The Book That Changed My Life

Barbara Harroun is an AssiML-Harrounstant Professor at Western Illinois University. Her most recent work is forthcoming or
appearing in Rappahannock Review, TypeWrite, Fiction Southeast, Iron Horse Literary Review, and The Long Leaf Pine. Her favorite creative endeavors are her awesome kids, Annaleigh and Jack. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she can be found walking her beloved dog, Banjo, or engaging in literacy activism and radical optimism. She blogs about all things mysterious with the awesome Professor Rebekah Buchanan at She can be found at

It is worth noting that Professor Harroun is beloved by students and faculty alike within the English department. She was ecstatic to contribute for this article, so let’s take a look at “The Book That Changed My Life.”

What is the book that changed you life?

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?

Originally penned in German, it’s the fantastically imagined tale of Bastian Balthazar Bux who escapes bullies, the recent death of his mother, and his father’s neglect via an antique store and a wonderful novel he finds there, *The Neverending Story*. He actually enters the novel, and must save a land Fantastica and it’s lovely Childlike Empress, all being devoured by the darkness of Nothingness. This book is about finding our potential to love and be loved, to change the world, and the power of the written word.

Where/How did you first encounter this book?

My mother read it aloud to me and my brothers when I was seven (we didn’t have a television, but my mom was the best reader–performing voices for each character, plus she always gave in and read us one more chapter) but I reread all 448 pages when I was eight, and again when I was nine. I also read all of Ende’s others work and was haunted by *Momo*. He was the first author whose entire catalogue I sought out, followed by Roald Dahl and Ray Bradbury. I wanted, desperately, to do what Ende seemed to do effortlessly.

How did the book change you?

I sobbed when the book ended. I was distraught when it ended, so captured was I by the world encompassed within its pages and the characters that inhabited that world. I had cried at the end of other books, but I remember understanding that the next time I read it, I would know what was coming. But it was the first book I wanted to figure out–how did Ende do it? Plus this book helped me put words to how powerless I often felt as a child to control the world I inhabited, but it also resonated so deeply within me because as a child, I sometimes felt like Balthazar and could not understand cruelty. I believed so wholly in love. I suppose I still do, cheesiness be damned. I still believe that we can change the world–through writing especially, and that our words can be light, fighting the darkness of ignorance and injustice and apathy! And as Balthazar learns, the story never really ends–it goes on, inside of us.