At LifeWay Books, we believe one book can change the course of a life, and we aim to cultivate a greater love of books for all types of readers. We regularly sit down with authors to find out about the books that have most impacted them and that they would recommend to fellow readers.
Leif Enger, author of the new book Virgil Wander, recently sat down with LifeWay Books managing editor Dave Schroeder for a special audio conversation on the books that he believes might change the world. Check out the full conversation below.
DAVE: Hello. This is Dave Schroeder. I am the managing editor of the books page of Lifeway.com at Books.Lifeway.com. It’s really funny saying that, by the way, because this is the first audio interview that we’ve ever done. So we’re going to have some fun with it today.
Today we have Leif Enger who is going to answer a lot of his questions on books that he loves that may have shaped the world or are shaping the world.
But a real quick thing on Leif before he answers some of these questions. Leif is an accomplished author — one of my favorites. He’s written Peace Like a River; So Brave, Young, and Handsome; and then his latest, which is Virgil Wander. We’ve reviewed that on the site already. Do go pick up a copy and read it. But we’re going to ask him a few questions about what makes him tick as a writer and reader, so … Leif, welcome.
LEIF: Hey, thanks.
DAVE: Alright. We’re going to go rapid fire here. Leif, tell us about one book that shaped your imagination as a kid.
LEIF: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of my all-time favorite books by one of the best writers in the English language. It teaches you as a kid to keep your eyes open and teaches you also that really wicked people like Long John Silver are weirdly lovable. Not a bad life lesson.
DAVE: I love it. Perfect. Alright, tell us one book that has helped you return to reading or help sustain you as a reader over time in life.
LEIF: You know, like a lot of people when I was in college, I just read stuff for college. I didn’t read anything else. But right away when I got out of college — I had sorta forgotten — I’d lost the thread. I wasn’t really reading much fiction for awhile there, and then somebody gave me a copy of a book called Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, and it absolutely jumpstarted me as a reader again. It was so magical; anything could happen in that story and did. Beautifully written book that was turned into a movie by Kevin Costner called Field of Dreams.
DAVE: Excellent. Tell us about one book that was pivotal in your faith journey.
LEIF: That would have to be a book by Madeleine L’Engle called Walking on Water. I was in my mid-20s at the time, I was corresponding with my brother who was five years older than me, and we were talking about the idea of writing books together. He was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop so he was getting a totally different kind of instruction than I’d ever received as a writer, and he said, “You’ve got to read this book, Walking on Water, because this is a book that basically encourages you as a believer to just simply write the very best stuff that you can and not worry about the content and not worry about conforming to expectation from the church or from anybody else.” Basically, Madeleine says if you’re doing that, you’re doing what God put you in the world to do. That was exactly what I was dying to hear at the time.
DAVE: Excellent. Tell us about a book that you’ve read lately that has introduced a powerful new idea.
LEIF: I’m reading one right now called The Overstory. And basically it’s a book that ties together the lives of humans over the centuries and the lives of trees. It sounds a little crazy. It’s by Richard Powers. It’s fantastic. It will make you think differently about things that maybe you’ve never really considered before.
DAVE: Excellent. And last one, if you could make any book magically become a bestseller — I almost want to say other than Virgil Wander — which one would it be?
LEIF: That would be such a great superpower to have, wouldn’t it? I think Oprah has that superpower. Reese Witherspoon, too.
I was thinking about this … and I think I would nominate a book called Skellig, which is a young adult book written by somebody named Almond, I think, David Almond. I maybe have that name wrong.
In Skellig, there’s a boy who is in a troubled situation at home, and he goes out to his garage to look for something. And the garage is cluttered, and it’s dark, and it’s sorta closed up, and he goes into the garage, and something moves in the corner. Something moves in this dark space. He can’t see what it is. Scares the daylights out of him.
It turns out that there’s a sick angel that has taken up residence in his garage, and the angel is in terrible shape. It’s ill and it’s kind of on its last legs. There’s a dying angel in his garage.
And I was just profoundly affected by this book. I completely adored it. If I could, I would make it a bestseller.
DAVE: Outstanding. Awesome.
DAVE: Leif, thank you so much for doing this, again, for listeners. And we may transcribe this, so — just for it to be helpful for you guys. Do pick up any of his books Peace Like a River; So Brave, Young and Handsome; or Virgil Wander, which just came out.
LEIF: Thanks for having me.