Look Homeward, Angel
By Thomas Wolfe
This first novel by a fellow Southerner "took possession of me in a way no book has, before or since. I read it from cover to cover three straight times, transfigured by the mesmerizing hold of the narrator's voice as I took in and fed on the power of the long line," Conroy says. "It was the first time I realized that breathing and the written word were intimately connected." Conroy was so inspired that he immediately "became a ridiculous figure," trying for seven years to imitate his idol's style. "I wrote a piece for the school literary magazine that now makes me think: 'My God in heaven, this is just the worst drivel.'"
Conroy's next pick: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino