Lighting the Way Through Literature

Anthony Doerr says his very first book, “Mollusks,” which he wrote when he was kid for a class project, was probably very unsatisfying to his readers.

But that didn’t deter him.

He went on to write his other ‘first’ novel, “All the Light We Cannot See,” which by all accounts was a blockbuster. It remained on the New York Times best seller list for more than 200 weeks and garnered him a Pulitzer Prize and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Doerr talks about what inspires his writing with host Dean Nelson as part of the Writer’s Symposium By the Sea. One common theme is his interest in the natural world, for which he credits his mom, a science teacher. Doerr says they drove from Ohio to Florida every summer for vacation.

“I was obsessed with the ocean,” he said. “Mom let us keep all kinds of creatures…it was probably illegal. We would bring them back in milk jugs, like crabs and octopi. That was some very powerful stuff from my childhood about me and shells.”

Shells feature prominently in “All the Light We Cannot See” and as well as his short story collection “The Shell Collector.”

He says mollusks remind him that there are multiple ways to see and experience the world.

“Ours is just one way of experiencing the world. Every time you study any creature, they’re experiencing the world in different ways.”

Doerr’s other works include “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” “About Grace,” and “Four Seasons in Rome.”

Watch A Conversation with Anthony Doerr – Writer’s Symposium by the Sea 2023.