The Current

The 26 books that changed Will Schwalbe's life

Author Will Schwalbe shares his list of life-altering books.
From The Girl on the Train to David Copperfield: Will Schwalbe shares his list of books that changed his life. (Courtesy of Will Schwalbe)

For author Will Schwalbe reading is a way to make sense of the world, to grow into a better person, and to help answer the big (and small) questions about life.

In Books for Living, Schwalbe shares the 26 books that inspired ways to live his life.

Here is that list, in no particular order, with quotes from The Current's interview with Schwalbe.

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

2.​Stuart Little by E.B. White​

"For me it was really a tale of radical acceptance. A story [that] you could be whatever you want and your parents would still love you... as a kid I read it dozens of times. Every couple of years I go back and re-read it."

4. The Odyssey by Homer 

5. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami 

6. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

7. Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

8. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

9. Lateral Thinking: An Introduction by Edward de Bono

10. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin​ 

"When people talk about the books that changed their life, or sometimes even saved their life, it's often because for the very first time they recognise themself in a book. For me that book actually was Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. I was a young gay kid at Episcopal boarding school there had never been an out gay kid or faculty member at this school. So I sort of thought I was the only one. And reading James Baldwin's marvelous Giovanni's Room, which has this joyful scene between the young American David and his Italian boyfriend Giovanni, made me realize that I could be gay." 
(Jody Barton/Harvill Secker)

11. The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

12. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens​ 

​"David Copperfield made me realize that, when I think back on David Copperfield I get to choose whether I remember reading David Copperfield or whether I remembered my sorrow when it finished [the book]. And when I think back on this friend of mine [who died], I get to choose whether I remember his life or whether I remember his death. And I try to choose life." 

13. The Gifts of the Body by Rebecca Brown  

14. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

15. 1984 by George Orwell 

16. Epitaph of a Small Winner by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

17. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

18. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison  

19. The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang​   

​"The author was a Chinese scholar and he calls it a book about the noble art of leaving things undone. And in it he presents Chinese philosophy to the west. And that type of Chinese philosophy he presents is the philosophy of relaxing, lying in bed, drinking tea, enjoying nature, spending time with friends. It's a marvelous book, very digressive,very long with all of these great asides about savouring life.One of the things that really fascinates me about it is at first you think it's this very charming book about kind of goofing off. But then you start to realize Lin Yutang​ was writing in the late 30s. He writes specifically about Hitler and Stalin. And he writes about a world gone mad and about greed and ambition and lust for power. And what he's really presenting is a humanist response to this. So the importance of living is about human values."  
(Viking/Penguin Books)

20. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

22. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

23. More, More, More Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams

24. A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre

25. Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther

26. What The Living Do by Marie Howe​