5 Books That Made a Difference

I begin with a disclaimer.  This list assumes that you, dear reader, know that the Bible is at the top of this list.  It will not be discussed in this blog.  The topic of 5 books that have made a difference in my life comes from Oprah and from WordPress suggestions.  I found it an interesting exercise from the standpoint that I found definite links between the books/characters that describe my evolution to who I am.  I have received strength from these books and their characters.  Their characters created models of who I wanted to be, and the role I wanted to play in the world.  They simultaneously provided a concrete example to work toward and a community created (be that fictional or non-fictional) to support me when the “authentic me” was at odds with the those around me in the real world, and more secure in the company of the literary world.


There is a bit of Howard Roarke within me.  Thanks to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead Roarke’s creativity, conviction and passion were at the core of his life.  The word compromise was not a part of his vocabulary.  Roarke lived in a world that found compromise a much easier path.  There was a price to pay for their decisions, and one to pay for Roarke’s.  While one can be admired for their strength in conviction, there is not always a reward for the Howard Roarke’s of the world.  I have found that admiring another person’s strength of purpose, passion and conviction is not the same as having the strength to support them in their passion.

I first found the writings of Hermann Hesse and specifically, his book Siddhartha, as a college student.  As a young man, Siddhartha left his family to go out into the world to “find himself.”  Who among us has not been there?  The journey is not always a clear path, at times it becomes a “deer path” coming to a dead end rather than an opening to wisdom and life lessons.  Siddhartha became known as a “wandering ascetic.”  Siddhartha’s path brought him to his life path, to seek, and share his gathered wisdom.

Gaelic for “soul friend” anam cara and John O’Donohue introduce us to what it means to be human.  In the Celtic world we are more than flesh and bone, we are linked to both the physical and spiritual world.  O’Donohue lead me into the Celtic world on a journey toward understanding my world view and where that world view fits into the universe.  He presents a new/ancient world view which awakens the Celt within and offers an explanation for undiscovered sources of connection to the earth on the spiritual and metaphysical planes.

The iconic novel and Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960.  I was 11 years old and questioning why the athletic club linked to my father’s employer had a separate club across the street for negro employees and their families.  My oldest brother’s senior class trip involved students staying in two separate hotels in our nations capital because Negroes were not permitted in the original hotel booked.  Through the eyes of young girl named Scout we meet the principled attorney Atticus Finch who provides a model for upholding justice and human dignity.

While awaiting his departure for his homeland, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet seeks to offer not his possessions, because he has none, but his gift of wisdom.  A woman in the crowd at the dock offers questions for this mysterious prophet to answer.  He speaks to us: on Beauty, on Love, on Marriage, on Children, on Friendship, on Work and on Joy and Sorrow.  Although originally published in 1923, The Prophet became the guide for the children of the 60’s.  Gibran continues to inspire new generations and to rejuvenate baby-boomers.

The 5 books that made a difference to me are united by brilliant authors who have created timeless characters of great strength, integrity and conviction.  These characters have become the prize on which I focus my vision.  I crave books with characters, real or fiction, who inspire me to be a better me.  These are five old friends to whom I return repeatedly for guidance and inspiration.

What are you reading???

Scenes from a Bookstore Café

I was originally attracted to the purple fleece jacket he was wearing (I LOVE anything purple!).  He was sitting at a table alone reading a magazine, hand covering the side of his face from the sun rather than getting up from the table and closing the shade.  He was an attractive enough man with salt and pepper hair and a grey mustache.  My imagination pegged him a professional with multiple degrees and certifications.  There was something strange about his appearance though…

He looked as though he had been shot between the eyes by a 1.5″ X 4″ cardboard bullet.  I recognized the problem.  He’d done what I too often do…walked out of the house heading for a bookstore and left his glasses laying on the dining room table.  He was wearing “loaners” taken from the spinning rack of readers near the check-out line.  I can often be caught in the same eye wardrobe, although I usually try to cover the evidence of memory loss by pinching the bridge of my nose trying to leave the impression of a severe sinus headache.  If I have one complaint, those tags are HUGE!!

Okay, so I’m sipping my hazelnut coffee, trying to do some serious writing a la J K Rowling.  I’ve been distracted by a nice looking man with a huge white cardboard tag dangling between his eyes.  Looks like a good match for Minnie Pearl!  The slight murmurings of conversation throughout the café were interrupted by a cell phone ringing.  He reached into his pocket, flipped his phone open and yelled “HELLO!”

At the same time he’s greeting his caller 2 women at an adjacent table increased their volume to drown out all other conversations, face-to-face or digital attracting my auditory attention.  They were discussing the pros and cons of the new age of electronic communication ~ email, Facebook, blackberries, twitter and the family of i’s (pod, phone, pad, etc.).

Six feet away was a woman blocking the doorway to enter/exit the store so she could yell into her cell phone in an attempt to rise above the voices in the café.  Her elevated volume was alternating between “I can’t hear you!” and “Can you hear me now?” and finally settled into the task of finding someone home and available to walk her dog.

The heavy glass door swings opens, a man walks in and has to squeeze around the lady who needs her dog walked while talking on his own cell phone held against his ear.  He walks through the café creating an invisible rhythm, a cadence of words.  It gets louder and more coherent as he weaves a path around the mixture of round, square and rectangular tables to sit across from the good looking Tagman.  They continue their phone conversation with each other as their knees come to within 2″ of meeting under the table.  Looking into each others’ eyes they end their digital conversation and continue their conversation about the Vietnam War face-to-face.

By the time the Doorblocker had found someone to walk her poor dog who was home with his legs crossed wondering when relief would arrive, the photographer at the big table had sold the biggest wedding album he had to offer with video, the two men in the over-stuffed chairs against the wall had discussed the day’s news, debated both sides of the issues and devised a plan to heal the world.  Two tables over was the babysitter reading magazines while a nine year old was doing his homework.

I never did get my writing done.  I was too distracted by the digital/human symphony in the café.  It did, however, have it’s own new age charm!