5 Books That Changed My Life: Deborah Crombie

 5 Books That Changed My Life: Deborah Crombie

Milne Pooh Gray 1000WINNIE THE POOH by A.A. Milne

I’ve said half-jokingly for years that I hold Winnie the Pooh responsible for turning me into a lifelong Anglophile. And while that may be true, I think it’s quite possible that Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner planted the infant germ of storytelling in my brain. The books were read to me before I could read them myself, then read on my own (I also suspect that the repetition of the familiar story was part of the early learning-to-read process.) And then I continued the stories in my head, making up more adventures for the characters, tales that morphed oddly into nightmares about little, bald, gnome-like creatures who lived in nicely furnished caves under the creek bank near my house. They would invite me in to tea, then devour me! The Brothers Grimm must have been seeping in at edges of my consciousness by that time. (Years later, when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Lucy is invited to tea by Mr. Tumnus the Faun, it gave me pause…)

 tolkien, LOTR cover 2THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien

Adolescence. I was fourteen the first time I read all the books straight through. I don’t think I ate or slept for days. I was consumed by the story, by the depth and detail of the imagined world, and by my ability to enter it. I still reread the books every few years, and am still enchanted. This was also, I think, my first real introduction to moral fiction, in this case, the struggle between good and evil played out on a very large canvas.

 6971928-LGAUDY NIGHT by Dorothy L. Sayers

Having grown up on The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, then Christie and Marsh and Allingham, I’d certainly learned to love a puzzle. But Sayers was a revelation. Not just mysteries, not just English, but NOVELS, and works of such wit and intricacy and sometimes terror, with language that sang and rolled through my head. Choosing between Sayers novels is not easy, but Gaudy Night is the one I go back to again and again for its prose, its often scathing characterization, its perfection of pacing and plotting. And, of course, for Harriett and Peter.


1002424-_0A GREAT DELIVERANCE by Elizabeth George

This book inspired me to pick up a pen. If an American could write a crackingly good British mystery, it occurred to me for the first time that a girl from Texas could actually give it a try.


 POSSESSION by A. S. Byatt

If the previous book encouraged me to write, Possession made me push my story-telling boundaries beyond anything I’d ever before imagined. I bought a paperback copy at Gatwick airport just before boarding a return flight from London to Dallas. I read ten hours straight on the plane, did nothing but read and sleep a little for the next two days, then hated the book to end when I turned the last page. Two intertwining stories, past and present. Two sets of lovers, the lives of the contemporary pair changed irrevocably by their discovery of the lovers in the past. Language that was stunning in its beauty. And a mystery that kept me riveted until the very end. Perfection.

I doubted then, and now, that I could ever write anything to equal Byatt’s book, but it made me want to try. I’m still trying.


CrombDeborah Crombie is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels featuring Metropolitan Police detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Her latest, NO MARK UPON HER, was published by William Morrow in February. You can learn more about her at www.deborahcrombie.com