Life-changing moments come in many forms. Sometimes a work of art in a museum has a transformative effect. A sunset can bring about epiphany. A great song says everything you've ever wanted to say to a loved one.
Books can have those kinds of influences on us as well, and bookseller Roxanne J. Coady and editor Joy Johannessen have queried a bunch of writers for their compilation (now out in paperback), The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (Gotham Books, 197 pages, $11).
Here are some snippets from several of the book's contributors...
Chicago novelist Elizabeth Berg writes about J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: "Catcher in the Rye showed me that you could write 'to' someone you'd never met as if you were talking to someone you had always known."
Patricia Cornwell on Harriett Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: "It isn't so much Harriett's prose or her vivid characterizations or her painful depictions of cruelty that have touched me and shaded my own writing, but our shared belief that all unfairness, harshness, and inevitable violence are born of the same original sin: the abuse of power, the ultimate result of which is enslavement, impoverishment, suffering and death."
Another local author (and former Sun-Timesman) Robert Kurson on Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death: "In it, I find answers to nearly every question I can think to ask about being human and about being in the world."
Sen. John McCain on Ernest Heminway's For Whom the Bell Tolls: "I considered the book mostly a lesson on how a great man should live and die — a great man must always be h is own man, and have the courage for it, and he must die with style."
Lisa Scottoline on Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes: "It will break your heart and put it back together again, but better."
Susan Vreeland on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: "...gives us hope that communities racked by ignorance and pretension can experience moments of grace."
For me, one that stands out is Stephen King's good-vs.-evil epic The Stand, which I read as a teenager. Never before had I read something that so turned the world so upside down and expanded my mind in a hundred different ways.
Note to readers: Post a note about what book changed your life.