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
"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
AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN
"[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?"
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
"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."
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, STAR
"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