Everyone who has ever read at least one book has a story that has touched them. Whether it was read as a child, during a definitive period of a person’s life, or whether it’s something that contains a particularly appealing or illuminating story or character, these novels often stay with their audience for years.
In that spirit, Springfield College faculty and staff—dozens of members of the campus community—spent the summer and fall of 2018 sharing their favorite pieces of literature, providing insight into their lives, interests, and personalities.
PBS launched the Great American Read in early 2018, looking to find America’s most-loved novel. In the spring, they announced their top 100 finalists and gave viewers months to read and vote on their favorite before To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was announced the winner on Oct. 23. As a way to participate in the campaign, Springfield College Library Services staff invited all faculty and staff to select one of the top 100 titles and share why they enjoyed it, why they believed it is an important read, and why they’d recommend it to others (as well as to vote for it as the greatest novel). The commentary, along with a selfie of the reviewer with their book of choice, was shared on the Library Services Facebook page and the @SCLearningCommons Instagram account with the hashtag #GreatSCRead.
The campus community embraced the project, with 73 of the 100 titles claimed by faculty or staff members. The participants represented 35 departments and ranged from new faculty who had yet to step on campus to staff members with decades of experience under their belts. There were librarians and custodians, administrative assistants and counselors, and President Mary-Beth Cooper.
Moreso than the wide variety of participants were the glimpses into their lives and personalities. Linda Marston, the director of grants and sponsored research, shared that she read Things Fall Apart when the author, acclaimed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, was a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts and Marston was in his class. “The read was at first challenging because his style reflects the oral traditions of his west African Igbo society, interweaving folk stories and proverbs in the telling,” she shared. “Having accepted the challenge, however, I received my first exposure to the beauty, poetry, and struggles of a traditional culture fighting against colonialism.”
Cathy Xu, acquisitions specialist for the library, first read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in her native China. Little Women helped Jennifer Thompson from the Center for Service and Leadership better appreciate her sisters. Lauri Gumlaw’s father convinced the administrative assistant to read Gone With the Wind by promising to take her to see the movie in theaters (even though it wasn’t actually playing). Janine Spinola Taylor has used The Coldest Winter Ever throughout her professional career working with at-risk young women and as a professor for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.