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The Books That Could Change Your Life

The Books That Could Change Your Life
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Want to know what writers like to read? We asked authors, editors, poets and bibliophiles to share the book that changed their life, as well as advice on how to curate a home library and choose a great book. 

 

Isobel Beech, author of Sunbathing

The book that changed my life…
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
 I just can’t go past a moody, sensual occult mystery, particularly when set in a gothic New York apartment building. Such a gripping and harrowing tale — particularly of motherhood and the objectification of women’s bodies — but more than that, such elegant writing and such vivid scenes (ones that will stay with me forever).
 Top tip for curating a home library:
Give yourself the authorisation to stop reading something if you’re not engrossed. Then take that book down to a secondhand shop where somebody who might love it can find it. 

 

Tom Pitts, author of Electric and Mad and Brave

The book that changed my life…
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mrs Dalloway was the first time I felt an author reach into my soul and describe what was there, understanding thoughts and feelings and articulating them in a manner that was startlingly true. Virginia Woolf knew my heart better than I knew it myself; and reading this book started an enduring search for those voices who can pinpoint our most aching feelings, who can identify them and explain them to us. 
Top tip for curating a home library: 
I don’t tend to read two books in a row by the same author. For me, they somehow become mixed up in each other. I don’t like to read blurbs either. I find books are their most effective when they take us by surprise, when they come from nowhere. With that in mind, if I’m curating a library then the most important thing is variation. Vary style, vary era, vary perspective and voice. 

 

Laura Brading, co-founder of WellRead book subscription service

The book that changed my life…
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
I know I sound like the clichéd creative-writing student that I once was, but this book showed me that stories could be told quietly and gently, that less is often more, and that a good writer can reveal emotional truths in very words. Later I would come to Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore who do similar things, but Carver was the first writer who showed me this magic. 
Top tip for curating a home library:  
Read widely. Read often. Take risks. Ask booksellers and bookish people what their favourite books are and read them. Don't feel like you have to do the classics if you're not drawn to them. And don't feel like you have to finish a book if it's not your jam. Reading is not equated to moral superiority. It should be pleasurable or provoking or pacifying, but never a chore. 

 

Design by María Luisa de Miguel González and Photography by Imagen Subliminal
Photography by Mitsuya Okumura

Nyaluak Leth, poet, activist and model

The book that changed my life…
Think Big by Ben Carson
Think Big was the first non-fiction book written by a black author I had ever read. This book left me inspired and determined to grow my fields of interest, which sparked my creativity in writing poetry today; whilst having keen interest in how the human brain works. 
Top tip for curating a home library: 
We colour coordinate our books, and whichever colour we feel drawn to at that moment is the shelf of books we delve into.  

 

George Haddad, author of Losing Face

The book that changed my life…
Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
I saw myself, for the first time, reflected in the experiences of the protagonist, Ari. Loaded spoke to me on a personal level, made me recognise that my story too is valid, and that I can use the art of writing to tell it.
Top tip for curating a home library:
Don't hold onto books you won't revisit! Keep your collection tight, and never colour code.

“Read widely. Read often. Take risks. Ask booksellers and bookish people what their favourite books are and read them. Don't feel like you have to do the classics if you're not drawn to them. And don't feel like you have to finish a book if it's not your jam.” - Laura Brading

Rosie Dalton, writer and online editor of Jane magazine

The book that changed my life…
The White Album by Joan Didion
This book showed me how non fiction could be just as richly rendered and equally as evocative as fiction. It is a beautiful collection of essays and one that I return to often. 
Top tip for curating a home library: 
A beautiful bookcase or shelf is the perfect way to frame your home library. And I personally like to organise my book collection alphabetically, for ease of reference. 

 

Elisha Kennedy, writer and director of EVK Editorial

The book that changed my life…
Cooked by Michael Pollan
There are many books that have affected me, but one that most certainly ‘changed my life’ was Michael Pollan’s Cooked. I read it as a young adult and learned so much from it. It changed the way I ate, the way I thought and continue to think about food, food history and culture, and ultimately made cooking, or preparing food, a more pleasurable act for me. 
Top tip for curating a home library:
I’m not precious about holding on to books after I’ve read them, I tend to pass them on or lend them out and forget who I’ve given them to. My top tip for curating a home library would be to always have a section of new and unread books available to you, to remind you of the possibilities that lie ahead.

 

Yasmine Ganley, editor of Anyonegirl and Island Magazine

The book that changed my life…
The Blue Jay's Dance by Louise Erdrich
Timing is everything and I think I read this book at the right time in my life, having just given birth to my daughter. The way the book is written in phases, or seasons: a nod to nature, a nod to hormones, an acknowledgment of the kinds of beasts we really are. Erdrich's perspective of motherhood gave me permission to access a new way of looking at the world and my relationship to everything in it, and to embrace that. 
Top tip for curating a home library: 
Always buy the book, sometimes even multiple times because one should always pass a good book on for others to enjoy.