How many books have actually changed the course of your life? Which one inspired you the most? Maybe that one magical book propelled you along the road to your career. Or maybe it forever changed the way you look at the world around you. But what about the books that led the authors who wrote them to write?
1. Richard Russo
Author of Pulitzer Prize winning Empire Falls
Russo didn’t put his all into his writing until his 30’s, despite spending his 20’s passionately studying literature. He credits Richard Yates with being his greatest inspiration– in particular, his stories in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.
Russo explained, “Yates was giving me permission to care about (and write about) the kinds of people who live their lives completely beneath the cultural radar. Which, for better or worse, I have continued to do.”
2. Lauren Groff
Author of Fates and Furies, a 2015 National Book Award finalist
Groff remembers a time in fourth grade when she brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to school with her. She remembers being horribly teased about it by some boys who decided to call her “Daisy Baggins” relentlessly for the next eight years. Instead of allowing it to quiet her passion for reading, it had quite the opposite effect.
Groff credits the fantasy novel with molding her into a reader because, as she explains, “I knew how glorious the book was, what a source of magic and wonder. If they chose to mock me instead of reading it for themselves, I realized then, the loss was entirely their own.”
3. Harlan Coben
Author of more than 25 books; most recently, Home
Harlan Coben admits that picking one book that he thinks led him to become a writer is an impossible task, but in doing so, he manages to single out Marathon Man, a book his father loaned him at 14-years-old. It was the first book he remembers getting so engrossed in that he didn’t care about the world around him.
He explains, “I think subconsciously something inside of me wanted to be able to make people feel what I was feeling — to give them that same can’t-put-it-down, stay-up-all-night, complete-escape experience.”
4. Yaa Gyasi
Author of Homegoing, her debut novel
Yaa Gyasi reaches back to her senior year of High School in choosing Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, as the book that has inspired her the most. Beyond influential, she says it remains her favorite book even to this day.
“I think the thing that I love most is Morrison’s great generosity and warmth toward her characters, even when they are at their worst,” says Gyasi.
5. Mary Roach
Author of multiple books about the human condition, including her most recent, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
Like many of the others, Roach names one of the first books she can recall truly loving. Well, a series of books actually, about a boy named TinTin. The Adventures of TinTin series inspired Roach through the exciting places TinTin visited and the people he met, and as she explains, “however he’d managed it, I wanted that life, and I guess to the best of my abilities I sort of got it.”
So, what books have inspired your life the most?
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Featured image via Andrew Huff