Off The Shelf @ Your Library

By Kathy Pillatzki

The Great American Read #7

As part of our ongoing coverage of The Great American Read (TGAR), we’ve been asking local folks from library staff to elected officials to everyone in between which book on TGAR list is their favorite. We’ve gotten some fun and thought-provoking feedback, so I decided to reach beyond Henry County and also shift the focus for a moment to writers as readers. I asked a few published authors to name their favorites, and their responses were thoughtful and engaging.

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Carolyn Haines, bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries, couldn’t choose just one. “Rebecca, a story that to this day haunts me. What a wonderful ability to deceive the reader! To Kill a Mockingbird, which made me understand emotionally the horror of racism, and it was set in a place I knew inside out, the rural South. It taught me about the courage to stand for what you believe in. And The Lord of the Rings, which was also about courage and friendship and standing for what is right, but set in a fantasy world. ‘The time of men is ending.’ is one of the saddest lines written, and I think of it a lot in these times.”

She also threw in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. “Simply marvelous writing and incredibly done. [Irving] is absolutely brilliant. I heard him talk one time about how he structures his books. I almost quit writing because I don’t have the gift he has. He is a genius.” I’m glad she didn’t quit writing, but what a powerful statement.

Without hesitation, Georgia author Mary Kay Andrews named Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: “Hauntingly atmospheric setting, the novelty of a protagonist whose name we never learn, and a tragic, doomed hero. I first read it in my early twenties and have been obsessed with Rebecca ever since. For me, Gothic novels have never gone out of style.”

To my surprise and delight, an email to children’s author Jerry Spinelli got an immediate and unreserved response. His favorite book is When You are Happy by his wife, Eileen Spinelli. When I pointed out that, regrettably, that one didn’t make the list of TGAR finalists, he had no trouble naming a second choice. “Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books and became my all-time favorite movie.” When I asked him why he picked the L.M. Montgomery classic, he confessed a fondness for orphan stories. I was utterly charmed, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. A number of characters in his considerable body of work are orphans, including the title character in Maniac Magee, for which Spinelli won the highest honor in American children’s literature in 1990, the Newbery Medal.

I’m still waiting to hear back from a few other Georgia authors that have expressed an interest in TGAR. Also, I’ve yet to hear back from Stephen King, but hope springs eternal. I’ll keep you posted.

To participate in The Great American Read, start by visiting can-read. You can check out the 100 finalists, take the quiz, and participate in a virtual book club. If you’d like to have your pick included in a future column, send an email to director@henry with TGAR in the subject line.

Kathy Pillatzki is the Director of the Henry County Library System and a writer. She has raised four daughters, two of her own and two long-term exchange students. Kathy lives in Hampton with her husband, Dan, and an assortment of animals. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, reading and arguing with strangers.