We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

My Fantasy Bookshelf: Harlan Coben shares the books which influenced his life and career

The author divulges his most inspiring reads.

My Fantasy Bookshelf Harlan Coben

Author Harlan Coben is well known for his seemingly never-ending list of best-selling novels, many of which have been adapted into nail-biting Netflix dramas including The Stranger and Safe.

Advertisement

His thriller The Innocent is his next title due to be released on the small screen this April and his latest novel Win is about to hit bookshelves internationally.

Below, Coben tells RadioTimes.com about the titles which have influenced his own writing and ways of thinking and lines up his final Fantasy Bookshelf selection.

The author shares the one book in the world he would save, his favourite quote and reveals what’s up next on his reading list.

My Fantasy Bookshelf Logo

What was your favourite book growing up?

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Do you want to know how to write suspense and make the reader cheer for your hero? Think of how much badly you wanted Charlie to find a golden ticket.

Which book has taught you something new?

Every book I’ve ever read to some degree. My favourite book on writing and the creative process is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, not just because it teaches but because it articulates so wonderfully what you already know.

If you could only save one book in the world, which one would it be?

Oy, what a question. I recently re-read American Pastoral by Philip Roth, and I still think it’s the most perfect (as opposed to best) novel I’ve ever read.

Which book would you most like to see on screen next?

I have never read a book and thought, “Oh man, I can’t wait for a movie version of this!” Not once. If I love a book, I love a book. If I love a movie or TV show – you get the idea. I don’t want one to be the other.

But since I have to answer, I’ll say The Innocent by yours truly simply because it’s the next one coming out on Netflix and thus self-serving.

Harlan Coben's The Stranger
Richard Armitage in Harlan Coben’s The Stranger (Netflix)

Are there any books or authors which inspired you to become a writer?

Are there any that haven’t? The one I usually choose is Marathon Man by William Goldman. That was my first “adult” thriller I read as a teen. I still remember thinking you could put a gun to my head, and I won’t put this book down. That’s a lofty goal but remains mine.

If you could choose one book for every child to read growing up, what would it be?

Oh, I’m not the one to answer this. I want you to read for pleasure and to expand your world, not to grow up. In fact, I want almost the opposite. Stay childlike, dear reader. Hmm, let’s go for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle because I read that when I was about 10 and loved it.

What’s the best line from a book which has stayed with you?

In Philip Roth’s Everyman, Roth paraphrases the artist Chuck Close, “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” This sticks with me and reminds me to treat writing like a job. Good advice for all creatives.

If you could go back in time and change the ending of any book, which would it be?

I would never change an ending. The ones that wound you the most – the tragedies – work best because you wish you could change them. Do you want to go back and save Romeo and Juliet so they can live happily ever after? Maybe. But boy, would that ruin the story.

What was the last book you couldn’t put down?

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Aktar.

What’s next on your reading list?

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

Advertisement

Win by Harlan Coben is published by Century, £20.

Read Harlan Coben’s Fantasy Bookshelf

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The Innocent by Harlan Coben

Marathon Man by William Goldman

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Everyman by Philip Roth

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Aktar

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah