Summer Reading List: The Book That Changed My Life

Photo by: Courtesy Image
Colum McCann-
Ulysses (1922)
by James Joyce

The fact is that every book changes our lives. But Kerouac kicked me around when I was 13. I was a suburban kid living in Dublin, ... more 
Photo by: Courtesy Image
Colum McCann-
Ulysses (1922)
by James Joyce

The fact is that every book changes our lives. But Kerouac kicked me around when I was 13. I was a suburban kid living in Dublin, and he peeled me open with On the Road. Several years later, when I was 21, I took a bicycle across the United States. I was looking for the ghost of Dean Moriarty. After that it was all Ferlinghetti, Brautigan, Kesey. And then I discovered who I should have known all along-Joyce. Fancy that, I had to go to America to find an Irish writer. I've been discovering and rediscovering him ever since. Ulysses is the most complete literary compendium of human experience. Every time I read it, it leaves me alert and raw. I recently had a chance to look at a rare first edition. When I cracked open the spine, a tiny piece of the page dropped out, no bigger than a tab of acid. Nobody was looking, not even Kerouac. So I put it on my finger and did what anyone else would do: I ate it.

View the complete reading list at GQ.com

Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin won a National Book Award in 2009.

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Don't get us wrong: We love a perfectly crafted tweet or a hilarious Tumblr or an ingenious app. But have any of those things ever rocked you to the core and irrevocably altered the way you see the world? Yeah, us neither. For that you need a book (even if you read it on a Nook). We asked some of the finest storytellers around to tell us about the works that truly slayed them.