The Book That Changed My Life

Joseph Ellis

The four 1998 National Book Award Winners pictured at a reception following the Foundation's annual Evening with the Winners event at the New York Public Library. From left to right: Joseph Ellis, Charles Frazier, William Meredith, and Han Nolan (seated). Photo Credit: Sandra WavrickJoseph Ellis received The 1997 National Book Award for Nonfiction for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson.

Here is a short list of some books that changed my life, or at least the way I thought about life:

If I had to pick one book that influenced my own writing, it would be The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade by Cecil Woodham-Smith. She taught me two things: first, you can switch to the present tense inside a paragraph and thereby bring the reader into the consciousness of a character without announcing that you are doing so; second, if you trust the story and create a narrative flow, the cadences will carry the analysis invisibly, and with much greater fluency.

Sincerely,

Joseph J. Ellis

The four 1998 National Book Award Winners pictured at a reception following the Foundation's annual Evening with the Winners event at the New York Public Library. From left to right: Joseph Ellis, Charles Frazier, William Meredith, and Han Nolan (seated). Photo Credit: Sandra Wavrick