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August 10, 2016

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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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In Memoriam: Harper Lee

Many of the books that students are required to read in school are skimmed quickly, read begrudgingly, and almost immediately forgotten. One shining exception to this is Harper Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Until last year, this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel stood alone as the author’s only published novel. But this single work has been cited by generations of readers as being not only their favorite book but also the novel that has influenced their life more than any other.

When news of Harper Lee’s passing was announced today, Reading Club staffers immediately began to share their memories of the book and how much it’s meant to them in their own lives.

Ms. Lee, thank you for introducing us to Atticus and Scout. Your influence on our lives as readers—and as citizens of the world—is immeasurable.

 

 

“I know it’s so cliché, but I’ve read this book more than any other book published. I was always a reader as a kid—but reading this in seventh grade made me an adult reader, if that makes sense. I related more to Scout than any other character I had ever met through books.” —Laura Demoreuille

“In the fall of 2001, I was living in Chicago, and the city decided to promote a reading initiative to encourage everyone to read the same book at the same time in a sort of extended citywide book club. They selected To Kill a Mockingbird, which was apparently one of the mayor’s favorites. I hadn’t read it, so it seemed like an opportune time to do so. As much as I fell in love with the book like everyone else, I also remember that thrill of seeing it everywhere, on the el trains and buses, in coffee shops, on colleagues’ desks. Not only were we all able to experience the uplift (and heartbreak) of the novel together, but it made me feel that just maybe, as a society, we might be capable of evolving and accomplishing things together, too.” —Sean McMahill

“One of my favorite scenes from the novel (and the movie) is when Scout confronts the angry mob in front of the jail. Her innocent, prodding questions force the man out of his anger and, goaded by his own shame, he disperses the crowd. Harper Lee’s passing reminds me it’s time to read the book—and be inspired—again.” —Nelson Wakefield

“When my daughter was in preschool, my infant son and I would go to a funky neighborhood coffee shop called Mr. Chips to wait for her. The two Greek guys who owned it were always at the grill, the cashier was in his 40s, and the waiter was 80 at least. It was neighborhood only, and the coffee and corn muffins were all that were edible. But every single morning, sitting at the counter drinking coffee and eating her muffin, was Harper Lee. I wanted so badly to bring in my copy of Mockingbird for her to sign, but I couldn’t intrude on her privacy. You could just tell she valued her anonymity so much. I never got her signature, but I enjoyed breakfast with her for three years.” —Alexandra Tufts-Simon

“In 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 To Kill a Mockingbird 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.” —Annie Miller

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February 19, 2016