As Thanksgiving nears and we are close to wrapping up another year of SageBroadview posts, I find myself reflecting on a favorite theme: Things that make me grateful. Some of my favorite things on that count include: (1) my family, friends and clients, (2) my colleagues, and (3) my reading.
I can’t think of a better way to combine some of my favorite things into one thankful post by asking the rest of the SageBroadview team what their own favorite books have been. Inspired by Jeff Annello’s Farnam Street post: “Life Changing Books,” here are some of the book(s) that have influenced our lives. (BTW, Jeff’s name is no coincidence; he is Chris’s younger brother.)
Chris Annello’s Pick: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey
Covey’s timeless classic went deep for me. Nearly every day and without even thinking about it anymore, I find myself applying some of the high-level habits I learned from reading it, like being proactive, setting goals and being an understanding person. That last one also comes in handy in my role as a new parent!
Lynn Baker’s Pick: “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver
This book is not a lighthearted tale by any stretch of the imagination, but I read it years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since, as I’ve thought through its meaning and the lessons it may teach.
The book is about a mother who has a child with violent tendencies. The mother is basically an ordinary person; she could be any one of us. Being a parent is the job I take most to heart in this world, so the book left me wondering … What if? What if my child had been born with bad in her soul, in a way that I could not fix? I don’t know whether there is an answer to that question, but I think it has left me more appreciative for how fragile our world can be, and how important it is to never take our love for one another for granted.
Larry Annello’s Pick: “Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima,” by James Bradley and Ron Powers
“Flags of Our Fathers” was important to me since it allowed me to learn of the life events that impacted my father. My dad was a WWII veteran and, as was common for soldiers of that era, he never discussed his time in the Army with me, nor his memories of what happened to him in the Philippine Islands. I only knew from his two Purple Hearts that he served his country well.
Reading this book more than 25 years after my father passed away, I finally gained some understanding of what he had experienced; why he had such a strong bond with his comrades in arms from Middletown, CT; and why he had kept the events to himself all those years. Looking back, I wish he could have told me his story firsthand. I would have been so proud to share it with my granddaughter Avery, so she would know what a hero her great-grandfather had been.
Ryan Van Keuren’s Pick: “American Sniper,” by Chris Kyle
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “He probably just saw the movie.” It is true that I did enjoy the movie, but I would recommend you read the autobiography as well, like I did. Reading Chris Kyle’s story, told in his own words, is an entirely different – and worthwhile – experience.
Sheri Iannetta Cupo’s Pick: “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle
How can I pick just one? The hundreds of books I’ve read in my life are all a part of me. But if forced, I would have to pick “A Wrinkle in Time.” It was, and still is, a magical science fiction book where good ultimately triumphs over evil, where the protagonist Meg Murry defeats the book’s villain with her smarts and her love. I basically wanted to be Meg Murry. Not your typical heroine (as described in this New York Times review), she is brainy and introverted and strong. Hmmm. To this day, I’m not sure if I became who I am because of Meg, or if I identified with her because of who I already was. (I can’t wait for the release of the Disney movie!)
David Principe’s Pick: “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O,” by Shel Silverstein
Editor’s note: We think you’ll agree that David put his all into his response, so we’ve saved his pick for last.
This is a tough task for me. My default is not to sit down and read. It’s to go out and do. That means my most common reading is the daily news, and “how to” stuff on Google. But before I gave up entirely on the exercise, I thought, why not browse the bookshelves in our home, to rediscover what books have latched onto us and held a special place in our lives.
As I looked over the spines, I ran across some titles that I had enjoyed reading or found helpful in the “how to” department, but nothing noteworthy. Then I came across two picks that were up to the task of having collided with my life and resulted in new trajectories (i.e., changed me).
In second place is the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, “Singing the Living Tradition.” As newlyweds and new parents, my wife Karla and I checked out a UU church and felt an instant connection. Over the years, we’ve formed some of our closest friendships and core principles through this faith. As for the book itself, we have sung and read from it countless times in numerous settings. Its words and music are embedded in us.
In first place is “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O,” mostly because of the one-of-a-kind inscription on its inside front cover:
From One Big O to Another –
We roll well together, even if we are on separate roads.
My 21-year-old self wrote this the spring of my senior year in Colorado to a pen-pal English teacher named Karla, who lived 2,000 miles away in rural Maine. We had not yet met in person. Following graduation, I wound up in California and then served in the Peace Corps even farther away. But we kept up those letters, give or take, and all the while lifting, pulling, flopping and rolling, to paraphrase Silverstein.
When I was 21, I understood the essence of Silverstein’s story, but I couldn’t have imagined that my and Karla’s paths would ultimately roll along together in marriage … through family crises and celebrations, raising a family, pursuing respective careers, and now looking ahead to being empty-nesters in the not-so-distant future.
On and on we roll, together and as ourselves. With that book, resting lightly on the shelf we share in our home.
SAGE Serendipity: There are just a few days left to cast your ballot for your favorite book in Goodreads Choice awards 2016. Here you can also see the previous year’s winners as well as some great conversations and book reviews. It’s a great site to join — it’s free and it’s interesting. See you there!