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“What Book Most Inspired You To Become A Writer?”


“Studs Terkel’s Working, a book of oral histories with brilliant voices leaping off the pages. Each person in that book was vivid and particular. I remember the waitress, Dolores Dante, bragging about ‘a certain way’ she likes to weave between the tables. ‘I do it with an air,’ she said.” 

—Marilyn Johnson,
author of Lives in Ruins

Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInerney. It’s so perfectly written and it really opened my eyes as far as what good contemporary fiction could be.” 

—Jonathan Tropper, author of This Is Where I Leave You

Seventeenth-Century English Poetry: An assigned text for a college course, this anthology contained the first poems that filled me with jealousy, which turned out to be an indispensible emotion for the writing life.” 

—Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. It was about the CIA, drug smuggling from Vietnam, and lost values, and it created suspense as well as any thriller, which said to me, ‘I want to write like that.’” 

—Andrew Grossman, author of Lost Sky

“First it was Winnie-the-Pooh, used by my parents to entertain themselves while forcing children into unconsciousness. By the time I was putting myself to bed, I had fallen for Walden. Henry David Thoreau stripped life to its bare essentials. Then he explained it. He wasn’t funny, but he did like to be out of doors, which was almost as good.”

—Ben Cheever, author of The Plagiarist