Books that Changed Your Life
Kate Moos, Managing Producer

Trent and I have been talking about how to discuss books on the blog. We get tons of books every week and while we look at all of them, and read some of them, I don’t think we have either the capacity or the interest for a regular book feature. But we are aware that books are a big part of the DNA of our program and website, even though we hardly ever do what is commonly considered a “book interview.”

It’s in the nature of the program to care deeply about books that matter, and to have deep respect for the textual basis of tradition. So, for us, the focus on books has less to do with what is being published recently and more to do with how they have had a deep impact, or capture a topic or a story in a way we just can’t resist.

I think of our show with Mary Doria Russell, "The Novelist As God," as an example of a program that arose out of a singular attraction to an author’s work. An exception to the “we don’t do book interviews” rule happened early in the show’s history. When Jennifer Michael Hecht’s book, Doubt: A History, had just been published, we pursued her because we thought it was just so brilliant.

Shunryu Suzuki RoshiThere are books that become so important to us they become like old friends. Or, books that we find so transformative our lives are never the same. In about 1979, I picked up a copy of D.T. Shunryu Suzuki’s slim volume, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, in a book store and was so struck by the lines I read I bought it and took it home to read. And I’ve never stopped reading it.

At one time, I transcribed the entire book by hand into a notebook as a meditative practice. I’m not a Buddhist, but this man’s words settled in to my being to stay. Now, that paperback is missing its cover. Its pages are dog-eared, and I’ve written grocery lists and phone numbers on the flyleaves.

Suzuki, seen briefly above in the trailer from a documentary about him, was one of the major importers of Zen Buddhism to the West. What were his words that so captivated me? “In the beginner’s mind,” he wrote, “there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

What are the books that have changed your life? What are the books that became your best friend?

UPDATE: We inadvertently conflated the two Suzukis, and so struck some language, replaced the video (but kept the link to the D.T. documentary), and swapped out the photo as well. Thanks to chucklief for leaving the comment below and correcting our mistake.

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