Books·My Life in Books

Lois Lowry: 6 books that changed my life

From Atwood to Rawlings, Lowry reveals six books that were pivotal in her life.
Lois Lowry is a two-time Newbery Medal winner for her novels Number of the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994). (Rania Matar)

Lois Lowry's utterly unique memoir, Looking Back: A Book of Memories, is the literary equivalent of a photo album. The new edition contains over 70 family photographs, each accompanied with a short anecdote from the celebrated author's life. The stories reach back into her mother's childhood and through her own coming-of-age journey as — Lowry shares memories that range from the tragic like the loss of her son in a plane crash — to her witty reflections on dating in her 40s.

Below, the two-time Newbery Medal winner for Number of the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994), shares the books that have shaped her life.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

I have often described The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings as the book that changed my understanding of literature, that moved me from whimsical children's tales to realistic and lyrical fiction. It was published as an adult book but my mother put it into my hands when I was nine.

The Group by Mary McCarthy

I was 26 when The Group by Mary McCarthy was published. It seemed quite relevant to my own life, depicting as it did a group of recent Vassar graduates and their frustrations with lives centred on husbands and children. Their struggles for independence became my own.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This dystopian novel was set in Cambridge, Massachusetts — or what Cambridge had become after a revolution and under a new Christian-based government — and having lived myself in Cambridge there was a particular fascination for me. Again, the theme of women's roles was an important one for me at that time in my life. I was in my 40s when I read this and my own life was shifting.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I am still attracted to the stream-of-consciousness style introduced to me by Virginia Woolf. At the time I read To the Lighthouse, I was a graduate student studying both literature and photography, and I could see the connection between these two arts in this study of shifting perceptions.

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

These three interwoven novels, of which the first is my favourite, introduced me to complex and shifting narrative, and reminded me - reminds me still — of the interconnectedness of things.

Letters of E.B. White by E.B. White

I re-read these often, dipping in at random. As a resident myself of Maine, I appreciate the reminder in these gentle and articulate letters that there were days — not all that long ago — when the word "like" was a verb, not an interjection, and that down the road a piece there was a gentle man who liked pigs and liked language and handled them both with great delicacy.


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