5 Authors Who Changed My Life

These aren’t necessarily my favorite authors (although several are) or the authors I read the most (although several are), but they’re authors who have had a profound impact on my life.

The Author I Have to Defend

Christopher Moore. Moore is an author many refuse to take seriously, which I get, to some extent. There’s no denying that he wrote the line “Blessed are the dumbfucks” in a book about Jesus. Yet, at the same time, he’s a soulful writer with an alarming humanity: “There’s a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality–there’s mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.” Don’t let titles like “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” or “Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” scare you away. He’s been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, for crying out loud. There are writers who make you laugh, and there are writers who make you think. Moore is one of the rare few who does both.

The Author Who Matured Me as a Reader

John Milton. In my first year at Saint Mary’s University I took a fantastic Literary Traditions course from the wonderful, inspiring David Heckerl. (It’s amazing what a good professor can do for you.) In our first semester we tackled Paradise Lost and it, quite literally, changed my life. I was set to be a kinesiology student when I enrolled at St. Mary’s, but at the last moment I switched my major to English (to the confusion of many). I never once regretted that decision, in large part to Paradise Lost. Once I read Milton there was no turning back. Most professors will tell you who to read. Heckerl, through Milton, taught me how to read.

The Author Whose Characters I Relate to

Edith Wharton. If you subscribe to the multiverse theory in which there are an infinite number of universes, each one slightly different from the last, then this one–the one that we’re all living in currently–might be the only one in which I’m not an actual Nick Hornby character. However, I’m going to have to go with Edith Wharton for this one, solely for Ethan Frome. Ethan’s emotional journey in this novel so eerily mirrors my own experience as I was nearing the end of my twenties, that I can’t bring myself to read it a second time. It was absolutely devastating, but in a beautiful way. The ultimate tale of unrequited, unachievable love. (Spoiler: my tale ended up being requited, achievable love, so yay!)

The Author Who Inspires Me

Richard Rohr. I like to think of myself as a spiritual secularist. I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember, but I grew up in a very Catholic home. I’ve always had (at least) an academic curiosity about religion, but as I entered my thirties I really tried to stop being so closed off and open myself up to new ideologies. Enter Richard Rohr, the most inspiring Friar alive today. His approach to Christianity is incredibly enlightened. He brings in the teachings of all different faiths, because he recognizes that they’re all just different paths up the same mountain. He’s written many wonderful books, but if you’d like a starting point, go with Falling Upward. He also releases his sermons in podcast form (in his 70s!).

The Author Who Hooked Me on Canadian Literature

Paul Quarrington. Ironically, I went to school for publishing without ever being a fan of Canadian publishing. At 24 I thought Canadiana was boring, stale, and too rooted in the survival/wilderness ethos. But that year I tried to read as many longlisters for the Giller Prize as I could, and this is where I discovered the gem that was Paul Quarrington. The Ravine is hilarious and heartbreaking, devastating and hopeful. The novel consists of the main character’s calls in to a crisis hotline, TV scripts, diatribes about the Twilight Zone, and a story about a childhood trauma coming to light. The Ravine, in many ways, is about how we tell stories. Quarrington showed me what Canadian literature could be–or what it didn’t have to be–and I’ve never looked back.


Thanks to Candy Palmater wrote about 5 authors who changed her life in a post last year.

 

4 Comments

  1. Nice list, I was thinking about this after reading Bookish Beck’s (https://bookishbeck.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/books-that-should-have-literally-changed-my-life/ – she mentions Falling Upward too!) and kind of agree with her, that in terms of actually, objectively changing my life, it’s all about the cheesy self-help books! Allan Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking, for example. Literally changed my life 🙂

    While there are novels that have stuck with me, I don’t think many changed my behaviour. I like your “mature as a reader” and “hooked you on CanLit” and I could probably point to some books for those. And well, I have an author I like to defend too. Basically I just need to do one of these posts now.

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    1. That post is terrific, and she also mentions How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins, who is brilliant). I’m now following her, so thanks!

      Please, write a version of your own. Would love to see it. I have a feeling I know who your “defend” author is, but maybe I’m wrong. Feel free to switch some of the categories too. The Canadian one wasn’t in Candy’s original article. I added that. So go nuts.

      I think the term “changed my life” is often taken a bit too strongly. People seem to think that it’s an “I’m a totally different person now” kind of change. But it doesn’t have to be that big.

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  2. Love this post! I think about this a lot.. books that have changed my view on things. I may need to copy you here..
    I studied a book by Paul Quarrington in University (Whale Music) but I’ve never picked up anything by him after that, even though I enjoyed it!
    Such a neat story of how Paradise Lost actually changed the course of your university career. I love how books come to us at mysteriously perfect times in our lives!

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    1. Please do your own version. Would love to read it. And feel free to change up some of the categories. Put your own spin on it!

      Quarrington is wonderful. His novel King Leary is also fantastic. (The publisher’s summary will try to make you think it’s about hockey, but it’s really not.)

      I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole “right book, right time” concept. How I’ve disliked books in the past that I might enjoy now. Because the opposite is certainly true. I’ve re-read books I’ve “loved” and thought, “Who was that person? How did I love this book before?”

      In the past I think this line of thinking would have driven me a little crazy. Now, I’m just thankful for the times I get the right book at the right time. It’s a bit miraculous, when you think about it.

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