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There's nothing better than a book you can't put down—or better yet, a book you'll never forget. This book puts the power of transformational reading into your hands. Jack Canfield, cocreator of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, and self-actualization pioneer Gay Hendricks have invited notable people to share personal stories of books that changed their lives. What book shaped their outlook and habits? Helped them navigate rough seas? Spurred them to ...
There's nothing better than a book you can't put down—or better yet, a book you'll never forget. This book puts the power of transformational reading into your hands. Jack Canfield, cocreator of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, and self-actualization pioneer Gay Hendricks have invited notable people to share personal stories of books that changed their lives. What book shaped their outlook and habits? Helped them navigate rough seas? Spurred them to satisfaction and success?
The contributors include Dave Barry, Stephen Covey, Malachy McCourt, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Mark Victor Hansen, John Gray, Christiane Northrup, Bernie Siegel, Craig Newmark, Michael E. Gerber, Lou Holtz, and Pat Williams, to name just a few. Their richly varied stories are poignant, energizing, and entertaining.Author and actor Malachy McCourt tells how a tattered biography of Gandhi, stumbled on in his youth, offered a shining example of true humility—and planted the seeds that would help support his sobriety decades later.
Bestselling author and physician Bernie Siegel, M.D., tells how William Saroyan's The Human Comedy helped him realize that, in order to successfully treat his patients with life-threatening illnesses, "I had to help them live—not just prevent them from dying."
Actress Catherine Oxenberg reveals how, at a life crossroads and struggling with bulimia, a book taught her the transforming difference one person could make in the life of another—and why that person for her was Richard Burton.
Rafe Esquith, the award-winning teacher whose inner-city students have performed Shakespeare all over the world, recounts his deep self-doubt in the midst of his success—and how reading To Kill a Mockingbird strengthened him to continue teaching.
Beloved librarian and bestselling author Nancy Pearl writes how, at age ten, Robert Heinlein's science fiction book Space Cadet impressed on her the meaning of personal integrity and gave her a vision of world peace she'd never imagined possible. Two years later, she marched in her first civil rights demonstration and learned that there's always a way to make "a small contribution to intergalactic harmony."
If you're looking for insight and illumination—or simply for that next great book to read—You've Got to Read This Book! has treasures in store for you.
Jacquelyn Mitchard is a critically acclaimed New York Times best-selling author. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the first book selected for Oprah's Book Club and was made into a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. She has written five other novels and three children's books. A newspaper reporter since 1976, she now writes a nationally syndicated column for Tribune Media Services and travels to promote awareness of colorectal cancer, which took the life of her first husband, award-winning reporter Dan Allegretti. Jacquelyn lives on an old farm south of Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband Chris Brent and their seven children, who range in age from 4 months to 22 years.
A few years ago, on my birthday, a simple box arrived in the mail from my dear friend and agent, Jane Gelfman. When I opened it and saw what it contained, tears welled up in my eyes. It was a first edition of the book that I loved more than any other: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The copy was inscribed lovingly by the author, Betty Smith, to her own agent, and tucked inside were letters she had written, preserved just as they were 60 years ago. At this point, even my children, gathered around the dinner table, grew misty eyed. They knew how I feltabout this book, its author, and its heroine.
Some months before, I had herded my three teenaged sons into a budget screening of the newest movie production of Little Women. They entered that theater as willingly as accused felons being led to jail while TV cameras rolled—their coats hunched over their faces, lest they encounter anyone they knew.
Afterward, however, they realized why Little Women was required reading in our house full of little men, along with a couple of other "girl" books, including National Velvet and, of course, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My son Dan, who, before puberty and Limp Bizkit hit simultaneously, was known to us as "the sensitive one," said as we got into the car, "I get it. When you were a kid, you wanted to be Jo March, didn't you, Mom?"
I had to admit it—I did want to be Jo, the brilliant young heroine of Little Women, growing up with a gentle, endlessly patient mother and a brave, wise, and superbly educated father; surrounded by books, piano music, genteel poverty, and noble breeding, in a large house shaded by old trees and with handsome boys next door. But I knew, and my children knew, I was Francie Nolan, the plucky, resourceful star of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Like Francie, I'd been an urban child; I recognized the Brooklyn tree that Betty Smith describes in the book's epigraph:
". . . Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that . . . survives without sun, water and seemingly, without earth. It would be considered beautiful, except that there are too many. . . ."
There were trees like that on the West Side of Chicago, too. I'd lived in an apartment there when I was small. My aunt and uncle lived downstairs and my grandparents lived one building over. Everyone was either a plumber or a bricklayer. Our family, though always employed, definitely aspired to the lower-middle class. But I was the daughter of parents who never finished high school: a mother devoted to books and to my only brother and me, and an alcoholic father who worked so long and played so hard, we barely saw him. Our extended family was large, sometimes raucously loving, and sometimes raucously violent. The laughter was often too loud; the songs beautiful, but the words often slurred. Books were a shelter and a friend to me when that shelter wasn't available in real life.
My mother sought that shelter, too. Long before Oprah, she read the great books: Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment. She didn't realize that she was too uneducated—that those books were not meant for her. She always brought home the very best things to read from the library. She gave me the message that nothing was off limits for me, that the circumstances of my birth would not contain me, and that as long as I could learn, I could never be a prisoner of my circumstances.
One day when I was 12 she gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Since that day, I've read it 11 times. I have a tradition of reading it before every book that I write. A work of fiction, it's a beautiful portrayal of urban poverty, and very gritty. We think of it as a book for little seventh-grade girls, but it isn't. It's a book in which there are terrifying things: alcoholism and child abuse and children in terribly dangerous circumstances caused by neglect.
Yet Francie's mother, Katie, makes Francie's life a stable place and points her toward education—in Francie's case, secretarial school, though she wants to be a writer. Katie teaches her that education is the only way to leave behind the kind of life in which she's grown up—the life of a tree forcing its way through the cracks in the cement, surviving on not much more than its own fierce will to live. Her mother was the person who best understood Francie's life ambitions and how difficult they were going to be to achieve. I was struck by how understanding her mother was of Francie as she matured—it reminded me of my own mother, who was the same way with me until she died when I was 19.
Francie Nolan did grow up to be a writer. Reading her story as a child, I felt she was showing me . . .
Excerpted from You've GOT to Read This Book! LP by Jack Canfield Copyright © 2006 by Jack Canfield. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
As Jack and Gay say in their introductory essay: "We love books, and we bet you do, too. We especially love books that inspire, heal, and transform lives. It has been our long-held dream to put into your hands a work that carries the essence of what we believe to be most valuable about a book: its potential to change your life. This collection of stories is the fulfillment of that dream."
Take your reading group discussion in new directions with You've GOT to Read This Book! Delve deeper into the transforming power of books and you may be surprised at what you discover about your reading group friends and about yourself!
"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."—Oliver Wendell Holmes
Questions for Discussion
1. Which of the essays affected you the most? Could you relate to one of the books more than others? Did any author surprise you with his or her choice?
2. Two contributors selected Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and discuss similar aspects but from very different points of view. Which resonated more with you and why?
3. Today's society has become dominated by visual media such as television and video games. Discuss the relevance of books today. Why are they still so important in your life and in the lives of others?
4. Discuss the last time two people in your group had completely opposite views on a book you read. What were the possible reasons for such disparate reactions?
5. How has reading changed your life? What was the first book you read that made you realize the power of books?
6. Which five books would you want with you if you found yourself stranded on a desert island?
Posted September 28, 2006