“The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists” edited by Diane Osen
There are so many reasons to like this book! It will show you why writing matters and why reading matters. It will direct you to some excellent books, both fiction and non-fiction. It will make you think about what matters in life and in the world.
The Book That Changed My Life is a series of fifteen interviews with people who have won or have been finalist for a National Book Award. At the end of each interview is a list of works written by the interviewee as well as a list of books that influenced him or her, that shaped the writer’s life.
Each author, without being didactic, ends up telling us, in some way, why books matter. Here’s a great example from Barry Lopez’s interview:
“I believe you can say that most English-language literature today is about community—what makes it coherent? What makes it fly apart? Can it be put back together? And I think this literature is generated by a fear that disintegration of communities—families, neighborhoods, tribes—means an end to a fundamental part of human life. . . . look at the way in which we in this country have indulged ourselves in extreme notions of individual privilege, and what that has done to our social fabric—that’s something I want to write about.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fate of the culture of which I am a part, or about how writing a story can help. If, in essays or short fiction, you can bring back the intensity of something forgotten or vaguely understood, by sharpening the image and making it succinct, then you’re helping. A young person reading a story of yours could be inspired to attempt any number of things. An adult who has been abandoned by a lover or a child could read a story and find the reason that he or she wants to get up off the floor. All of those are good reasons to write. You’re helping people do the things that are far more important than literature.”
If you are an aspiring writer, you need to read this book!