Ostensibly a book about writing, Bird by Bird examines how to move forward in life without self-imposed obstacles. It taught me to pay attention and to tell the truth in my writing.

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This was the book that made me want to be a writer. It was required reading in middle school, so it was easy for me to relate to Scout and her fascination/fear of Boo Radley. My father was also a lawyer, though he never had a case even remotely as earthshattering as Tom Robinson’s.

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After a life-threatening illness in the early nineties, I was emotionally shattered. I was afraid that every pain heralded my impending death. This book helped me get over that, if only because it taught me that the fear of death was keeping me from actually living my life.

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This book was given to me as gift by a family friend when I was a child. I don’t know why this person thought it would resonate with me, but it did. The words conjured a mystical world that beckoned me, and helped to inspire me as I began to write poetry.

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Ann Patchett is one of the best writers of our time, and her debut novel is a study in the craft. She writes with such simple grace and honesty, crafting a story that spans the years and that tells one woman’s story through the eyes of three characters.

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I’d read Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so I expected this book to be just as insightful. It was. After Venice’s famed opera house, La Fenice, was destroyed by a fire, the author spent time getting to know some of Venice’s more colorful characters and explored the decadence of a crumbling city.