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What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?

I don't believe that there is any particular book that influenced any "career" I might have. There are books that have meant something to me, like Who Killed Stella Pomeroy. This was the first real book that I ever read. I had long been reading funny (comic) books and books of fairy and folk tales; the latter had all been illustrated with at least one drawing or painting. But Stella was the first without any pictures, only the words of the author. I read it when I was 13, and what struck me was that after years and years of reading funny books and folk tales with pictures, I was reading a book and was able to create a world -- this one was Britain in the 1920s and/or 1930s -- based simply on the author writing that it was so -- the landscape, the people and their words, the mystery situation.

I read it when I was visiting an aunt and cousins in Virginia, while on summer vacation. Decades and decades later, the grandson of friends heard me talk about the book went on the Internet and got me a copy of Who Killed Stella Pomeroy. It's packed up now so I can't give you the author's name. It was, I recall, written by a man who had had an exemplary career with Scotland Yard.

Words and what they can do are what the book gave me.

With my own first book, Lost in the City, I was touched by Joyce's Dubliners. I was in college and found that very few there knew anything about Washington, D.C., other than that it was the seat of the federal government. They themselves had come from places of communities but they could not envision that with D.C. I was thinking of Joyce and what he had done with Dublin when I began thinking of my own stories.

Dubliners by James Joyce

Book Cover: Dubliners by James Joyce
(literature and fiction)

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

The Holy Bible

Book Cover: The Holy Bible by
(religion and spirituality)

"That is difficult because there is a universe of books that I could call my favorites. (And it's hard to put a finger on them because 98 percent of the books I own are still in boxes after I moved back to D.C.)

Perhaps if I knew I would be stranded on an island with but one book, I would choose the Bible. For no religious reason whatsoever, but because of the varieties of stories, which might be useful as the days pass. The Bible is also influential in that I first read most of it while in graduate school. I read The Jerusalem Bible, a modern translation, for the course "The Bible as Literature." I was moved by the poetry but it also occurred to me that the world of those people had come through clearly and movingly even though the various writers had told the Biblical stories in an almost reportorial fashion -- no overwhelming, intrusive emotional insertions. I remembered all that when I began creating The Known World -- a horrendous story comes with its own emotion, so why add your own gratuitously. "

After Stella Pomeroy, I read Black Boy, Native Son, and His Eye Is on the Sparrow, which is the autobiography of the black actress Ethel Waters. I was raised in a D.C. that for me was primarily populated by blacks who had been born and raised in the South. I grew up hearing stories about that place. What those latter three books did was make literary all those oral stories. The books put them all into words that I could go back to again and again. Native Son only added to that -- from the first ringing of the alarm clock, I was in the urban world of Chicago, but it was as familiar as D.C. The people were the same, what they did, good and bad, were the same; it was Wright's Chicago, but it was home for me.

  1. Native Son by Richard Wright

    Book Cover: Native Son by Richard Wright
    (children books, literature and fiction, teens)

  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

    Book Cover: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    (literature and fiction, classics)

    "when I think of that book, it conjures up the best moments of college English courses. Literature is extraordinary, especially when you have a good professor."

I have the complete stories of Chekhov. Anyone who writes short stories can tell you why he is important.

  1. Anton Chekhov's Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

    Book Cover: Anton Chekhov
    (classics, literature and fiction)

  2. The Complete Short Novels by Anton Chekhov

    Book Cover: The Complete Short Novels by Anton Chekhov
    (classics, literature and fiction)

  3. Tales of Chekhov (13 Volume Set) by Anton Chekhov

    Book Cover: Tales of Chekhov (13 Volume Set) by Anton Chekhov
    (literature and fiction, classics, writing, fantasy)

To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood. I was well away from the first books I ever read, but these two, and dozens of others (the novels of Erskine Caldwell; Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Autobiography of Anne Moody; etc. provided a continuing voyage into very detailed worlds. These books and others were all read before college and they were further proof of my decision that funny books were not enough for me. I didn't know but my mind was expanding and I was fortunate to have discovered the proper nourishment. The idea of writing was still years and years away but the groundwork was being laid -- this was good writing, special writing, and a part of my brain was making note of that for the day when I sat down to write.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Book Cover: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    (literature and fiction, classics, mystery and thrillers)

  2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    Book Cover: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    (literature and fiction, nonfiction)

Two books that I consider wonderful: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez -- which may not need further words.

And the stories of Mary Lavin, an Irish writer (born in Massachusetts) who produced about 10 or so volumes of short stories. I consider her the very equal of Joyce when it comes to storytelling. Starting with her first book, Tales from Bective Bridge. I care her for her work so much that I nodded to her by mentioning Tales in the story "Bad Neighbors."

There are so many other books but I don't have time to search the mind's attic and talk about them.

  1. Source:

Why should you listen to him?

Jones attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Mass., and studied writing at the University of Virginia. He taught briefly, and then for 10 years he worked as a proofreader. His debut collection of short stories, Lost in the City (1993), earned critical recognition, but more than a decade passed before his next book.

Jones began to write full time only after losing his proofreading job in 2002. The result was The Known World (2003), a novel that was greeted as a masterpiece and won numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. A third book followed in 2006, All Aunt Hagar's Children, a collection of short stories that returned to the working-class Washington, D.C., in which Jones’s first book was set. Like Lost in the City, it drew comparisons to James Joyce’s Dubliners.

Edward P. Jones' books

  1. Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones

    Book Cover: Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
    (literature and fiction)

  2. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

    Book Cover: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
    (literature and fiction)


  1. The Known World By Edward P. Jones

    Book Cover: The Known World By Edward P. Jones
    (literature and fiction)

    "National Book Award for Fiction Best Novel nominee (2003) : The Known World

    Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Best Novel winner (2004) : The Known World"

  2. All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones

    Book Cover: All Aunt Hagar
    (literature and fiction)

    "PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Best Collection nominee (2007) : All Aunt Hagar's Children"



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