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From L to R: Sara Walker, Colleen McGregor, Marieke Junkin, Elizabeth Beauparlant.

Books that matter (to librarians); what books matter to you?

in Columnists/Community/The Arts by
  1. Every reader their book.
  2. Every book its reader.

From S.R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science (1931)

Sure, libraries have lots more than books to offer these days — everything from digital magazines to gardening workshops. But books remain the beating heart of every collection and the mission of librarians is still, as it was for Ranganathan, to be a matchmaker between books and readers.

Here’s an observation and a question, though: Librarians themselves are devoted readers, so what are the books that have mattered to them, personally – and maybe even changed their lives?

I asked some library staff at the Lindsay branch.

Sara Walker, Library Staff

There is a book that once upon a time opened up worlds and led me to tumble down a rabbit hole of literature. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has opened up so many doors of discovery for me, from silly children’s stories and nonsensical rhymes to tales of the fantastic and extraordinary revealed within the ordinary, to strong heroines who aren’t afraid to speak their minds or stand up for what’s right.

Finding other stories like Alice’s was difficult when I was a kid, but through the 1990s, thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the publishing industry exploded with an entire subgenre of stories with roots in Wonderland. Urban fantasy brought fantastic creatures into our ordinary, everyday world. More often than not, these stories featured strong heroines who could kick butt while firing off witty remarks. It was Alice in a new age. The publishing industry’s appetite for urban fantasy may have waned in recent years, but not mine. I continue to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.

Colleen McGregor, Circulation Services

I can vividly remember the summer I began to call myself a ‘reader’ . . . my desire to stay inside with a good book overtook my wanting to play outside with friends. Today not much has changed. Being a mom of five great kids, I cherish the moments when I can sit down with a good book and a cup of tea in hand. Working at the library I’m often asked the question “What’s a good read?” Three books come to mind: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. The common thread with these books is the strong connection between mother/ caregiver and child.

I’m happy to say that I have passed on my love of reading to my children and hopefully it will continue for generations to come.

Marieke Junkin, Library Specialist

I am not a born reader. My parents were hard-working immigrants with no time for the frivolity of picture books and junior fiction. While I dabbled in some unmemorable reading along the way, the turning point that made me a capital “R” Reader took place when I was 12. I came across a paperback copy of Alex Haley’s “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.” I was immediately captivated and spent every waking moment engrossed in the social history of a black family. It opened up a world of historical fiction and enthralling sagas that continue to keep me up at night and forever turning pages.

Elizabeth Beauparlant, Library Specialist

Growing up, I was not a reader. I read the odd novel here and there but I was always busy with other things. When I was 18, I was given a copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz during a trip to California. Ruiz talks about living a life controlled by yourself, and only you can make decisions and changes to better yourself. I was going through a rough time, with no motivation in life. I was told this book would change my entire way of thinking but I didn’t believe it. Boy, was I wrong. This book completely changed my life and my attitude towards my relationships with the people around me.

This book gave me the motivation to go to school and it would land me to where I am now. I feel like that I am a completely different person after reading this, and I recommend it to everyone. I’ve bought multiple copies, and have given it as a gift to a lot of people. I can say honestly now that I am an avid reader and this book will always be my go-to.

Annalisa Rielly, Circulation Services

As an avid reader at a young age, the library quickly became a second home to me. My parents and other family members have always encouraged me to become a strong reader to not only expand my knowledge but to help me form my own opinions. A House in the Sky, a memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbee, is one book that has influenced me and that I find myself recommending to others. I read it when I was trying to pick a career. The same thoughts of how to understand the world and live a significant life are still questions I ask myself today, just like Amanda did. How can I make a difference in the world through my career? The strength, courage and undying determination that Amanda displays through even the darkest of times show how brave she is. This book has stayed with me and will continue to remind me that every life experience makes you the person you are today.

Annalisa Rielly, Julie Lynch, Jamie Anderson.

Julie Lynch, Children’s Services

I have a very fond memory of my first primary reader in Grade 1. Mr. Whiskers. A cute little kitten as the main character brought me much joy as I loved kittens and I felt confident to be reading on  my own! What excitement! Another favorite that I still treasure in my personal collection is  This Little Pony by Dorothy Haas.

I also remember visiting the Lindsay Public Library to borrow books and watch puppet plays. At that time the Children’s Department was downstairs.

I imagined that it would be so amazing to work at a library with a whole world of information surrounding you. Well here I am now. I’ve worked here for over 30 years. I love the career path I have chosen and I still love books.

Jamie Anderson, Library Director

When I went to university I thought I was going to be a lawyer, until my second term. Then I took a class called “Ancient Greek History through Primary Sources.” One of the books we read was Herodotus’ Histories and I was hooked. I became a history major with a minor in classics.

I probably re-read portions of the book every year. I used the text to help me learn fifth century Greek and I have traveled around the Mediterranean Sea with a well-thumbed Loeb Classic edition (my original Penguin copy fell apart and was  replaced in London).

I still think it is one of the best examples of storytelling and enjoy reading it to this day.

So, what’s the book that has mattered most to you — that maybe even changed your life? Join the conversation by adding a comment below, either on The Lindsay Advocate’s news site or social media.

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Jamie is a retired teacher and Chair of the Kawartha Lakes Library Board. For The Lindsay Advocate he is reviving the 'Friends & Neighbours' column he wrote for the Lindsay Post, as well as writing a column on the library’s contributions to the community.

7 Comments

  1. My favourite book of all time is now getting the attention it deserves, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. I read that book as a kid pretty much weekly for years. Although I’m not generally a fan of movie remakes, I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s done.

  2. The first books I remember reading were adventure stories and mysteries . I loved escaping into other worlds. I still love reading and read a new book every few days.

  3. Stephen Hunter’s “The Third Bullet”. It’s almost inside baseball with all the detail on the bullet stuff….but he made the Kennedy assassination seem “current” when it came out in 2013. Great plot line….impossible to put down; can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t turned this one into a movie with the grizzled Tommy Lee Jones as the male lead.

  4. The kid’s book Animalia did a number on me. It’s one of the first set of illustrations that I remember pouring over properly. It was very serious (realistic drawings…) and not at all serious (…of detective kangaroos chugging beers), and I found that very satisfying. I also liked that that sort of page layout is non-linear, self-directed, full of treats if you’re patient. I’m sure that it helped to lay the groundwork for my appreciation of complex illustration, comics and graphic novels today.

  5. The children’s book called The Little Engine That Could teaches great lessons about positive thinking and not giving up on your dreams. My Patrick and his wife Ashley are expecting their first child in April and for their baby shower, they asked if instead of spending money on cards, people would buy a children’s book and write a personal message in the front of the book. That now have a collection of meaningful children’s books; each given with love. Now that is a way to begin a lifetime of a love of literature!

    And one more book to add…
    As a young girl I wrote poetry and was really into Leonard Cohen. when I graduated high school, my English teacher gave me a Leonard Cohen book of poetry with a message encouraging to keep on writing. It meant the world to me and encouraged me to study journalism. I am proud to say that today I am a freelance travel and feature writer. You never know how one small gesture–such as the gift of a book–can change or influence a person’s life. Laurie Wallace-Lynch, Feature Writer, Goodlife Magazine.

  6. The book that was important to me is «Americanah» by Chimamanda Ngozie a Nigerian author. This book spoke to me because I felt he was telling my story as a newcomer. The book shows in a the culture duality of immigrants people when they arrive in a new country. «Americanah» is a romantic book and describes in a funny way the daily life of the newcomers.

  7. There is not one book that changed my life – so many made meaningful impact – but I read Anil’s Ghost over and over again because the writing style is an intoxicant.

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