The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives By Nancy Pearl & Jeff Schwager

I’m a sucker for books like The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager interview 22 writers about their favorite books. Of all the writers in The Writer’s Library, Jonathan Lethem comes closest to my reading tastes. Lethem grew up reading Philip K. Dick and A. E. Van Vogt and Clifford Simak just like me. He moved on to detective fiction–Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald, Parker–and started writing his own unique books that blend many of these influences.

I’m a big fan of Madeline Miller’s Circe so I was interested to discover her love of classical mythology began when her mother would take her to the library on a regular basis. Miller learned Latin and her teacher offered to teach her Greek, too!

You’ll really get a sense of each of these writers as they talk about the books that influenced them most. Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager provide a handy list of the books referred to at the end of each interview. Highly recommended! GRADE: A

Foreword by Susan Orlean — ix

Introduction — 1

Jonathan Lethem — 5

Laila Lalami — 22

Luis Alberto Urrea — 38

Jennifer Egan — 54

T.C. Boyle — 72

Susan Choi — 87

Andrew Sean Greer — 104

Madeline Miller — 122

Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman — 133

Maaza Mengiste — 154

Amor Towles — 170

Louise Erdrich — 187

Dave Eggers — 200

Laurie Frankel — 215

Viet Thanh Nguyen — 227

Jane Hirshfield — 243

Richard Ford — 261

Siri Hustvedt — 279

Charles Johnson — 295

Vendela Vida — 310

Donna Tartt — 325

Russell Banks –335


27 thoughts on “The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives By Nancy Pearl & Jeff Schwager

  1. Patti Abbott

    Me, too. Hope they have it. The book that changed my life was THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, of course. I bet someone chose that. Second would be THE TRUE BELIEVER.

  2. Michael Padgett

    I’ve also put a hold on this, but it looks like it’ll be a while before I get it. It got me thinking about my own formative reading experiences. When I was 9-10, about a year before SF took over my reading, I read three novels that are still with me–“The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne, “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins, and “Beau Geste” by P. C. Wren. I loved all three, and all had elements of mystery and adventure, and SF in the case of Verne. I eventually read more novels by Collins, tried other novels by Verne and didn’t like them, and just couldn’t find anything else by Wren. But looking back, I think these three books set me on the reading path I followed.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, impressive list of early influences! I read the TOM SWIFT series, moved on to THE HARD BOYS and NANCY DREW, then the RICK BRANT series. Then, it was off to the races! Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc.!

  3. Beth Fedyn

    These are not the books I love. I’ve probably read one title each for four of these authors. Nothing was so outstanding that I added their other works to my TBR pile.
    Give me a not-so-nice mystery or contemporary novel.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    I’ve read several of Pearl’s books and always enjoyed them, so I Put the ebook version on hold. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO was the book for me.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I read THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO as a kid. But, decades later, I realized what I had read was a severely abridged edition. I then read the unabridged edition of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO brilliantly translated by Robin Buss. Loved it!

  5. tracybham

    I would be especially interested in Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman and Jonathan Lethem, but I think any of these authors would be interesting to hear about and from in this context. Also T.C. Boyle because he lives near Santa Barbara, even though I haven’t read anything by him.

    1. george Post author

      Tracy, you’ll be fascinated by the book choices of Chabon & Waldman. Lethem’s tastes mirror mine. I’ve read some T.C. Boyle and his books reflect his writing.

      1. Todd Mason

        Boyle is a very artificial writer; I’ve read perhaps two good stories among the couple of dozen I’ve come across in anthologies over the decades. A bit like a less audacious, less convincing Harlan Ellison.

  6. Jeff Meyerson

    When Lethem was a kid, he lived in Brooklyn, downtown quite near where Jackie taught. (If you read MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, part is set right by her school.) His “key” teacher was Carmen Farina, who Jackie worked with and who later became the NYC Schools Chancellor.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, wow! Small world! I’ve read some of Lethem’s novels, but I really enjoy his essays. Lethem wrote the best essay on Philip K. Dick that I’ve ever read.

  7. Michael Padgett

    I almost forgot to look at the list of contributors. I’ve read books by five of them, and really loved Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History. I’m really a big fan of Jennifer Egan, especially “A Visit From the Goon Squad”.

  8. wolf

    Though I’ve read thousands of books this list of authors where I just know twor three tells me that I should have read more.
    As a child/young boy I would read at least one book every day – most from the town library, the lady there knew me and let me read “adult” books when I was just 15 years old (of course no porn …).
    Difficult for me to select just one book – I’d say the novels of Thomas Mann made the biggest impression.
    Then of course the SF books – there was a series of translations of titles by Asimov, Silverberg, Blish etc by fans in the “Goldmann Blue series”.
    I also was really impressed by the mysteries and especially the Africa novels by Edgar Wallace though that was lighter stuff.

      1. wolf

        George, good luck! These novels are really collections of short stories and also known as “Colonel Sanders series” were written soon after Edgar returned from Africa (more than 100 years ago) – some praise them, some call them racist.
        Wallace was/still is very popular in Germany.

  9. Jerry House

    Ten of Wallace’s books about Sanders of the River are available online for free. An additional two collection about the character were written by Francis Gerard after Wallace’s death — these may be more difficult to get. A 1935 film of SANDERS OF THE RIVER starred Leslie Banks as Sanders and top-billed Paul Robeson totally misused as the native chief Bosambo. The film was directed by Zoltan Korda AND an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock!


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