Writers Ask Writers: Books That Changed Me

You have no use for the stories of other people. But for me, they are everything I’ve known, everything I ever had, everything came from them.

Yvette Walker Letters to the End of Love

Have you ever read a book and felt changed by it in some way? That’s the topic up for discussion in this month’s Writers Ask Writer’s post. As always, Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman, Natasha Lester, Amanda Curtin and Sara Foster have shared their ideas on their blogs and this month we’re very happy to be joined for a guest post by Hannah Richell, author of Secrets of the Tides and the recently released The Shadow Year.

There are many books I feel have affected me profoundly, either because they have opened my eyes to something new, or deepened or even changed my understanding of something familiar, or because the writer has attempted something I did not know to be possible; told a story in a new way. After much contemplation, I’ve narrowed this list down to three books you will probably never see grouped together again because they couldn’t be more different from each other. The only thing they have in common is their impact on me:


Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery

I know what you’re thinking. Anne of the Island? Who gives a squinch about Anne of the Island? Anne of Green Gables is where it’s at! And while I agree that the first book in the series is the best by a long shot, it was the third one that changed me. Why? Because it was the first book that broke my heart. Yes. When Ruby Gillis died of consumption right after meeting her true love I thought I would NEVER stop crying.


A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair by Nicholas Fisk

A hank of what? I hear you say. And yes, I know, it’s not a classic or even a cult book but something about the title or the cover made the ten-year-old me seize upon this book in my school library. It turned out to be a book set in the future, which seems old hat when I say it now but at the time I was all, whoaaaaaaaah! You can make up stories about what might happen IN THE FUTURE? The story revolved around a society in which people could be ‘reborn’ as androids, and in a thrilling plot twist (spoiler alert!) the protagonist himself turned out to be a ‘reborn’. It would not be an exaggeration to say it blew my tiny mind and I’ve been hooked on sci-fi ever since.

White Noise by Don DeLillo

I read Don DeLillo’s White Noise in my second year of university, aged twenty or so. It was the first time I had encountered what appeared on the surface to be a book about nothing – the minutiae of one somewhat dysfunctional family’s life – but turned out to be a book about EVERYTHING. This book resonated very deeply with my understanding of the world at the time and continues to resonate with me today; I recently re-read it for the third time, and plan to go on re-reading it for the rest of my life.

Your turn: What are the books that have changed you? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Follow the links below to see which books have changed Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman, Natasha Lester, Amanda Curtin and Sara Foster. But first up, is our guest contributor:


Hannah Richell, on the Greek myths: I can see now how those myths not only steered my education, but also fed my passion for language and words, as well as my ongoing yearning for stories with a real sense of tension and drama at their heart. Read more


Dawn Barker, on Helen Garner’s The First Stone: This was non-fiction in a way I’d never experienced: it was written in a narrative style that completely engaged me; it was shocking; my allegiances shifted with every chapter. Read more

Natasha Lester, on Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret: Well hello adult world. I remember going over sections of it again and again, just to be sure I had fully understood the secrets of the world I was soon to inhabit. Read more

Amanda Curtin: A high school textbook? On science? Those who know me might find this hard to credit, but I loved this book because it was my introduction to ideas about the environment, the body, genetics, evolution—ideas that continue to interest me and find their way into my writing. Read more

Sara Foster on Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple: despite her direct and powerful examination of dark subjects, there is often an irrepressible thread of hope in her stories and poetry. Read more 

Emma Chapman on Lynne Reid Bank’s The L-Shaped Room: My friend still teases me about glamorizing what is essential an unplanned pregnancy and living in poverty, but something about this book rang true with what I wanted foe my own life: one lived on my own terms and without restriction. Read more

Want more? 

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Writers Ask Writers  Books That Changed Me   ANNABEL SMITH

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