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The Book That Changed My Life
Discussion Guide

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1. Are there any books that have influenced more than one of the authors interviewed in The Book That Changed My Life? Consider why a certain book or author would influence many people. Are there universal themes or qualities prevalent in these work(s) that speak to more people than others?

2. All of the authors interviewed give a list of several or many books that have changed their lives. Do you think that one book can single-handedly change a person's life?

3. What are some ways in which a fiction book could change someone's life, and how do they compare to ways that a nonfiction book could? Are there more similarities than differences?

4. David McCullough is a historian and a writer. Do the books that have influenced him reflect on his profession or interest in history? Are there any books that have influenced you in your profession?

5. Linda Pastan is a poet. What do the poets she says have influenced her have in common with each other? What do they have in common with her? Do any of the other authors interviewed mention poetry as an influence?

6. Can you see any similarities between the writers being interviewed and the authors on their lists, in terms of their writing style? Their background? Do you find that the authors with whom you can identify, with respect to race, gender, upbringing, etc., have more of an impact on you than others?

7. Grace Paley lists Mother Goose as one of the books that changed her life. What are some books that you read as a child? How did they affect you? Can you say that any of them influenced you to the point that you still think about them today?

8. Think about the criteria that define which books influence your life. Consider things like quality of writing, lyricism, themes, setting, plot, and characterization. Would you be more inclined toward a book that is beautifully written, or toward one that speaks to you thematically?

9. Think about books you've read throughout your life. Is your favorite book now the same as your favorite book five years ago? Ten years ago? Consider the course your life has taken. Do changing themes and events in your life reflect changing tastes in literature and art?

10. Finally, make a list of books that have changed your life. Consider why each one is on your list. Try to narrow it down to one book. How did you come to the conclusions you did?

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