A few of our favorite writers—and their favorite reads

Writers spend so much of their time hunched over their desks ferociously typing. But, they spend almost equal amounts of time reading. A good book can transport you to another place. It can educate you about other people and cultures. And it can inspire you to pen your next great masterpiece.

We asked two self-published authors, Amy Edelman and Orna Ross, to share their favorite reads—the books that have made a difference to them, the ones they continue to revisit time and time again despite how many new books they acquire.

Amy Edelman – IndieReader

Amy is a publicist and a writer. She self-published her first book,The Fashion Resource Directory, back in the 80s, long before POD and Amazon and e-readers roamed the land.  Her second and third books (The Little Black Dress and Manless in Montclair), were traditionally published (by Simon & Schuster and Shaye Areheart Books, an imprint of Crown).

Blurb: What do books mean to you?

Amy: I grew up in a row house in a mostly Jewish, lower-middle-income neighborhood where everyone had the same jar of mayonnaise in the same kitchen in the same fridge. From a very young age, books were my way of seeing and experiencing how other people lived. It was incredible.

Blurb: What are the five books on your bookshelf that have made the biggest impact on you?
Amy: My five favorite books on my bookshelf (let’s be honest here, I could list at least ten times that) are:

  1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh made me want to marry an Englishman and move to a chateau in the country.
  2. Wool by Hugh Howey is a seriously good scary sci-fi read.
  3. Billy Bathgate by EL Doctorow—what gorgeous language.
  4. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon—just amazing!
  5. The Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson—the only books I still have the patience to read!

Orna Ross – ALLi
Orna Ross is a self-published author and the director of self-pub organization ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors). The London-based author of seven books—novels, poetry, and non-fiction—says the key to keeping creative is structuring your day around “creative containment.”

Blurb: What do books mean to you?

Orna: Books mean everything to me; they are as important to me as my family and friends and, in many ways, they are also family and friends. I grew up in a very small village in a very small island on the edge of Europe, just as television was beginning to open up the world. But nothing opened up the world to me the way the books I was reading did. The most important thing reading has done for me is to develop what I call imaginative sympathy—the ability to understand something from another person’s point of view, even when that point of view is very different to my own. This is the quality that I have also tried to develop as a writer.

Blurb: What are the five books on your bookshelf that have made the biggest impact on you?

Orna: Writers are always being asked this question, but it’s impossible. Here are five favorites, in no particular order. (But, I easily could have chosen another five. Or another 50!)

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Four feisty young women, each a different type of person, making the best they can during the war, and under the loving eye of their Marmee. Alcott’s immersion in the transcendentalist movement of 19th century Concord, USA, meant she brought me values and ways of thinking that were vastly different to the place where I grew up—1970s Republic of Ireland. What they shared in common has stayed with me ever since.
  2. Dubliners by James Joyce. My favorite James Joyce read, as it’s his most accessible. In these small vignettes, Joyce captured Dublin life at the turn of the 19th and 20th century—a time that I’ve featured in my own novels. And, through this small lens, Oscar Wilde called it the “smallest village in the world,” he carved out universal truths about life, love, and art.
  3. The collected poems of WB Yeats. I am completing a three-volume fictionalized biography of Yeats (and Blurb is helping me to create a special edition of the first volume, Her Secret Rose, coming out in early in 2015). Yeats is the towering presence in Irish letters and has influenced every Irish writer. Although his own beliefs were arcane, rooted in the Western occult tradition, he created a matrix of thought, which anyone who makes art—indeed anyone who resists a materialist view of life—must take on board. And, the poems are magnificent.  Magisterial and magical in equal measure.
  4. The Female Eunuch by Germane Greer. And all those pioneering feminist books of the 1970s. I count myself incredibly lucky to have lived in a time that offered me so many more choices than were offered to my mother and grandmother.
  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Eliott is my favorite novelist andMiddlemarch is my favorite of her novels. I would love to be able to emulate even one of the many things she does so magnificently in this book—the capturing of an entire society, the depth of characterization, the intensity of feeling, the hypnotic nature of her story world. I have re-read it countless times. Virginia Woolf said it was “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”—and, the more grown-up I get, the more I appreciate it.

 

Categorizing literature is impossible. I can only say I have been blessed to be a reader and writer in the 21st-century.

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