Books that Changed my Life
Sam Reese - Feeling and Form by Susanne K. Langer
Langer's Feeling and Form changed my life. It is her philosopher's exposition of how the arts present forms of feeling as a mode of understanding and reflecting on how life feels to us and what it means to be a sentient human being. This book caused me to write my first publications for professional music education journals and led to pursuit of a doctorate in education, during which I was able to study with inspiring U of I professors like Charles Leonhard, Harry Broudy, and Ralph Smith. Later, I was an instructor of philosophy of music education in the School of Music.
Ann Wheeler - Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Reading Dandelion Wine at the beginning of every summer for years reminded me how lucky I was to have grown up in a small town in Illinois. His prose is poetry.
Michelle Clayton - Angels in My Hair by Lorna Byrne
This is an autobiography of a woman who has seen and spoken to angels her whole life. She states that everyone has a guardian angel who is with us all our lives, and that we are NEVER alone. When I went through my cancer treatments and my family abandoned me, I had never felt so alone. I can now look back and see that I was never alone. Now, with my son serving in the Marines, in Afghanistan, I know he has his guardian angel looking after him. It has given me much peace knowing this. My stress level dropped considerably and I feel okay about him being in Afghanistan. I still pray for his safety, but a ton of stress is gone! I have since read all her books and started writing two journals. My first one is of my past journey and finding God in many steps and decisions I made. My second journal is my every day experiences. This journaling has enabled me to change my perspective and gain insight to my life adventures.
Jo Pride - Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen
I found that reading this book helped me during the loss of a loved one.
Samuel Bostaph - Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
This book inspired me to begin taking life seriously. I read it as an undergraduate and it opened a whole spectrum of serious questions that had not really occurred to me until then. I'm still exploring them.
Albert Himoe - Bias in Mental Testing by Arthur Robert Jensen
This book educated me in psychometrics, a field in which I have no particular background. The author, an intellectual giant, died recently. This book dispelled egalitarian delusions which are still being propagated in our schools and by the mainstream press.
Marilyn Hill - The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I have read two books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that inspired and impressed me. For those not familiar with him, he was a German theologian during the 1930's as Hitler rose to power. He was hanged in 1945 for his ostensible part in the attempt on Hitler's life, just a few days before the Allies liberated the camp in which he was held.
Cheri Sullivan - High school world history textbook
I don't remember the title or author of this book, but it made me think about the world in a whole new way. My class had covered the civilizations of the ancient near east and Asia, and then we were assigned a chapter on the rise of Christianity. At first I smiled to myself at how funny it was to see my personal heritage described as though it were fundamentally the same as the other cultures we had studied, but then a light bulb went on in my head, and I haven't seen anything the same way since.
Isabel Cole - Blue Latitudes by Tony Horowitz
After I read Blue Latitudes, I had to go to the big island of Hawaii and see where Capt. Cook was killed. Also just finished his latest - Midnight Rising about John Brown and the raid on Harper's Ferry - fascinating. If I had not already been there, I would have to go there!
Jean Due - The Bible
The book is The Bible, which I try to follow but often fall short.
Priscilla Fortier - The Once and Future King by T.H. White
n I was 17, I read T. H. White's 1939 retelling of the King Arthur legend, The Once and Future King. Because of this book, I fell in love with the story and eventually pursued a master's degree in German literature, where I specialized in the courtly epics and Arthurian legends. I didn't stay in that field...I needed a job and eventually moved into higher education administration, but I continue to love this legend and still read related retellings when I have the chance.
Louise Allen - Book of Knowledge
When I was a little girl back in the 1930's, there was a children's encyclopedia that preceded the World Book. It was called the Book of Knowledge and had multiple volumes, I think about 24 in all. Each volume had a section called "Little Lessons in French," with French words and phrases, semi-phonetic spelling to give the child some idea of how to pronounce them, and line drawings of people doing what the phrases were about - eating, riding trains, greeting guests and taking leave of them, and much more. The people were dressed in French-looking clothes - berets on the men and boys, aprons on the waiters, elegant dresses and hats on the women, and dresses with pinafores on the girls. I studied these for hours and tried to pronounce and learn them.
Then I discovered that one of our neighbors was the Belgian Consul in Kansas City and he and his wife spoke French to each other! I managed to get acquainted with them and learned they had no children but liked kids. I took the Book of Knowledge volumes to their house and got them to teach me how to REALLY pronounce the words. I became determined to go to Belgium or France as a foreign correspondent when I grew up. Unfortunately, however, a little disturbance called WWII came along at just the wrong time for my plans to be an overseas journalist, so I did the next-best thing - took Latin and French in high school and went to college to major in French and teach it to other Americans. Although I switched the major to the more-marketable Spanish, I minored in French, jabbered incessantly with French-speaking friends, and went to all the French movies I could find. Eventually I met and married a man who had already read the whole of Proust's Temps Perdu in the original and took a PhD in romance linguistics - nuff said? Now I have been to France many times, usually traveling on French Line ships, and also to several of the Francophile former colonies. I remain grateful to the "Little Lessons in French" in the Book of Knowledge.
Priscilla Christians - Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
The book that probably most influenced my life is Winnie the Pooh! My college age sister gave me A.A. Milne's books when I was in elementary school and could read for myself. I think they drew me into children's literature more than any others. I became an elementary teacher, then a school librarian in my second career. I found I had to overcome all the Disney commercialization of Pooh to convince 3rd and 4th graders that these books were not just for pre-schoolers and the walls of infant nurseries, but the humor, misspellings, and psychology of characterization would be most appreciated at their level and beyond! As a family we enjoyed many readings of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and I often fondly called my youngest son "Pooh." These truly are books for all ages!
Doug Foster - Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
The book that changed my life would have to be Shogun. After reading Shogun, I developed an interest in Asian culture.
Pat Schutt - Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai City by Katherine Boo
The book that "changed my life" was Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Katherine Boo. It was about life, death, and hope surrounding the incredible life of an enterprising boy and families scavenging and making a "living" in the garbage dumps on the edge of the airport in Mumbai (Bombay). Wonderfully researched and written with incredible heart, I found it difficult to put down. My son-in-law is from India and he said he "didn't need to read it" - but I did.
Bonnie Hudson - Clarence Darrow for the Defense by Irving Stone
This was the first book that I read that presented philosophical and political ideas to me, so when I read this as a sophomore in high school, I can remember thinking I LIKED THINKING! Still remember this to this day.
Don Francisco - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Ever since my fifth grade teacher told the class that her brother was lost to "...what Mr. Hitler did in Europe," I was curious and more interested in what happened there and then. My father had been in the Pacific but that never got my attention. In my freshman year at college I had the opportunity to read, and write a report on, William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. When I got to the section about the Holocaust I stayed up all night reading it to the end. My book report was on the whole book and was 1-1/2 pages and I got an A- on it.
As the years went by, I learned more and read more, was fascinated and knew it all was important. Then, in the mid 1970's, I came upon Herman Wouk's Winds of War. I read that and could not wait for the sequel, War and Remembrance. I bought the first hard cover copy I saw and got perhaps too involved with the characters and the story and felt as if I was there with them. At the end of the second book one of the main characters (now a Holocaust survivor, as she was slowly recovering from the shock and horror) told her husband, a U. S. Navy Officer who had just found her in a DP camp, that she had to go to Palestine. So, I turned to Joyce and told her we had to go to Israel.
That was in September and we had no passports or tickets or language or anything. Early in November we were driving around Israel learning what a wonderful country it is. Since then I have been back six times and converted to Judaism and have been working on Holocaust Education, mostly in Delaware and just beginning in Illinois. Without the power of those books, which, in a note to me, Wouk called, his 'little romances,' I am not sure what direction my life would have taken and I am sure I would not have met some wonderful people I consider to be very important.
Barbara Kessel - The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The book that has had the most impact on me since retirement (8 years) is The New Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander gave a speech at the Illini Union earlier this year.
Jack Waaler - Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress - and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig
This book does not qualify as career shaping or other such effect, but I found Republic Lost by Harvard professor Larry Lessig illuminating on the matter of how money contributions control Congress. I knew it was a factor, but this book proves how pervasive and controlling it is. It is no wonder we are in trouble.
Barbara Meyer - Across the Mongolian Plains by Roy Chapman Andrews
It was both the book and the place - the Pullman Library on the south side of Chicago and the very first book I was allowed to check out when they decided to bend the rules and let a kid enter the adult department. Roy Chapman Andrews was the archeologist said the be the inspiration for Indiana Jones. He faced sandstorms, bandits and vipers in Outer Mongolia for science.
Andrew's story read in that beautiful terra cotta and brick library with sunlight streaming through the windows showed me a world beyond Roseland and whispered of a future that held far more than what was expected of girls in the 1950s. Life could include inquiry and science and adventure. For awhile I wanted to be a paleontologist, followed by a number of other "ologists", including geo, archae, and bio. I ultimately landed on bio but never did find a dinosaur egg or drive a Dodge across the Gobi desert. I'm still looking for the egg though.
Jeff Miller - Future Shock by Alvin Toffler and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
Future Shock helped explain where we were going and much of it still holds true today (best I remember anyway). Psycho-Cybernetics was a powerful book that let people know they could set their own course of actions and perception of self.