Gina Vaynshteyn
September 12, 2014 12:53 pm

Two weeks ago, my friend tagged me in her “10 Books That Stayed With You” Facebook status post, indicating that it was now MY turn to share which books were super special to me. I included East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman, and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, but it was actually REALLY hard to pare my list down to 10. If you’re a bookworm, then you know 10 just doesn’t convey the power books have held for you. The amount which have affected you, shaped your life, and probably saved you, is almost infinite.

But this limitation didn’t stop the “10-Book Challenge” from going totally viral. I tagged three of my friends, and those friends tagged their friends, and pretty soon my entire Facebook feed was filled with thoughtful collections of books and it was awesome.

Since WE were asked what our favorite books were, I wondered which titles famous authors would choose if they were presented with the same challenge. It was super interesting to see how certain books influenced these writers, and what they said about them as authors. Here’s what I found.

1. Joyce Carol Oates’ favorite book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll

According to an interview with Huffington Post, the novel is Oates’ first book she ever loved.

2. Jeanette Walls’ favorite book: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Jeanette Walls, who is the author of the heart-wrenching The Glass Castle said, “I read it when I was an outcast 10-year-old and the main character, little Francie Nolan, became my best friend. I’m still grateful.”

3. M.L. Stedman’s favorite book: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Stedman, who wrote The Light Between Oceans, shared, “I’ll go with Gilead. An uplifting tale of love in its many forms, told in a style in which every word is perfect. A joyous read.”

4. Karen Thompson Walker’s favorite book: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The author of The Age of Miracles explained her ardor for the gorgeously morbid novel: “I love the voice of this book, so suffused with nostalgia and so smart about youth—and its inevitable loss.”

5. David Foster Wallace’s favorites books: The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy and The Stand by Stephen King

Before his untimely death, David Foster Wallace curated a top ten list for the compilation, The Top Ten: Writer’s Pick Their Favorite Books by J. Peder Zane. Some Wallace chose, like Tom Clancy, were surprising, since his own fiction was considered über high-brow.

6. Jennifer Egan’s favorite books: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and Middlemarch by George Eliot

Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer-prize winning novelist who wrote the brilliant A Visit From the Good Squad, generously gave The Strand her go-tos. This list unsurprisingly included, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and Middlemarch by George Eliot. These books, which are about women and written by women, are some of the earlier explorations of a woman’s role in society. As a female writer in a still very male-dominated industry, it makes sense that Egan sought inspiration and advice from the female authors before her.

7. Jonathan Franzen’s favorite book: White Noise by Don DeLillo

Back when Freedom was chosen by Oprah to star in her book club, Franzen (probably reluctantly, knowing his feelings about Oprah’s Book Club) shared some of his favorite books. Included is White Noise, which is a study of family life and individuals who distract themselves with materialism so they don’t think about death. When reading Freedom, The Corrections, or any of Franzen’s essays, these themes definitely shine through.

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