The Literary Choices They Make

Manila Bulletin, February 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Literary Choices They Make


Every morning, I wake up to the sight of books - on the shelves, on the floor, on my night table, on my bed. And almost always, I would murmur to myself so little time, so many books to read.

My job and other extra curricular activities prevent me from keeping my perpetual New Years Resolution to finish at least two books a month. Every night before I turn in, I try to catch up on my reading. But fatigue would catch up with me instead.

But still I try because I know that somewhere in those pages lie the answers to many life-long questions that have been in my mind. Maybe there is one particular book there that could turn my life around. Maybe.

Im no fan of self-help books. I shun them only because shortly after I put down the book, I forget what it has just told me. The closest that ever came close to making a strong impact on my beliefs and my value system (aside from the Bible of course) was Paolo Coelhos The Alchemist. But since reading the book years ago, I still have not found my personal legend. Questions are still left unanswered.

Is there one particular book that turned your life around? One that made you stop, think, look inside yourself and change things from thereon in?

For many National Book Award winners and finalists, the answer to lifes many questions are found among the pages of books that they grew up and grew old reading. Fifteen of them willingly went back into the recesses of their minds and thoughtfully enumerated the books which had greatly affected their intellectual, spiritual and creative lives.

The Book That Changed My Life says a lot not only about the books that crafted the writing lives of these writers but also about why their own books affect other people as well. Through the works of other writers, these authors have found their priceless mentors.

Editor Diane Osen utilized a methodical approach for the book, reading everything about the authors and the works they have created first. Her interview questions, however, are largely unstructured and are adjusted according to the interviewees own experiences, beliefs and literary genre. Most of them, however, touched on the responsibility of a writer not only to his audience but also to himself.

This work encourages the reader to think about what book created the most impact on them. The discussion guide found at the back of the book will also be a helpful aid to book clubs.

From Mother Goose and Moby Dick to Cry the Beloved Country and Marcel Proust, from Virginia Woolf and James Joyce to Geoffrey Chaucer and Leo Tolstoy, the books fully enumerated and discussed here have made a great impact on these writers lives. So have you read any one of them?


* James Carroll: The Dead, James Joyce; The Things They Carried, Tim OBrien; The Confessions of St. Augustine; The Stranger (LEtranger), Albert Camus; The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

* Don DeLillo: Ulysses, James Joyce; A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery OConnor; The Complete Poems of Hart Crane; The Studs Lonigan Trilogy, James T. Farrell; The Works of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner

* Charles Johnson: Moby-Dick and Benito Cereno, Herman Melville; The Sea Wolf, Jack London; Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison; Black Boy, Richard Wright; Cane, Jean Toomer; Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse; Grendel and On Moral Fiction, John Gardner; The Collected Short Stories, D.H. Lawrence; The Collected Works, Ralph Waldo Emerson; The Upanishads, The Bhagavad-Gita and The Dhammapada

* Diane Johnson: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Angus Wilson; Love and Friendship, Alison Lurie; The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas; The Story Girl, L.M. Montgomery; Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Dana; USA, John Dos Passos; The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald; A House in Order, Nigel Denis; The Bell, Iris Murdoch; The Leopard, Guisepp di Lampadusa

* Philip Levine: Song of Myself, Walt Whitman; The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen; Hard Labor, Cesare Pavese; Poet in New York, Federico Garcia Lorca; Spring and All and In the American Grain, William Carlos Williams; The Poems of Emily Dickinson; The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer; The Selected Letters, John Keats; Hamlet and The Tempest, William Shakespeare; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; Mrs. …

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The Literary Choices They Make


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