Some literary works have the power to shift our perspectives and change the world — one book, one reader at a time. What did it for these four authors?
“My high school literature teacher, Mr. Cole, assigned Thomas Wolfe’s ‘You Can’t Go Home Again.’ I wanted to be a reader after reading that book. Then, I read all of Thomas Wolfe’s novels and after reading them all, I wanted to be a writer.”
“When I first read James Gleick’s ‘Chaos’ and discovered that complex phenomena in nature didn’t need to be specified ‘top down,’ but could emerge from many simple interactions, it changed my view of the world around me — not just [in] nature, but social interactions, even emotion.”
“I’ve read Sol Stein’s ‘Stein On Writing’ multiple times. He talks about ‘showing’ your story, not ‘telling’ it … making it vivid, making the actions happen in front of the reader. The concept isn’t anything new, but because of Stein’s emphasis on it and because of all the examples he supplies, I’ve come to look at novels differently both reading and writing.”
“The best novel I’ve read in the last five years is ‘Stoner’ by John Williams. It’s simply about a man at the turn of the 20th century who grows up on a Missouri farm, goes to university to study agriculture, falls in love with literature instead, stays for his PhD, teaches literature, gets married and dies. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Yet it’s an exquisite and complete portrait of a rather sad man — it’s heartbreakingly beautiful, this book. Novles have a way of revealing and honoring people’s lives that you wouldn’t think you’d even have an interest in. That’s the real power of literature.”