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August 10, 2014 At age 14, author Aaron Gwyn was lonely and angry. His dad was dead. His mom was addicted to pills. Then he discovered The Stranger, a novel of absurdity and detachment. Somehow, it helped him deal.
June 29, 2014 Author Carmen Maria Machado picked up The Crimson Petal and the White, a book about a prostitute in 19th-century London, because it looked illicit. It taught her about faith, sexuality and feminism.
May 31, 2014 In author Jessica Khoury's hometown, there were 144 churches and one bar, and the Harry Potter books were a forbidden, corrupting temptation. But Khoury longed to read them — and eventually, she did.
April 6, 2014 Years after she first read and adored Ellen Emerson White's series of young adult novels, author Tova Mirvis still finds herself wondering, "What would Meg Powers do?"
March 9, 2014 Therese Walsh knows Colleen McCullough's famous novel — which contains not just sex, but sex with a priest -- might not be "appropriate" for teens. But, she says, it's the perfect sort of dangerous.
February 2, 2014 In her early teens, author Megan Abbott felt trapped in her quiet community. She yearned for a life of glamour and art — like the one she found in a biography of Edie Sedgwick. When she grew up, Abbott realized just how much she'd misunderstood about the woman she'd idolized.
December 28, 2013 When author Chris Abani was a boy, he was miserable at Catholic seminary and he felt like an outsider in his own family. One summer break, at home in Afikpo, he discovered James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. The tragic, taboo love story made young Abani feel that at last he'd found someone who understood how out of place he felt in his own life.
December 8, 2013 In Roshi Fernando's upper-middle-class childhood home, conversations about sex were taboo. But at 13, already a survivor of sexual trauma, she needed answers. Fernando turned to Maya Angelou's autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and, in its pages, found comfort and strength.
November 3, 2013 In 1980s Arkansas, everyone was abuzz with Satan-paranoia. In the middle of the chaos, a teenage Scott Hutchins came across Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. What he found wasn't demonic at all — instead, it was an eye-opening, complex narrative about sad failures, washed-up movie stars and wrecked marriages.
October 6, 2013 Long before they met, fell in love, got married and became co-authors, Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston both read A Spell for Chameleon. The first novel in Piers Anthony's "Xanth" series is a silly book, full of corny jokes. But for teenage Melissa and Michael, it was a winking glimpse into the world of adult relationships.
September 21, 2013 As a child, author Koren Zailckas was an introvert with numbed emotions. When her fourth-grade teacher, "Mr. Cool," assigned the works of Edgar Allan Poe, she was horrified. Murder? Torture? How inappropriate! But the terrifying stories and poems transformed her: she says they scared her into life.
August 25, 2013 Annemarie Selinko's Desiree, a novel about a silk merchant's daughter who almost married Napoleon, was the first book that author Fiona Maazel ever read with excitement. What book turned you into a reader? Tell us in the comments.
July 21, 2013 Author Kevin Maher laughed off the Dubliners as a 12-year old, yet one line stayed with him. It was that line that convinced him to go back to the stories, discovering a love of James Joyce in the process.
May 26, 2013 When author Lucas Mann turned 13, his father gave him a copy of Portnoy's Complaint, a novel The New Yorker dubbed "one of the dirtiest books ever published." Mann says the book taught him that life is painful, sometimes gross, and often funny.
March 24, 2013 Author Nicole J. Georges discovered Michael Azerrad's Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana when she was 13. The book became the heart map for her teenage angst. What book helped you find yourself?
February 24, 2013 Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda remembers finding a worn copy of the anthology Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural in the library as a young boy. He found the stories revelatory. Is there a scary story that made an impression on you when you were his age? Tell us in the comments.
January 28, 2013 When author Ally Carter found out that S.E. Hinton had been a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, something inside her clicked. It was the first moment she realized she could be a writer. Is there a book that has inspired you to write? Tell us in the comments.
January 27, 2013 Author Teddy Wayne writes that the 1967 French novel Emmanuelle taught him not only about good sex, but also about good writing.
January 13, 2013 As a young girl reeling from the revolution in Iran in 1979, author Roya Hakakian discovered the great Persian poet Ahmad Shamlou. His poems made her realize the importance of breaking from tradition. Has a poem ever changed your thinking this way? Tell us in the comments.
January 7, 2013 Harold Robbins' 1966 novel The Adventurers featured the lethal and stunning man of mystery, Dax. Author Manil Suri writes that Robbins' novel was his first glimpse into an adult world. What was your first "adult" novel? Tell us in the comments.
December 31, 2012 William Gibson's Neuromancer is a hacker classic. Author Nick Harkaway says it's also a door to a greater world. Is there a book that took you outside of your comfort zone? Tell us in the comments.
December 26, 2012 The Virgin Suicides takes teenage angst to the extreme. Writer, blogger and professional teenager Tavi Gevinson explains why it's a book she can't put down, year after adolescent year.
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