Books That Changed My Life

To expand on the index of "Books That Changed My Life" at the back of No Regrets, Emily Books asked some of their authors to list the books that changed their lives. The following are from Dodie Bellamy, Tamara Faith Berger, Rebecca Brown, Barbara Browning, Meghan Daum, Helen DeWitt, Samantha Irby, Eileen Myles, Ann Rower, Suzanne Scanlon, Sarah Schulman, and Penelope Trunk.

Judy Blume, Are You There God It's Me, Margaret: "The first author to mirror my hopes and fears back to me."

This month, Emily Books released the first ebook version of n+1’s fifth small book, No Regrets: Three Discussions. To expand on the index of “Books That Changed My Life” at the back of No Regrets, Emily Books asked some of their authors to list the books that changed their lives. The following are from Dodie Bellamy, Tamara Faith Berger, Rebecca Brown, Barbara Browning, Meghan Daum, Helen DeWitt, Samantha Irby, Eileen Myles, Ann Rower, Suzanne Scanlon, Sarah Schulman, and Penelope Trunk.

12 Books That Changed Dodie Bellamy’s Life

Kathy Acker, Great Expectations

Charlotte Bronte, Villette

Catherine Clement, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture

Dennis Cooper, My Mark

Robert Kelly, A Controversy of Poets

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror

László Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion

Ovid, Metamorphosis

Sylvia Plath, Ariel

Anne Sexton, Transformations

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Bram Stoker, Dracula


12 Books That Changed Tamara Faith Berger’s Life

Kathy Acker, Kathy Goes to Haiti (in Young Lust); The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula

Guillame Apollinaire, The Eleven Thousand Rods

Georges Bataille, Guilty; Story of the Eye

Dennis Cooper, Closer

Samuel Delaney, The Mad Man

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

Xaviera Hollander, The Happy Hooker

Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque

Heather Lewis, Notice

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon


10 Books And 1 Play That Changed Rebecca Brown’s Life

Günter Grass, Cat and Mouse

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson

Franz Kafka, The Great Wall of China

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

William Shakespeare, King Lear

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Gertrude Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Garry Wills, Why I am a Catholic

Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

The Bible


10 Books That Changed Barbara Browning’s Life

Anna Akhmatova (translated by Stanley Kunitz), Poems

John Ashbery, The Double Dream of Spring

Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

André Breton, Nadja

Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Harry Mathews, The Journalist

Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais

Gertrude Stein, How to Write

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques


14 Books That Changed Meghan Daum’s Life

Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, He’s Just Not That Into You

Lisa Birnbach, The Preppy Handbook

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything: “‘Minced ginger! Who knew?’”

Judy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret: “This book changed my life in that it did not change my life even though it was apparently supposed to. After being underwhelmed by this book I decided would not read books simply because everyone else was, which was potentially life changing in that it saved me the ordeal of having to read any of the Flowers in the Attic series.”

Joan Didion, The White Album: “‘I want to write like this! Also, what is “detritus?”‘”

John Irving, The World According to Garp: “Perfunctory high school reading for aspiring writers.”

Lorrie Moore, Self Help: “Perfunctory college reading for aspiring writers, especially if female.”

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead: “Changed life for short time but life quickly changed back.”

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint: “‘Gross! On the other hand, this shiksa thing might actually work to my benefit.’”

Sam Shepard, Seven Plays: “Didn’t really understand the material but was captivated by author’s almost intolerably sexy photo on front jacket.”

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation: “‘Am I supposed to want to write like this? Also, what does “transvaluing” mean?’”

Bernard Waber, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile: “Made me, at age 5, yearn for an Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse with checkerboard marble floors.”

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth: “‘Wow, New York was always expensive!’”

Laura Ingalls Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek: “Made me, at age 8, yearn for a dugout sod house.”


12 Books That Changed Helen DeWitt’s Life

Peter Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

A.C. Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

Gerd Gigerenzer, Reckoning with Risk

Erving Goffman, Asylums; The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life; Stigma: the Management of Damaged Identity

Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Jim Pitman, Probability

Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu

Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy

Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information


11 Books That Changed Samantha Irby’s Life

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out Of Carolina

Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, He’s Just Not That Into You

Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Renina Jarmon, Black Girls Are From The Future

Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Caitlin Moran, How To Be A Woman

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Baratunde Thurston, How To Be Black

Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped

Sabrina Ward Harrison, Spilling Open


13 Books That Changed Eileen Myles’s Life

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

Gwendolyn Brooks, Maude Martha

Frank Conroy, Stoptime

Judy Grahn, A Woman is Talking to Death

Christopher Isherwood, My Guru & His Disciple

Jill Johnston, Lesbian Nation

Kevin Killian, Bedrooms Have Windows

Violette Le Duc, La Batarde

Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

Frank O’Hara, The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara

Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto

Robert Walser, The Walk

John Wieners, Hotel Wentley Poems


11 Books That Changed Ann Rower’s Life

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Emily Dickinson, Poems

June Jordan, My Own Where 

Chris Kraus, Torpor

Heather Lewis, Notice

Cookie Mueller, Walking Through Water in a Pool Painted Black

Eileen Myles, Inferno

Frank O’Hara, In Memory of My Feelings

Sapphire, Push

David Wojnarovicz, In the Shadow of the American Dream

Mary Woronov, Niagara


11 Books That Changed Suzanne Scanlon’s Life

Kathy Acker, Don Quixote 

Marguerite Duras, The Lover

Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior 

Mary Gordon, Final Payments 

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying 

Toni Morrisson, Beloved

John Robbins, Diet for a New America 

Nawal El Saadawii, Woman at Point Zero 

David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men 

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own; Mrs. Dalloway 


6 Books, 1 Story and 2 Essays That Changed Sarah Schulman’s Life

Rabih Alemeddine, I The Divine

Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf

Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

Jean Genet, Funeral Rites 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody 

Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

Carson McCullers, “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud” in Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”


8 Books That Changed Penelope Trunk’s Life

Kathy Acker, Great Expectations: “The first book that I knew I would like that I couldn’t understand.”

Judy Blume, Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret: “The first author to mirror my hopes and fears back to me.”

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales: “I love that he wrote about the dirty underbelly of his world.”

Sandra Cisneros, House on Mango Street: “So easy to read and I wanted to write like her.”

Annie Ernaux, Frozen Woman: “The fourth book I read by her and I realized all her books are the same story. Writers have one story they tell over and over again. Really took the pressure off me.”

Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior: “Made my own bad behavior seem like literary fodder.”

Susan Minot, Monkeys: “I realized I want to write books people can read in one sitting.”

Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck: “My introduction to feminism.”

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