’s no book review. I don’t write thumbs up or thumbs down, or have a star system. I didn’t even number the entries until I was into the several hundreds. It truly is a list. But, of course, it has become more than that...
Looking back at my Book of Books tells me not only what I read and when, but also something about my decision-making process as I moved from book to book. Some of those decisions were very self-conscious, intellectual decisions. Some were more gut-level. Either way, I love the way those early entries show a young person’s curiosity at work: What did I want to know then? What did I feel I needed? Where did I want to be?"
In a review published in The Australian, Susan Wyndham writes, "Paul’s approach is anecdotal and entertaining, aiming not to educate readers about literature but to show how the two-way empathy of books can enrich our lives. It’s a challenge to animate the sedentary act of reading and My Life with Bob cleverly draws its drama and humour from her (mis)adventures in travel, love and domestic life."
Paul's previous books include Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children; Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families; and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. She is also editor of By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review.
Paul has been a contributor to Time magazine and a columnist for Worth. She also originated and wrote the Studied column in The New York Times Sunday Styles section. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Economist, Vogue, Slate and more.
Cosponsored by the University at Albany Foundation and the English Department.
Photos by Patrick Dodson, University at Albany
Promotional flyer for Pamela Paul's speech.