A recent column in Rotarian magazine reported that the average American reads approximately four books a year. Most find that more than sufficient. I read a lot of books but mostly for research and specific information along with a host of magazines and newspapers. I rarely find the time to read for sheer pleasure, but I’m working on it.
After reading the Rotarian piece, I decided to check with a number of people and ask what book or books they have read that they believe did or could change the world. Here are some of the email responses that I received.
Noreen O’Regan, a former Fairfield City Council member, is an avid reader. For the past 40 years, she has challenged herself to read between 75 to 100 books a year. “It may not be changing the world, but it certainly has had an impact on how I live my life.”
Frances McCullough, a retired college professor, puts “The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot at the top of her list as a book that has already changed the world. Lacks, a poor Southern farmer, became a cancer patient in the black ward at John Hopkins Hospital, where cells were cut from her cervix without her knowledge several months before her death during the 1950s. Henrietta’s cells, or Hela cells as they’re now called, became one of the most important advancements in modern medicine.
Chris Ryan of Ryan’s Designs recommends “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauers as an outstanding book used by thousands of large companies such as Amway and others. By identifying the four social styles of others, it highly enhances communication. “Amongst the thousands of books that I have read, no other has given me a skill that not only is valuable to me but can affect so many other lives.”
Margaret Renn, a retired educator, wrote that she didn’t know if “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell would change the world but she found several of his ideas intriguing. Success, according to Gladwell, is a combination of ability, luck and hard work (practice); neither genius alone nor practice alone ensures success; nor is luck passive, it is the ability to recognize and capitalize on opportunity. Boys have the best chance for success in school if they are older, and that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything.
Linda Brinkman, who lives in Walnut Creek and is retired primary teacher, emailed that reading tops a priority in her life and that she has books in every room in her house. She highly recommends “American Chick in Saudi Arabia” by Jean Sasson. The book takes the reader to Saudi Arabia where the author covers herself with a veil and abaya so no one will know that she’s a blonde American woman who walks with the cloaked women in the markets. She risks her life to show how women live there.
Randy Carlson, a former Suisun City councilman and a retired teacher, wrote that the Bible is by far the most life-changing book that he has ever read and that as a child and teenager he attended Sunday school and services afterward and didn’t miss one Sunday in 12 years. Then he entered the University of Iowa and took a course called Ancient and Modern Literature. For the first time, he read the Bible from cover to cover. There were so many contradictions and absurdities that he became a nonbeliever and remains so to this day.
Constance Boulware, a Rio Vista City Council member, wrote that though “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale is no longer in print, there are reviews from Kindle downloads. “It is good to know that people are still trying to find ways to stay positive.”
Sam Catania, a retired teacher, shared that he loves to read and as a kid, he lived near the Sonoma County library and couldn’t wait to check out books. Books he would recommend include “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe because they had a profound effect in depicting racial and social injustices, some that are still with us today.
Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.