By Margaret Mitchell
"This is a war novel, a historical romance, a comedy of manners, a bitter lamentation, a cry of the heart, and a long, coldhearted look at the character of a lovely, Machiavellian Southern woman," Conroy says. "It is beautifully constructed into fine, swiftly moving parts and 63 chapters. Mitchell possessed a playwright's ear for dialogue." First read to him by his beloved mother—who so admired the author she changed her middle name to Margaret in homage—the book is "operatic, biblical. The characters live, they breathe, you see 'em, you can touch 'em. That's what I always love in a book. I owe a personal debt to this novel. I became a novelist because of it. I think I learned about the relationship between books and life from Margaret Mitchell."
Conroy's next pick: Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe