Editor’s note: In honor of National Library Week, we asked librarian Donna McEachern to share books that changed her life with us; she talked about these books on the April episode of The Library Show, and we wanted to share them with you here as well.
The first book that really affected me was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I read it when I was eight years old, and it was the first time I ever laughed out loud at something I’d read. It was a wonderful feeling! Later, I read Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and enjoyed it just as much. Since then, I’ve greatly enjoyed novels that are funny but deadpan, such as John Connolly’s The Gates.
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, took me to a place I didn’t know existed—I read this when I was 10. I had heard of concentration camps, but this book made me aware of anti-Semitism for the first time in my life. It also led to a life-long fascination with the Holocaust and Holocaust stories, all the time wondering how people could participate in such evil and what I would do in such extreme situations
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) also affected me profoundly. His life story of trouble then reform and dedication to the Nation of Islam was fascinating, but what impressed me most was his development as a human being, when he began to separate from the teachings of Elijah Mohammed.
Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds taught me how to identify birds, and I developed a life-long love of bird watching. It’s especially great to be able to identify a bird by its profile or its song. Watching birds and their behavior is one of my favorite things. (My cats also, but they only watch as well).
Think on These Things by Jiddu Krishnamurti provided me with a very different view of the world and our place within it. The book is a record of his conversations with students using the Socratic Method, which was often frustrating for the students but helped them participate in his own vision of love and peace. Unfortunately, it is not available in the Cobb County Library System.
Bruno Bettelheim wrote The Informed Heart in 1960. He was a Jewish psychoanalyst who was interned in a concentration camp. His story of survival in the camp, his and others responses to their circumstance is riveting. He uses his experiences to create a unique perception of what it means to be human.
Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the first cookbook that took me away from the overcooked vegetables and meats of South Georgia to a place where fresh was imperative and foods were served while still recognizable. Now we have many such cookbooks, and the cuisine of the South has also changed, but Child’s book was a revelation.