When I Was A Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson

83%

34 Critic Reviews

...a valuable contribution to public discourse in the United States.
-National Post

Synopsis

Marilynne Robinson has built a sterling reputation as a writer of sharp, subtly moving prose, not only as a major American novelist, but also as a rigorous thinker and incisive essayist. In When I Was a Child I Read Books she returns to and expands upon the themes which have preoccupied her work with renewed vigor.

In “Austerity as Ideology,” she tackles the global debt crisis, and the charged political and social political climate in this country that makes finding a solution to our financial troubles so challenging. In “Open Thy Hand Wide” she searches out the deeply embedded role of generosity in Christian faith. And in “When I Was a Child,” one of her most personal essays to date, an account of her childhood in Idaho becomes an exploration of individualism and the myth of the American West. Clear-eyed and forceful as ever, Robinson demonstrates once again why she is regarded as one of our essential writers.
 

About Marilynne Robinson

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Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Housekeeping, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Home received the Orange Prize, the L.A. Times Book Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Robinson’s nonfiction books include Absence of Mind, The Death of Adam, and Mother Country, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City.
 
Published March 13, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 225 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for When I Was A Child I Read Books
All: 34 | Positive: 27 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Dec 15 2011

Robinson is a splendid writer, no question—erudite, often wise and slyly humorous

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on Mar 08 2012

Robinson is adept at studying the small print and reading between the lines but she never forgets to look up at the stars.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Andrew Delblanco on Apr 20 2012

...this collection is a rewarding reminder that the author’s faith infuses every word she writes.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Dec 19 2011

Her project is a hard-edged liberalism, sustained by a Calvinist ethic of generosity.

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Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Thomas Meaney on Apr 03 2012

The greatest pleasures of this book are its provocations, which are inseparable from its prose.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg on May 07 2012

Generous, humane and occasionally witty. . .and her new essay collection is a bracing display of all those character traits in abundance.

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Financial Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Emily Stokes on Mar 23 2012

Robinson imbues ordinary, concrete details with grace. . .

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National Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Mar 16 2012

...a valuable contribution to public discourse in the United States.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by August Brown on Jul 01 2012

...for all her edifying work reclaiming bedrock Western texts for progressive ends, this collection has trouble suggesting how to move forward on the ground.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by Lauren Groff on Apr 13 2012

I read When I Was a Child I Read Books slowly, not only because I was savouring the books’ gorgeous language, but also because I had to ride out the swells of wonder that another human soul could express ideas as crystalline and beautiful as those in her book.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Roxana Robinson on Mar 27 2014

Taut, eloquent and often acerbically funny, these essays present a formidable response to slack scholarship, an indignant refutation of the policies of punitive frugality toward the poor and a challenge to anyone who denies the power, mystery and significance of the human soul.

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Jane Shilling on Mar 15 2012

...admirers of her novels who hope to find an equivalent clarity and authority in her essays may find them hard work.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Lesley McDowell on Mar 18 2012

Her rhetoric is of the gentle, thoughtful kind that nevertheless hides a rapier, which she unleashes just when she needs it.

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Dallas News

Excellent
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Apr 20 2012

. . .it’s a call to engage in greater empathy, modesty, generosity and compassion.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Excellent
Reviewed by Stefan Beck on Mar 20 2012

It is impossible not to be fortified and enlarged by a few hundred pages in her company.

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Denver Post

Excellent
Reviewed by John Broening on Mar 25 2012

. . .overall the fascinating expression of a rooted and contrary mind.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Brian Bethune on Apr 19 2012

Throughout it all, Robinson—learned, humane and unfailingly civil—is a pleasure to read.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by Lauren Groff on Sep 06 2012

I read...slowly, not only because I was savouring the books’ gorgeous language, but also because I had to ride out the swells of wonder that another human soul could express ideas as crystalline and beautiful as those in her book.

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Boston.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Washburn on Mar 25 2012

...a glimmering, provocative collection of essays, each a rhetorically brilliant, deeply felt exploration of education, culture, and politics.

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Chron.com

Below average
Reviewed by Maggie Galehouse on Mar 10 2012

As a reader... you sense that the collective punch of these writings would be stronger if you shared her familiarity with Calvin, Walt Whitman, the Bible, John Frederick Oberlin, and so on.

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The National

Excellent
Reviewed by Noori Passela on May 11 2012

The effort required to relish the collected works presented here will be worth it.

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New Statesman

Below average
Reviewed by Sophie Elmhirst on Mar 26 2012

. . .light relief is welcome in arguments that are burdened at times by their high style and religious obfuscation.

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Scotsman.com

Excellent
Mar 13 2012

Her vision of a universe where irony is as ubiquitous as energy is profoundly appealing.

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The Miami Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by Gigi Lehman on Mar 16 2012

There is no room in Robinson’s writings for meanness, for invective.

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New York Observer

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Robbins on Mar 13 2012

Even when one disagrees with her, Ms. Robinson is always worth reading because she is as gifted a stylist as the English language has at present.

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Kansas City Star

Below average
Reviewed by Kevin Canfield on Mar 08 2012

...Robinson’s essays are occasionally clouded by a note of defensiveness.

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Commentary

Below average
Reviewed by DG Meyers on Mar 30 2012

The partisanship and intellectual negligence of When I Was a Child I Read Books is a pity

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Christianity Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Wesley Hill

The essays are tonic for our adoration-starved religious and scientific cultures, bracing in their critique and hope-giving in the alternative way of seeing that they open up for us.

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Wichita Eagle

Excellent
Reviewed by Gordon Houser on Mar 25 2012

If you read “When I Was a Child,” be ready to have certain assumptions challenged and to think through important issues while enjoying a master of prose.

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American Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Maurice Reidy

Marilynne Robinson may not be a prolific as some writers, but the rewards offered by her body of work are rich indeed.

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NY Observer

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Robbins on Mar 13 2012

It’s time to recognize that Ms. Robinson is also a thinker of the first order, one of the finest we have ever had.

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London Evening Standard

Excellent
Reviewed by Claire Harman on Mar 08 2012

...she is an inspired monitor of the sublime — and a superlative writer of fiction.

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The Wilson Quarterly

Excellent
Reviewed by Megan Buseky

One comes away from Robinson’s work with the sense that the life of the mind involves empathy and compassion as much as intellect.

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Shelf Love

Above average
Reviewed by Teresa on Apr 09 2012

...a book about ideas found in books. The essays in this collection grapple with ideas related to theology, politics, history, and philosophy with rigor and intelligence...If you’re at all interested in these kinds of ideas, I recommend this book, even if it’s not quite what the title might lead you to expect.

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