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Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F*cked Up My Life

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A poignant, funny, and timely memoir that marries the intimacy and the sexual identity themes of Boy Erased with My Life in Middlemarch’s interest in the way literature shapes and influences our lives, written in the authentic Southern voice, deeply incisive wit, and with quirky but erudite observations evocative of John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead. Mark Scarbrough has be A poignant, funny, and timely memoir that marries the intimacy and the sexual identity themes of Boy Erased with My Life in Middlemarch’s interest in the way literature shapes and influences our lives, written in the authentic Southern voice, deeply incisive wit, and with quirky but erudite observations evocative of John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead. Mark Scarbrough has been searching for something his entire life. Whether it’s his birth mother, true love, his purpose, or his sexual identity, Mark has been on a constant quest to find out who he really is, with the great Western texts as his steadfast companions. As a boy with his head constantly in a book, desperate to discover new worlds, he can hardly distinguish between their plots and his own reality. The child of strict Texan Evangelicals, Mark is taught by the Bible to fervently believe in the rapture and second coming and is thus moved to spend his teen years as a youth preacher in cowboy boots. At college, he discovers William Blake, who teaches him to fall in love with poems, lyrics… and his roommate Alex. Raised to believe that to be gay was to be a sinner, Mark is driven to the brink of madness and attempts suicide. Hoping to avoid books once and for all, Mark joins the seminary, where he meets his wife, Miranda. Neither the seminary nor the marriage stick, and Mark once again finds himself turning to his books for the sense of belonging he continues to seek… In the tradition of beloved titles like The End of Your Life Book Club, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and The Year of Reading Dangerously, Bookmarked tells a deeply personal story through the lens of literature. An examination of one man’s complicated, near-obsessive relationship with books, and how they shaped, molded, ruined and saved him, Bookmarked is about how we readers stash our secrets between jacket covers and how those secrets ultimately get told in the ways that the books themselves demand.


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A poignant, funny, and timely memoir that marries the intimacy and the sexual identity themes of Boy Erased with My Life in Middlemarch’s interest in the way literature shapes and influences our lives, written in the authentic Southern voice, deeply incisive wit, and with quirky but erudite observations evocative of John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead. Mark Scarbrough has be A poignant, funny, and timely memoir that marries the intimacy and the sexual identity themes of Boy Erased with My Life in Middlemarch’s interest in the way literature shapes and influences our lives, written in the authentic Southern voice, deeply incisive wit, and with quirky but erudite observations evocative of John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead. Mark Scarbrough has been searching for something his entire life. Whether it’s his birth mother, true love, his purpose, or his sexual identity, Mark has been on a constant quest to find out who he really is, with the great Western texts as his steadfast companions. As a boy with his head constantly in a book, desperate to discover new worlds, he can hardly distinguish between their plots and his own reality. The child of strict Texan Evangelicals, Mark is taught by the Bible to fervently believe in the rapture and second coming and is thus moved to spend his teen years as a youth preacher in cowboy boots. At college, he discovers William Blake, who teaches him to fall in love with poems, lyrics… and his roommate Alex. Raised to believe that to be gay was to be a sinner, Mark is driven to the brink of madness and attempts suicide. Hoping to avoid books once and for all, Mark joins the seminary, where he meets his wife, Miranda. Neither the seminary nor the marriage stick, and Mark once again finds himself turning to his books for the sense of belonging he continues to seek… In the tradition of beloved titles like The End of Your Life Book Club, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and The Year of Reading Dangerously, Bookmarked tells a deeply personal story through the lens of literature. An examination of one man’s complicated, near-obsessive relationship with books, and how they shaped, molded, ruined and saved him, Bookmarked is about how we readers stash our secrets between jacket covers and how those secrets ultimately get told in the ways that the books themselves demand.

36 review for Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F*cked Up My Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    A no holds barred memoir. Mr Scarbrough is a man of great purges and this book might be his greatest purge of all. A pared to the bone, meat off the bone, show and tell, which gets down to the root of him but also of me, of you, because yep we're all in the same boat called Life and we are the ones who have to live it, bit by bit, breath by breath. "No one's life strings out in a line. We all have to make it up as we go. Not once, but over and over again. Life won't end in a neat moral." "Livin A no holds barred memoir. Mr Scarbrough is a man of great purges and this book might be his greatest purge of all. A pared to the bone, meat off the bone, show and tell, which gets down to the root of him but also of me, of you, because yep we're all in the same boat called Life and we are the ones who have to live it, bit by bit, breath by breath. "No one's life strings out in a line. We all have to make it up as we go. Not once, but over and over again. Life won't end in a neat moral." "Living solves life. With words, yes. But with love, too. Sex. Nice dinners, Friends. Family, if we're lucky. as well as trees, hills, and fresh air. Walk the land, lad. Yes, that and so much more." Scarbrough took me on a journey, his journey. His faithful companions, on this hero quest, were books and he talk about how these books marked him, what he wanted from them and what he got. This resonated with me, because yes books are that important to me. They are my go to, in any situation. So, I might not have read, or fell in love with the same books, or walked the same road, but the love, co-dependence maybe, is very familiar. An ARC gently provided by author/publisher via Netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Athena

    “I opened them one by one, pressing my nose against their spines. Paperback classics were the best: slightly pulpy but sweet, not cloying, hints of vanilla tempered by late winter leaves.” Bookmarked is a passionate memoir of a Southern man who falls into a toxic relationship with literature as he struggles with his faith, sexuality and life. Books are his obsessive refuge as an adopted kid who doesn't know who he is before their relationship falls apart and he tries to rebuild himself without th “I opened them one by one, pressing my nose against their spines. Paperback classics were the best: slightly pulpy but sweet, not cloying, hints of vanilla tempered by late winter leaves.” Bookmarked is a passionate memoir of a Southern man who falls into a toxic relationship with literature as he struggles with his faith, sexuality and life. Books are his obsessive refuge as an adopted kid who doesn't know who he is before their relationship falls apart and he tries to rebuild himself without them. This cycle repeats throughout the story, the narrator cannot stay away from books and they destroy his life as much as they heal him. At every important moment of his life, a great work of Western literature is haunting the author. At first he struggles to understand what it means, how to define his relationships with the authors of the past without entering a quasi-manic state There’s something enjoyable in memoir to see a person you don’t know - only know through the pages- evolve and heal. Where the early chapters were as chaotic as the mind of the young author, the last chapters soothed me, showed me that this furious life could end into something as calm as a simple domestic life. I should mention a wonderful chapter towards the end that is an introspective recipe and I think is the best description of how I feel while cooking. As a reader, seeing a theme as personal as “who are you really if you keep losing yourself in books to exist?” explored in a memoir was gratifying. Reading sometimes feels like an illegal addiction, an intoxication that can cut out the real world and you see the words, the meaning of things said centuries ago in your life and you start to wonder what of it is you or them? This could not be a review of this book without mentioning the strong impact that his religion and sexuality had on the author. Adopted into a Southern fundamentalist family, he suffers several crisis of faith, once again obsessed with words but this time religious words. Of course this doesn’t blend well with his realisation that he has fallen in love with a man, that he can stray from the path that he thought he would always follow. There’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing a queer person finally coming at terms with himself, to finally accept that he can build a life for himself where he’s happy. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susannah

    A HERO'S JOURNEY - WITH BOOKS. I have never read a book quite like this one before. It honestly is not what you expect - and that is why you should read it. Southern boy meets the written word and slips into the voices of the authors, so much so that he has trouble finding his own voice again. However, this is a journey he needs to take - because he's been living the way he's been taught, and it's not an authentic match for him. Bucking the system but backed up by scores of literary giants feels A HERO'S JOURNEY - WITH BOOKS. I have never read a book quite like this one before. It honestly is not what you expect - and that is why you should read it. Southern boy meets the written word and slips into the voices of the authors, so much so that he has trouble finding his own voice again. However, this is a journey he needs to take - because he's been living the way he's been taught, and it's not an authentic match for him. Bucking the system but backed up by scores of literary giants feels right even as it results in nearly destroying his life. The author travels a route familiar to some of us yet very strange to himself, meeting characters, both imagined and real, who help him dissect himself and put him back together. There are several purges, including books, people, and living situations, before he ends up in a place and with people who help him (one in particular), and allow him, to build his life the way he wanted to, all along. A splendid intellectual story, highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    So much honesty. I laughed and I cried. In the end, I felt like a bit wrung out and emotional. And thankful that people find their support along the way. Life. It’s a kicker, isn’t it?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    You would be hard pressed to find another American life like this one. The pendulum swings of life are told in this memoir with honesty, beauty, sorrow and brilliance. I hope this memoir enjoys wide circulation as it is one of the best books I have read in quite a while, and I read voraciously. A triumph Mark Scarbrough! There is hope for all of us.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah S Churchill

    Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F***ed Up My LIfe is a memoir of an adopted boy set against the backdrop of a Southern fundamentalist upbringing as he matures through his extensive education in literature and religion and eventually emerges into married life. Diagnosed with mild dyslexia as a boy, Mark finds his cure by copious reading, beginning with a home collection of Readers Digest condensed books, and evolving into an obsession with consuming the great works of Wester Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F***ed Up My LIfe is a memoir of an adopted boy set against the backdrop of a Southern fundamentalist upbringing as he matures through his extensive education in literature and religion and eventually emerges into married life. Diagnosed with mild dyslexia as a boy, Mark finds his cure by copious reading, beginning with a home collection of Readers Digest condensed books, and evolving into an obsession with consuming the great works of Western Literature. He wrestles with balancing the other world he finds in literature as it is juxtaposed against the reality and banality of his own life, which is full of boundaries and expectations he tests and questions. The literature becomes a great influence upon Mark’s life decisions. As a young boy Mark laments, “I got livid when I had to come back to my life, which was nothing much to read about.” We follow Mark through college as he abruptly discards an undergraduate major in science and moves into the world of literature and words, seeking his home and to discover the meaning of why we are all here. “Through some exquisite connection, some human contact beyond my chemistry self and my fundamentalist brain, words slipped into me.” In the process of living life through literature, Mark also questions his sexual orientation. Mark’s quest for his ultimate home and the meaning of his own existence takes him on a path of literature, self-discovery, and rebirth, and leaves the reader wanting to find those things with him as the memoir progresses. His journey makes us ask what if: what if I had a chosen another path, what if I threw it all away and started over, what if I dared to do something different and unexpected? Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F***ed Up My LIfe is not simply a memoir of a troubled soul’s search for inner peace and contentment; it is a beautifully written memoir of an incredibly brave man’s homecoming.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tony Thomson

    Mark Scarbrough has created something extraordinary - a deep, rich, penetratingly honest memoir that includes coming out as gay but is about so much more - and is so interesting. There is pain in this book but there are also extremely funny scenes - much about human nature - much about cooking - and more about the nature of love and it's relationship to the self. Even the incurably heterosexual will find something revealing in Bookmarked about how to search for inner truth. And how even the great Mark Scarbrough has created something extraordinary - a deep, rich, penetratingly honest memoir that includes coming out as gay but is about so much more - and is so interesting. There is pain in this book but there are also extremely funny scenes - much about human nature - much about cooking - and more about the nature of love and it's relationship to the self. Even the incurably heterosexual will find something revealing in Bookmarked about how to search for inner truth. And how even the greatest novels and poetry are imperfect guides to life. And how, if there are no happy endings in the real world, an honest seeker may still find a safe haven.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zee Monodee

    An absolute rollercoaster of a book - if you're not into strong emotions, abstain! Because this book will make you feel all the feels and you sometimes wonder when you swapped places with the author because everything is so visceral that it feels like it is happening to you and not to him! Really immersive, not for the faint of heart, and will probably require a few days off just to recover from all the highs and lows An absolute rollercoaster of a book - if you're not into strong emotions, abstain! Because this book will make you feel all the feels and you sometimes wonder when you swapped places with the author because everything is so visceral that it feels like it is happening to you and not to him! Really immersive, not for the faint of heart, and will probably require a few days off just to recover from all the highs and lows

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard S Colvin

    No ho-hum memoir here and certainly not just for English majors If you think of Mark Scarbrough as just a cookbook writer, then get ready for a ride. He has unearthed his many-faceted life right on the pages of his new book. I think all of us tell ourselves stories just to get by, but here, the author strips away those deep fictions plot by plot with devastating honesty, and yet he did it with such cleverness, and sly humor, that I simply could not stop reading. Do yourself a favor and borrow so No ho-hum memoir here and certainly not just for English majors If you think of Mark Scarbrough as just a cookbook writer, then get ready for a ride. He has unearthed his many-faceted life right on the pages of his new book. I think all of us tell ourselves stories just to get by, but here, the author strips away those deep fictions plot by plot with devastating honesty, and yet he did it with such cleverness, and sly humor, that I simply could not stop reading. Do yourself a favor and borrow someone else’s life for a while. Mr. Scarbrough has written his truth deftly, knife-sharp when needed, saucy when applicable, but all in all, a fearless and beautiful story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alyson

    A terrific read, and a brave one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Louise Gray

    So interesting to read about life as a gay man being raised by religious fundamentalists, quite apart from the added interest which the role which literature has played in the author’s life. The story is ultimately an uplifting one as we see the author reach a point of self acceptance, but it is a journey with many bumps and bruises along the way. I really enjoyed the self deprecating, open and intelligent writing style.

  12. 4 out of 5

    greenie

    Bookmarked is the story of a gay man raised in a fundamentalist Baptist culture of the American South, for whom classic English literature begins as a forbidden pleasure, becomes an escape and obsession, and finally, a lifelong passion. As a fellow queer person from a different conservative religious culture, I was intrigued by this story, especially after reading the autobiography Boy Erased. The atmosphere created in the beginning of the book transported me into the world of the author's child Bookmarked is the story of a gay man raised in a fundamentalist Baptist culture of the American South, for whom classic English literature begins as a forbidden pleasure, becomes an escape and obsession, and finally, a lifelong passion. As a fellow queer person from a different conservative religious culture, I was intrigued by this story, especially after reading the autobiography Boy Erased. The atmosphere created in the beginning of the book transported me into the world of the author's childhood. I loved the way he explored the way religion's emotional impact on his view of the world, the way it motivated his anger especially at other fundamentalists who were not as zealous as himself. Sadly, this book did not continue to engage me the way it did other readers for several reasons. The writing style was not for me. The story is often written through recollection of past patterns and habits, rather than moment by moment through scenes that carry along a plot. The secondary characters never felt particularly deep or interesting, and it was hard for me to gain sympathy for anyone in the story. My biggest hurdle was the way classic English literature is used throughout the book. I came to this book with an open mind, but I am not familiar with any of the authors or works referenced. A good book can make me invested in main character/author’s love for something I’m unfamiliar with. For example, prior to reading Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, I knew nothing about the inner workings of crematories, and before I read Like a Love Story, I had barely listened to a Madonna song. But the authors helped me understand what these things are and why they are important to the MC. Unfortunately, while this book is filled with references to things like the poetry of William Blake, it failed to communicate to me what they meant to the author. Even from the beginning, I couldn’t understand: Why does great literature make him feel obsessed and addicted? Why does it drive him in conflict with his fundamentalist background? There is an instance early on where he describes the story of The Stepford Wives, in which housewives are replaced with robots, and how this made him reflect on his fundamentalist culture as a child. I only wish that he had explained the literature he read later on in similar detail on behalf of us who aren’t familiar with it. If I had a background in English classic literature, I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book much more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bobbles

    Bookmarked tells the story of a Southern gay man's journey to self love and acceptance of who he is through great works of literature. I'm not used to reading these kind of books but still enjoyed it a lot, although the writing style wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, I think it serves the purpose well. I felt part of the story as it is very immersive especially when the author talks about his childhood, and everything was very interesting, especially how religion and literature impacted his life Bookmarked tells the story of a Southern gay man's journey to self love and acceptance of who he is through great works of literature. I'm not used to reading these kind of books but still enjoyed it a lot, although the writing style wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, I think it serves the purpose well. I felt part of the story as it is very immersive especially when the author talks about his childhood, and everything was very interesting, especially how religion and literature impacted his life, sexuality and vision of himself. Truly a good book I would recommend to people interested by the subject (although I would recommend having a little knowledge of the works that are talked about in the book)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    A whirlwind memoir that traipses its way through the life of a young Texan boy, trying to come to terms with his faith, his sexuality, his mental health and his love or classic literature. Some parts are laugh out lid funny and some a chaotic and paint concepts in broad strokes but ultimately it’s a great illustration. Coming of age in America, amidst so many opposing factors, Marks tale is illuminating and thought provoking.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gary Allen

  16. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Weinstein

  17. 4 out of 5

    Woondog

  18. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Bourque

  20. 5 out of 5

    eilish mccaffrey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  23. 4 out of 5

    kpcrossan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Bartos

  25. 5 out of 5

    NicoleR.M.M.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Weinstein

  27. 5 out of 5

    Averry

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard S Colvin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marci

  31. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

  32. 5 out of 5

    Armagan (they-them)

  33. 4 out of 5

    Cheyenne

  34. 5 out of 5

    Roger Johnson

  35. 5 out of 5

    David

  36. 4 out of 5

    Reagan

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