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Morningstar
Cover of Morningstar
Morningstar
Growing Up with Books
by Ann Hood
Borrow Borrow

A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author.

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels.

Growing up in a mill town in Rhode Island, in a household that didn't foster a love of literature, Hood discovered nonetheless the transformative power of books. She learned to channel her imagination, ambitions, and curiosity by devouring ever-growing stacks. In Morningstar, Hood recollects how The Bell Jar, Marjorie Morningstar, The Harrad Experiment, and The Outsiders influenced her teen psyche and introduced her to topics that could not be discussed at home: desire, fear, sexuality, and madness. Later, Johnny Got His Gun and The Grapes of Wrath dramatically influenced her political thinking, while the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings became headline news and classics such as Dr. Zhivago and Les Misérables stoked her ambitions to travel the world. With characteristic insight and charm, Hood showcases the ways in which books gave her life and can transform—even save—our own lives.

A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author.

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels.

Growing up in a mill town in Rhode Island, in a household that didn't foster a love of literature, Hood discovered nonetheless the transformative power of books. She learned to channel her imagination, ambitions, and curiosity by devouring ever-growing stacks. In Morningstar, Hood recollects how The Bell Jar, Marjorie Morningstar, The Harrad Experiment, and The Outsiders influenced her teen psyche and introduced her to topics that could not be discussed at home: desire, fear, sexuality, and madness. Later, Johnny Got His Gun and The Grapes of Wrath dramatically influenced her political thinking, while the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings became headline news and classics such as Dr. Zhivago and Les Misérables stoked her ambitions to travel the world. With characteristic insight and charm, Hood showcases the ways in which books gave her life and can transform—even save—our own lives.

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About the Author-
  • Ann Hood is the author of the best-selling novels The Book That Matters Most, The Knitting Circle, The Red Thread, The Obituary Writer, and Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 10, 2017
    As a child, novelist Hood (The Book That Matters Most) had an insatiable appetite for reading, a preoccupation disdained by her large, no-nonsense Italian family in 1960s Rhode Island. For Hood, as she lovingly recounts in this ode to the power of words, books were an escape from the dead-end mill town, West Warwick, where she lived. Books guided Hood through her outsider youth and helped her to define the “yearning” for something bigger that she knew wouldn’t be found on West Warwick’s small, ordinary streets. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was the first book to transport Hood away from West Warwick; the next was Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar. Marjorie Morningstar brought Hood enormous pleasure because of its heft but also because Hood thought it was as if Wouk were writing about her family’s immigrant story. Morningstar (and later Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar) captured what Hood was feeling but could not express or share: dissatisfaction, anxiety, sexual curiosity, and the aspiration to write for a living. In adulthood, books such as John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath taught Hood how to be a writer and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago ignited her desire to travel. Hood has beautifully crafted a very convincing case for discovering literature and getting lost in the pages.

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2017
    A novelist chronicles her life through the books that shaped her.Like most writers, novelist Hood (The Book that Matters Most, 2016, etc.) loves books. An avid reader since the age of 4, she grew up in a small Rhode Island town in an Italian immigrant family that did not own books. Her school did not have a library, but in second grade, she discovered Little Women and was entranced. Encouraged by her teacher, she was working her way through fourth-grade books by the time the school year was over. Books, writes Hood, gave her "an escape from my lonely school days, where girls seemed to speak a language I didn't understand," and inspired "a curiosity about the world and about people." Although her mother thought that buying books was a waste of money, she saved her allowance for the Nancy Drew series and was elated when a Waldenbooks opened up in a mall nearby. The right book seemed to come at just the right time: when she was 15, for example, Hood first read Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar and felt that the author "had somehow climbed into my brain and emerged with my story." Although she only once had met anyone Jewish, she completely identified with Marjorie: "Slightly spoiled. Boy crazy. Curious about sex. Terrified of sex. Raised by prudish, old-school parents." In The Bell Jar, Hood discovered a girl who wanted to be a writer, just as the author did, and who "expressed the very things I worried over." Discouraged by teachers and family, though, Hood became a flight attendant, working on a novel in hotels on layovers. The author's literary taste is eclectic; Victor Hugo, Tolstoy, Dickens, and Frost as well as Irving Wallace, Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins, and Rod McKuen are among the writers who invited her into a "big, beautiful world." We read, she writes, "to know the world and ourselves better. To find our place in that world." A charming but hardly surprising homage to the power of books.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2017
    A New York Times best-selling author with a stack of awards to her name, Hood offers a collection of essays that nicely parallels her most recent fiction, The Book That Matters Most. Here she talks about growing up in a household where the love of reading was not encouraged and thus finding her own way, relishing Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar, learning about social issues from Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, and getting bitten by the travel bug after reading Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    W. W. Norton & Company
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