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The Book That Changed My Life
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Talking about favorite books can bring you close to people real fast, and these wonderful interviews with 15 National Book Award winners and finalists say a lot not only about the books that shaped their writing lives but also about why their books speak to us. For Grace Paley, it was Mother Goose and The Bible as well as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce that made her a writer. Cynthia Ozick talks about fairy tales that transformed her with their images of "bleak yet rapturous imposture." E. L. Doctorow read Tom Sawyer and learned the huge advantage of writing from a child's viewpoint. The writers speak with wit and passion and absolutely no self-importance. In a hilarious self-parody, Diane Johnson remembers her love for sea stories and shipwrecks ("I was quite old before I realized I myself, a Midwestern girl, wouldn't be going before the mast"). Then there's the surprise of going back to that landmark book you remember--or think you remember. The other writers interviewed are James Carroll, Don DeLillo, Charles Johnson, Philip Levine, David Levering Lewis, Barry Lopez, David McCullough, Alice McDermott, Linda Pastan, Katherine Paterson, and Robert Stone. All are vehement against message: to borrow a phrase from Ozick, who borrows it from E. M. Forster, a great book "educates the heart." A must for book-discussion groups. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

"A diverse collection of highly regarded authors discuss their careers and explain what books influenced them the most in this revealing series of interviews conducted by THE WRITING LIFE co-editor Diane Osen...[it} contains numerous insights from famous and fascinating authors."

Osen, an editor and freelance writer with long-standing ties to the National Book Foundation, here gathers together 15 interviews with National Book Award winners and finalists, exploring how their reading has helped shape their lives and their art. Interviewees include James Carroll, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Charles Johnson, Diane Johnson, Philip Levine, David Levering Lewis, Barry Lopez, David McCullough, Alice McDermott, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Linda Pastan, Katherine Paterson, and Robert Stone. A primary bibliography and a list of works influencing the author follow each interview. Expected sources like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzgerald appear on several writers' lists; less obvious influences include the effect of Tim O'Brien's novels on James Carroll and Linda Pastan's indebtedness to James Wright's work and Oscar Williams's landmark A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry. A tribute to the power of reading to shape our vision of ourselves and our world, this title is recommended for all literature collections.
William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll., Lib., CUNY

Grace Paley describes her first encounter with the stories of Isaac Babel; Charles Johnson recalls being moved by Black Boy and a volume about yoga he found on his mother's bookshelf; and Don DeLillo explains that he spent his childhood not reading at all, but playing games-"street games, card games, alley games, rooftop games, fire escape games, punchball, stickball, handball, stoop ball"-in The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists. Freelance writer and editor Diane Osen talks to 15 novelists, nonfiction writers, poets and children's authors-including E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Philip Levine and Katherine Paterson-about formative influences as well as their recent works.

"[Diane Osen's] book is an intelligent look at the creative process."

"In interivews with Osen, the writers reveal insights into how reading shapes writers, as well as a wealth of details about their writing careers."

"This volume, the profits from which benefit the National Book Foundation, has an excellent discussion guide so everyone can reflect on the question: what book changed your life?"

"Osen's interviews are an homage to books."

"The title pretty much says it all...Their reminiscences and insights should interest any fan of literature."

"I doubt that editor Diane Osen meant her book to be a gift guide, but I can't think of a better one. Osen interviewed 15 National Book Award winners and finalists and asked them what books most influenced them. The result is The Book That Changed My Life. The interview subjects include James Carroll, Don Delillo, E.L. Doctorow, Barry Lopez, Grace Paley and Robert Stone. And wouldn't you rather have them help you with your Christmas list than me?" Robert Armstrong, Star Tribune Staff Writer

"Readers will find the interviews here of much interest for the insights they provide into the factors that influenced 15 prominent writers, as well as into the perspectives and backgrounds they bring to their work."


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