National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (Dover, $8). This book, which inspired the 1944 film, suggested to me that a skinny girl and a big horse could do great things. I love that both Velvet Brown and her mother are great achievers (Velvet wins the Grand National, and Mrs. Brown swam the English Channel at a similar age).
The Women's Room by Marilyn French (Penguin, $16). I read this book in the early 1980s and remember at one point thinking, "I had better never read this book again or I'll never get married." Its feminist depiction of women's lives may seem a little obvious in today's political climate, but it was an eye-opener for a teenaged girl. (I did get married, by the way. He's very nice.)
Heartburn by Nora Ephron (Vintage, $14). Heartburn showed me that there is almost no experience you can have that's so awful that you will not be able to joke about it one day. Or even write about it. Ephron took the collapse of her marriage and turned it into a bittersweet roman à clef (which also happens to contain a fine recipe for Key lime pie).
Eyewitness to History edited by John Carey (William Morrow, $22). This fascinating book gathers 300 firsthand accounts of significant events throughout history, from Pliny the Younger's take on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to an early breast-removal operation described by the patient herself. It made me want to be a reporter.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (Picador, $16). I had written three novels, all rejected, when I read Atkinson's 1995 debut. It was audacious and unexpected, and it had a voice all of its own. Inspired, I set about writing novel No. 4 — the book that finally won me a publishing deal.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Vintage, $16). A book I thought I wasn't going to enjoy about a subject I wasn't interested in. This novel showed me the value of research, of taking a reader somewhere new. If the characters are compelling, readers will follow anywhere.
— Jojo Moyes is the author of 11 novels, including the 2012 best-seller Me Before You. Her latest, The Girl You Left Behind, interweaves two love stories separated by a century but linked by a painting that disappeared during World War I.
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