What We Read: 3 Books That Changed My Life
Harold and the Purple Crayon
By Crockett Johnson
A bunch of books I read as a tiny guy have stuck with me: Curious George, Dr. Seuss, Giving Tree, and on and on. But there was a wonderful simplicity to Harold and his crayon that hold a special place in my heart. He was rebellious (drawing on the wall, for god's sake!), like characters who appealed to me later-the Great Brain, Holden Caulfield, etc.-so that provided a little thrill. But I think what really affected me was his ability to create whatever he wanted with such a basic tool. (Spoiler alert: It's your imagination.) Years after, I discovered Johnson's excellent comic strip Barnaby, great for all ages.
The Pine Barrens
By John McPhee
I love wandering, I love finding stories, and I love New Jersey-McPhee perfectly captured them all. I'd read a cool book called The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan, and the cover compared it to The Pine Barrens. OK, I'll read that too! McPhee quickly became a favorite author; I love his ability to take seemingly dry topics and uncover fascinating tales within. He's had a strong impact on my nonfiction writing-and also inspired a road trip to the Captain Emilio Carranza Memorial Ceremony!
By Nick Hornby
I was heartbroken yet again, and my friend Nancy gave me this totally charming and hilarious novel. I don't think I'd ever related to a character quite so much. Women are endlessly mysterious and music is very, very important-and that's about all there is to life. Wow, there are others out there just like me? The collecting, the sorting, the list-making (uh, mostly of the records, not the women)-it all rang painfully true. But despite the cynicism and the endless self-analysis, there was always a glimmer of hope for something more.
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