Once I was invited to speak to a gathering of people in the publishing business. I accepted the invitation because I thought it an excellent opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to people who had been kind to me as an author.

Accepting the invitation was easy. Selecting an appropriate topic was not. I would be talking to men and women who were experts in the business of communication and who worked with some of the finest Christian communicators in the world. What could I say that they'd not heard, and heard better, a hundred times?

Then I had a breakthrough. Why not, I asked myself, began my speech like this?

Ladies and gentlemen, as I anticipated this event and what I might say to you, I began to toy with this question: In all of my reading experiences, what book has most influenced me and set the direction of my life? Perhaps my answer might interest you.

Now I realize that this question is not really a novel one. Almost every week in the New York Times Book Review section, an interviewer ...

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