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What Book Changed Your Life?

   Monday, January 28th, 2008 - by: Brian Herzog, Head of Reference

It's a daunting question, but at some point in every librarian's career they are asked it: "Tell me, what book changed your life?" There is this supposition that in every avid reader's memory that one book stands out, exerting great influence and power over our life. But as many booklovers realize, asking us to choose one book from the myriad of books that have influenced us is like asking us to pick just one kind of cookie off of a holiday platter. There is no right or wrong answer to this daunting question. As diverse as our personalities are, so will be our list of life-changing books.

For each phase of our lives, we can identify influential books. It might be the first chapter book that we completed as a child (in my case, B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood), or the first time that the concept of good and evil rang true (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle). For some it was in high school when the book seers got our pulse racing: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. For others it was the fantasy and science fiction awakening in their lives: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein or Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness. For still others it was the classics that struck us: The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath, The Call of the Wild, The Sun Also Rises, Ulysses, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights - and of course To Kill a Mockingbird - the 2008 One Book reading choice for Chelmsford.

Whether it is Fitzgerald or Steinbeck, London, Hemingway or Joyce, Austen or Bronte, or even Harper Lee, we want to hear about the books that have influenced your lives. Join us on Friday, February 1st for "A Taste of the South," the kick-off to Winterfest and to our 2nd One Book community reading project. Inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird the Chelmsford Public Library will host a community social with samplings of Southern-style food and drink, including wine and beer. Harrington Wine and Liquors will oversee the tastings, while area restaurants will provide the food.

Chelmsford One Book logoAnd in the midst of all that good food and drink we will provide time for good conversation too, (book-related, of courseā€¦). A quiet space will be set aside that evening for an intimate "book sharing" opportunity. What books have had a powerful impact on your thinking and on your life? What book do you remember best from your youth? What book do you re-read every year? Let us know! We will compile a community list to share. If you cannot attend the event, visit our online book suggestion form and you can share your thoughts with the community.

For more thoughts on books that have influenced lives, check out The Book that Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists, edited by Diane Osen or visit the National Book Foundation's website at http://www.nationalbook.org/btcmlbookopinions.html to view readers' life-changing book choices from across the country.

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   Posted in Books, Column, Events, One Book, Reading Room | No Comments »