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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 10, 2007
They should have a warning on the cover of this innocent-looking little tome that it leads to more book buying. After reading this book, you will most definitely run to your local bookstore (fortunately, I was sitting in Barnes & Noble as I read this book and ended up buying the two books that changed Anne Lamott's life along with this book).

Many of the authors' favorite books were predictable: "Catcher in the Rye", "The Lord of the Rings", and "Jane Eyre" to name a few. The most interesting part of these 71 little essays was discovering how the authors discovered these books and why they had such a profound effect on their lives.

If you love books about books, then this treasure is a must-own. It's on my "Do Not Ever Loan Out" list, it's that good!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 17, 2007
In this book, 71 notable people, most of whom are themselves authors, write brief essays telling what books have had the biggest influence on them. Since each essay ends with a thumbnail biography of its writer, you get a double list of leads for further reading here. You get the 71+ books cited as being life-changing, and you get the works of the 71 people who did the citing.

Actually, you get even further lists of recommended reading from this book. That's because its editors post their own favorites lists on the last pages.

Quite a few of the essays here have a breezy, quickly-jotted quality, perhaps showing their origins as forms filled out in response to the editors' mailed requests to, "Tell us what book changed your life." However several of the essays, such as Da Cheng's recollection of "The Count of Monte Cristo" releasing him from his childhood oppressions in China - are perfect, polished little pieces in and of themselves.

The books that people said mattered to them cover a startling range, and are often unexpected choices. You will find everything from Frank McCourt's appreciation of the "jewels-in-your-mouth" words of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII," to Claire Cook's gratitude for the Nancy Drew Mysteries and Jeff Benedict's mention of "The Little Engine That Could."

There are a few striking qualities that these influential books hold in common though. I notice that almost none of them were required reading in school. Rather, these were books that their readers came upon privately, by almost magical serendipity, and often even in contexts that made them illicit pleasures.

Then too, almost all the books mentioned were fiction. No tracts of deeply political/economic philosophy turned up, of the kind that so many people in the past might have claimed decided their paths. There was no mention of Karl Marx or Adam Smith, or "The Federalist Papers." What people seemed to gravitate towards were other lives, lived in different, freer circumstances.

This book, with its short chapters, makes for easy bedside reading. In fact, you might want to make a point of taking this book in small doses. When I was a little girl, I remember reading one of Bennett Cerf's joke books. Occasionally, a little policeman would appear at the bottom of a page. My mother and I would laugh at this fierce little fellow, scowling and holding up his hand, warning us to "Stop!" He was telling us not to gobble too many jokes in one sitting, because they might become sating rather than side-splitting. It's possible that just such a little policeman should have appeared occasionally in this book in order to get you to pause to digest each contributor's recommendation and wisdom.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2006
Writers from all walks of the publishing industry have come together to share their thoughts on the most influential books in their lives. Seventy-one authors, journalists, and other published professionals have written about how their lives were affected by everything from THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, to THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, to THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.

Some authors were motivated by plot and description, others by characterization, and still others by embedded messages. Just reading through these accounts of life-changing books, readers of this collection can't help but to be influenced by the sheer enthusiasm shared by some remarkable individuals.

In the highly commendable effort to raise funds for the Read to Grow Foundation, the editors have pledged to donate all their proceeds to promote literacy.

In truth, the readers are who will become richer for having read this volume. It is not a mere book, but an experience.

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer


Postscript: I was so taken by what I read in this book that I literally forgot to write this review for nearly a week. It inspired me to get back to work on my own writing, and in the past week, when not reading, I've been writing. Such was the power between the covers of a deceptively diminutive volume.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2006
The contributors were each writers who had appeared at R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. This book celebrates 15 years of business for this bookseller and Roxanne J. Coady asked these writers to tell a story about a book that changed their lives as a celebration--and reminder about the power of books to change lives.

The introduction explains the royalty for The Book That Changed My Life goes to buy new books for a program Coady began called Read to Grow,which provides books for parents to share with their children. The individual stories are fascinating even if the writer was unfamiliar to me and/or I didn't know the book that was selected. The writer's choice for a book was interesting--such as Senator Joseph Lieberman (remember it's a Connecticut bookstore) who selected the Bible or another Senator John McCain selected Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The story which I want to highlight in this review isn't from one of those writers--but it's from the editor of the book in her introduction. Bookseller Roxanne J. Coady explains how from a young age reading was her passion. And when she opened R. J. Julia Booksellers, "my dream was that the store would be a place where words mattered, where people would gather, where writer could meet reader, and where our staff would work hard to put the right book in the right hand. Dreams can come true. R. J. Julia has now been welcoming readers and writes for sixteen years. Every day in the store we see how books change lives, in big ways and small, from the simple desire to spend a few quiet hours in a comfy chair, swept away by a story, to the profound realization that the reader is not alone in the world, that there is someone else like him or her, someone who has faced the same fears, the same confusions, the same grief, the same joys. Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to meet people we care about and want to know more about, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and learn how to live."

I loved reading this volume and recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2007
I love to read books about people talking about the books they love. -It gives me a good reason to read something I haven't read already, -and to see if/how it might change me, it's also a great way to come in contact with a new book. This is a great for all of that.

71 writers share here, and I really enjoyed reading about it. Written in short essay style with 2-3 pages per contributor. Some I've heard of, some I haven't, and there's a brief paragraph after each essay that tells you a little about the author and what they've wrote and are well known for. The book ends with a 'reading list of the books selected by the contributors' Which I thought was nice. Then, there are two more reading lists by the co-editors of the book. Also, there's information about the "read to grow" program, to which proceeds from the sales of the book will go toward buying a book for a child. -Another really great reason to buy this book!

There are always some writings/authors that will resonate with you and others that just don't. Regardless, of whether a certain writing 'speaks' to you, I found, with this, that it's still interesting to read what they all had to contribute to the 'celebration of books that matter most to them'.

Read, enjoy and contribute towards a meaningful cause.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2007
The first thing I did upon picking up this book was to see which of the notable writers I loved had also written essays in this book, because those are the people I most care about reading. I found Anne Lamott (check!),Jacqueline Mitchard (check!, Sark (Check!), Bernie Siegel (Check!), Frank McCourt (Check!) but it was when I saw that Alexandra Stoddard mentioned Rainer Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" (Check Squared!) I knew it was a title worth delving into further.

Book lovers are constantly engaged in romantic entanglements with words and language. If we weren't, we wouldn't be here. This love requires time and wooing and engagement.

These short essays certainly entice the spirit of that romance and encourage us all to both read the authors and books mentioned, they also make me want to know more about the books of those writing the essays. I find myself in a new and different admiration for many of the writers, wanting to know them through their words and see if they are someone I want to get to know further, just like in any other relationship that deepens over time.

There is also gold in the back of the book where there are separate lists of lusty times snuggled up with a book. The Editors, big-time-book aficianados - suggest their favorites and there is a compendium of the books listed in the essays.

Beyond all of this, though, I suppose, is the possibility of discussing this very topic with the people I cherish the most. What an invigorating way to get to know people better - and on both a higher and deeper level.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
I purchased this book at a deep discount store on a whim and am glad I didn't pay more for it. From the title, I expected the vignettes to be impacting. Few were. I found it interesting to read what some authors familiar to me wrote and may check out books written by a couple of other authors because of reading about them here.

In general, however, I found the book a bit boring in total, possibly because I expected more dynamic comments per things that would seem truly "life changing". A more accurate title line might have been "life influencing".

As I considered the list of authors while reading it, it seemed as if they may have been selected as a group known to the people who put the book together; many were from Yale for example. I believe this could have been far more interesting idea for a summary book if it had a broader base of universally familiar authors discussing more impacting scenarios.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2007
a joyous book. very enlightning. the variability of books is marvelous. this is a book to always keep coming back to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2008
Everyone who loves reading needs a copy of this smart little book at hand. I bought six copies for gifts and will pick up more to save for graduations and birthdays. My thanks to the editors and authors who put it together. Hopefully, it will be in print for years to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2008
The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (2006) - Roxanne J. Coady, Joy Johannessen (Editors) Various (Writers)

In general, I'm the kind of person that loves looking at lists. It is definitely a weird interest, but for me, it is a passionate one nonetheless. Now, when the list is actually accompanied with supplemental material, such as commentary, then I really love it. Thus, I can't help but really enjoy something like this little collection of personal favorite books. What I really liked, first of all, was the fact that I actually knew who a lot of these authors were; in other words, they had developed a reputation for themselves, which is always nice. I also really liked the interesting variety of favorites; I think its clear this book emphasizes that its more important to find books that you personally like, rather than read the classics that you are forced to read due to various forms of societal and institutional pressures. This is a concept I wholly agree with. Humans tend to generally enjoy things more when they were the ones that chose to do it in the first place. When someone is forced to do something, they tend to enjoy it less; it's all about human nature's need for free will and right to choose really.

Was the book inspirational? Does it make me want to go out and buy all of the books mentioned? Not completely because some of the commentary was clearly better than others. Frank McCourt's, for example, finishes in typically thrilling fashion. Laura Numeroff's commentary on her choice of "Eloise" by Kay Thompson was also great fun to read. Overall, though, this book definitely provides the reader with a lot of reasons as to why reading is important, necessary, and a lot of fun. Thus, I give it a high recommendation.
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