Book a Passage to Change...
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And which book changed your life? When Roxanne Coady asked authors visiting her Madison, Conn., bookstore, R. J. Julia Booksellers, the answers ranged from the Bible (Joseph Lieberman) to Shakespeare (Frank McCourt) to Pippi Longstocking (Anne Lamott) to The Exorcist (Chris Bohjalian). "Books can change you by helping you think about yourself and the world in a way that is liberating," says Coady, who, with co-editor Joy Johannssen, gathered a life-changing booklist in The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (Gotham Books). At the same time, "books cumulatively enhance our understanding of ourselves and others, and in ways we can be utterly unaware of."
Which means, who knows which book will open you to change, until you open it?
To find out which books inspired readers to make changes in their lives and minds this year, we called independent booksellers around the country.
HOW WE TREAT OUR PLANET
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore (Rodale) presents a "hard hitting" vision of environmental crisis, says Mary Catherine McCarthy, vice president of Milwaukee's Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops. But Gore also offers hope and an action plan, including "practical, simple things we can all do to make a significant difference, such as use different kinds of lightbulbs, drink from the faucet, and stop using water in bottles."
HOW WE VIEW POLITICS
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (Crown). After so much negative campaigning, and an overload of talk-show screeds, here's a book about politics that looks toward the future "with a positive vision that is hopeful and upbeat, as opposed to writing about what's wrong with whoever you don't like, and that's refreshing," says Steve Bercu, co-owner of BookPeople in Austin. In a conversational tone, Obama invites us to discard the mutual blame inherent in red-state-blue-state thinking in favor of a broad-based progressive political sensibility that is both civic and civil.
HOW WE LIVE DAILY
This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman; foreword by Studs Terkel; in association with NPR (Henry Holt). This provocative anthology is from both the original and the current radio series, with responses from the famous (Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Gloria Steinem) to men and women whose names you don't know but whose heartfelt stories make you want to meet them. As you read, you can't help thinking about your own beliefs.
HOW WE WORK
Classic Drucker: Essential Wisdom of Peter Drucker From the Pages of Harvard Business Review by Peter F. Drucker (Harvard Business Review). Management guru Drucker earned fame for his straight wisdom and practical advice about rethinking and untangling knotty business problems in a changing workplace. In the 15 essays that Harvard Business Review Editor Thomas Stewart gathers here, you'll find Drucker's core ideas, from how to manage yourself to going beyond seeing workers as employees to viewing them as people.
WHAT WE EAT
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (Penguin) takes us on a guided tour of the food chain, to show us the widely varying routes-via agribusiness and fast food, or through sustainable and organic farming, or by hunting and foraging for oneself-by which our edibles find their way to our mouths. In doing so, he "makes people think differently about the food we eat" and inspires us to "examine the impact of our choices," says Cathy Langer, lead buyer for Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store.
HOW WE SEE OURSELVES
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (Knopf). Ephron's laugh-out-loud collection tells the truth about aging-it's not fun-and "she does it with humor and satire and perspective and poignance," says Coady. With blithe charm, Ephron exposes all the vain ploys that she-and we-would rather not admit we use to stave off another telltale wrinkle or gray hair. Read her book as an antidote to despair.
HOW WE DEFINE SPIRIT
The ongoing Modern Spiritual Masters series (Orbis Books) presents "essential spiritual writings" of religious philosophers of many faiths from around the world, including Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Albert Schweitzer, and Thomas Merton. "These are books that lift you out of a given ideology or spiritual tradition and universalizes it for you," says Chris Faatz, a buyer at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.