10 Most Influential Books


-By Melissa Gibson

What are the ten most influential books you have ever read? These would be the books that have touched your life in some way; awakened an interest, formed ideas or established a lifelong love. If you are a long-time reader it may be difficult to limit your list to only ten and your list may change with your moods.  Here is my list of books I met before my sophomore year in high school which I loved dearly, thought about deeply or which changed the way I viewed my world.

1. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. The first “big” book I read by myself, this enchanting novel is a doll’s memoirs and is by turns haunting, hilarious and thought-provoking.

2. The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. OK, I cheated a bit here. I was a horse-freak as a girl (still am) and I simply couldn’t get enough of these books. We read the first one, The Black Stallion as a family when I was in the second grade and then I was off and running, devouring the rest by myself.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was so immersed in Burnett’s garden I couldn’t tear myself away and so finished this book by flashlight under the covers. Shhhh.

4. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Pooh was my first introduction to refined, understated literary humor. My sister and I read this aloud (with all the voices) to truly experience the magic of The Hundred Acre Woods.

5. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. Horses, again. But O’Hara’s world was vastly different from the less nuanced work of Farley with her beautiful, delicate descriptions that immerses the reader completely in her world.

6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This was another after-dark-under-the-covers read for me. I had a deal with my mother – I could read what I wanted (in this case Mitchell’s iconic work) if I read The Deerslayer first. I read Fenimore’s plodding classic in the daylight hours so all could see what an obedient daughter I was but read all of Gone by flashlight at night under the covers.

7. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. This is my epiphany book, the one after which I never saw the world, my nation and its history quite the same again.

8. Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor. Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the Confederate POW camp in Georgia has become the standard by which I have since judged every work of historical fiction ever since I read it one summer, baking in a lawn chair in my backyard, horror-struck and mesmerized by Kantor’s prose.

9. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Mr. Pickwick and his misadventures introduced me to the classics in an entirely new way and I fell in love with Dickens and English literature as a result.

10. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Curiosity led me to read this expose of the Russian prison system written by one of the Soviet’s most famous defectors but through it I discovered a fascination with Russian literature that has never entirely left me.

This is my list. What’s on yours?

The Case of the Whiskered Trespasser, and a Day in the Life of Your Library.

Whiskered Trespasser

By the time most library patrons walk through our doors each day, a lot of lists and checklists have been completed.  It begins with the very early morning arrival of our Director, Patti Burnside, who switches off the alarm system for the maintenance staff.  Walking constantly throughout the facility each day, our maintenance crew appreciates an arrival punctuated by the sound of birdsong, and a quiet building, for now.

More staffers arrive and start marking off those checklists.  Empty the book drop, check.  Unlock the doors at 9:00 a.m., check.  Look at the schedule to figure out what task you will move on to next at what time.  Make fresh coffee, for sure….check.  As the phones ring and people arrive, the vibe in the building is cheerful, because we mean it when we say we enjoy helping the public.

One late summer morning, we were greeted by a long-legged, meowing kitten, who scurried several times, through several entrances into the building.  Affectionate and quite vocal, after his third trespass, we corralled him into an office, agreeing that he sure was sweet and cute, but chasing this leggy intruder through the halls could not continue.

While some of us fetched water, (and swiped some half-n-half from a co-worker’s container) we carried bowls and small quilts, and a make shift litter box into an office.  What kitty didn’t know was that his temporary shelter happened to be in Melissa’s office, a cat-lover who has done more than her share, over the years to save and care for homeless cats.

Then our co-worker, Mike, stepped up the pressure, asking each one of us, (animal lovers all), if we needed another pet.  His appeal was punctuated by the wailing meows of our captive library cat, who drained the water bowl, played in it for a time, jumped into a box of  DVDs waiting to be cataloged, then spilled them onto the floor.

Our library routine pleasantly and thoroughly disrupted, it was Patti who knew kitty deserved more than an admiring group of adults peering through the glass at this whiskered intruder. The Scott County Animal Shelter agreed to pick him up, keep him safe and healthy and find it a new home.

In a mostly quiet environment filled with the hum of human voices, laughter, music, play and discovery, a break in routine can help to re-charge your outlook.  A library is a unique community center, and as our cat rescue operation unfolded, reminded us that each day is unpredictable yet rewarding. So, besides herding a kitten, we enjoy answering questions, helping people download materials, or find that next great book to enjoy.  That’s one constant in a library no one needs to add to a checklist, because it’s automatic and the best part of the job.