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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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The Reader That I Am: To Kill A Mockingbird

Not to sound completely cliché, but words really cannot describe how much I adore and cherish Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Although this title was part of my eighth-grade curriculum at Glenfield Middle School in Montclair, New Jersey, it still stands as my #1 favorite book of all time—and that says a lot considering that a decade has passed since my first read, I majored in English and creative writing in college, and I currently have the privilege of working for Scholastic Book Clubs. I have read many, many books over the past ten years, and aside from The Great Gatsby (a very close second), nothing has affected me nearly as much as To Kill a Mockingbird. (Sorry, F. Scott Fitzgerald!)

I have never read a story with such strong, wise, and believable characters, nor have I felt more moved by the moral, social, and racial struggles that Lee wonderfully depicts in this novel. Since I studied To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 13, I have always sought comfort in surrounding myself with books. I certainly do not think that I’d be the reader that I am and the person that I am today, nor would I have been so zealous about working in publishing, if I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d like to thank my English teacher from sixth through eighth grades, Ms. Lofrano, for helping me develop such a love not only for this novel, but also for reading in general. I’d also like to thank my mom, Cindy Miller, who made it her mission to have my sister and me read for pleasure every day after school. A combination of the two definitely made me the reader that I am today.

Indeed, my growing fondness and enthusiasm for this book prompted me to write my AP English senior thesis in high school on To Kill a Mockingbird. When my teacher, Mrs. Kuryllo, assigned us the task of writing a 20–30-page paper, she suggested that we choose a novel that we were passionate about, so that it wouldn’t be as challenging to write about—and so we weren’t as haunted by the length requirement, which seemed like a lot! I was especially excited to have a chance to write about my favorite book, and to reread it again with a more mature perspective. I centered my paper on Atticus Finch’s heroism and honesty, attributes that stayed with me in college during tough decisions.

A second and perhaps more significant time in my life when I turned to To Kill a Mockingbird occurred at the beginning of my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I began my studies in the School of Education, and declared elementary education as my major. In the back of my mind I knew that I was more passionate about reading and writing, but for some reason I was hesitant about declaring a major in English. I was stuck in a dichotomous struggle between my two interests. I turned to the story, and thought about Atticus Finch’s candor and evenhandedness. I own a dusty VHS copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and still get chills over the image of Atticus Finch (portrayed wonderfully by Gregory Peck) reciting the line “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” I could either walk around majoring in something else because I wasn’t confident enough in myself, or I could follow my heart and be as brave as Atticus Finch.

I changed my major to English and creative writing and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Thank you a million times and more, Harper Lee, for playing such a central role in my life.

Written by Book Clubs Creative and Strategic Management Assistant Annie Miller.

Share your own Book Club stories with us. Take a picture of yourself with a book that helped make you a reader and then use the hashtags #ReaderThatIAm and #BookClubStories on Twitter and Instagram. 

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