Ann Patchett is a Nashville-based novelist and nonfiction writer.
Bel Canto, Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, State of Wonder
1992 New York Times Notable Book of the Year (The Patron Saint of Liars), 1994 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize (Taft), 2002 PEN/Faulkner award winner (Bel Canto), 2002 Orange Prize winner (Bel Canto), 2001 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (Bel Canto), 2011 Wellcome Trust Book Prize shortlist (State of Wonder)
Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is, to my mind, the quintessential American novel. It gets at the heart of how we strive and desire and so often fail to take responsibility for our actions. America is the land of reinvention and that's what Gatsby manages to do. At the other end of the spectrum, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun show what happens to the people who are shut out of the dream or fail at it. They're both brilliant plays.
Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?
Sister Nena, who was a Sister of Mercy at St. Bernard's in Nashville, taught me to read. It was no easy task and I didn't love her for all the work she made me do at the time. Forty-two years later she's one of my dearest friends.
There was a picture book I loved called The Lonely Doll, by Dare Wright. Later on I was devoted to Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. I begged my parents to give me a pig, which they did, for my ninth birthday.
Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?
Independent People by Halldor Laxness, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, and The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa