Books That Influence You – To Kill a Mockingbird

The first time I met Laura Harris, I knew we would hit it off right away. Ms. Harris is another of our “Fabulous Faculty”, and teaches English here for us at Globe – Sioux Falls. Like me, she has a wide and varied interest in literature of all kinds. That said, I knew that when I approached her with “the question”, she would smile, and would have an interesting; a very interesting answer. And she did!
As she says, “I could have written about many books that have influenced my life, but I thought I’d keep it to two if you don’t mind. I cut and pasted from a Word doc…
For an English teacher, this was a difficult prompt, Doug, to reflect upon the more influential literature in my life. However, there are a number of books that have had a positive impact upon me, but to narrow the list down to a heart-wrenching bare minimum, I’ll share one fiction and one non-fiction that have a prominent spot on my bookshelf at home.
By far, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird flies high in my memory as one of my favorite books. It’s a story (her only publication) that carries the reader back to Alabama in the early 30’s during the Depression and the Jim Crow era of segregation. It’s a classic due to the universal themes that course through human nature: loss of innocence, good vs. evil, courage vs. cowardice, living an honest and good life despite the temptations to do otherwise…. The list goes on. And I will have to add it’s the only book I’ve read where I felt the movie version reflected the book, character for character and chapter for chapter, despite the fact it’s only 90 minutes long! Warning to our readers under 40: the movie is in black and white, but it’s so very worth the view.
One of the most helpful non-fiction books I read and will still reference is The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck. My father read it first and offered each of his adult children (five of us) $50.00 to read and discuss it with him afterwards. The author, Dr. Peck, was a renowned psychologist and author whose main focus in A Road Less Traveled revolves around helping the reader live a more focused, conscientious and productive life. I love his style of writing too; simple, yet profound. It was an investment that has had a number of healthy returns, as the $50 offer to read it actually paved the way for many shared books and conversations between my father and me, which we still practice to this day (though he doesn’t pay me to read the titles he shares, unfortunately:).
What book or person influenced you the most to start your professional education or career?