Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Librarians Discuss Favorite Books for National Book Lovers Day

Emily Gardner

August 7, 2015

Favorites include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “My Life in France” and “The Green Mile.”

From classics to books published within the last five years, three Texas Tech University librarians shared their favorites as well as the reasons why and the stories behind their choices in honor of National Book Lover's Day on Sunday (Aug. 9).

Donnell Callender
Donnell Calender

Donnell Callender

associate librarian for the College of Education
and the Department of English
  • To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee:
    “The book is a wonderful coming-of-age story as well as a social commentary on what is wrong with our communities.”
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Trilogy” by Stieg Larsson:
    “The series shows a powerful woman. It also shows how dysfunction can be worked to an advantage. In the end, though, the result is a wonderfully entertaining, action-packed set of books.”
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-stop Café” by Fannie Flagg:
    “Being from the South, this book really speaks to me. It has several stories occurring at once from several different times in a person's life, all supporting the central theme of being true to yourself.”
  • Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck:
    “The book tells a personal, painful depiction of the Great Depression and the strength of spirit of the people who lived during that time.”
  • The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer:
    “These are classic tales told by a group of pilgrims thought to be fleeing the black plague on their way to Canterbury in the 1300s. It's a very entertaining read and the group is a collection of eclectic and wide-ranging characters. If you are up for the challenge, try reading it in Middle English, the original language.”
  • Watership Down” by Richard Adams:
    “A wonderful story about a community of rabbits as they attempt to escape the destruction of their warren and find a new home.”
Kimberly Vardeman
Kimberly Vardeman

Kimberly Vardeman

reference librarian
  • My Life in France” by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme:
    “I read this book during my last semester of graduate school. I was in one of those ugly phases in life where you feel like all your circumstances are beyond your control and the future is murky. I needed something cheery and inspiring. The joy and persistence with which Julia Child undertook every challenge – moving across the world, learning French, enrolling in the Cordon Bleu culinary school, practicing cooking techniques, making new friends and writing ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking' – certainly motivated me in the kitchen and in life.”
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde:
    “If we think our current society with its addiction to selfies is the most narcissistic in human history, perhaps we should re-examine the story of Dorian Gray. This Victorian-era novel centers around a man who was willing to trade his soul to remain young and beautiful forever. The depiction of his double life always fascinated me. His outward appearance never changed while his portrait aged and corrupted, chronicling each indulgence. Dorian was constantly tortured at the thought that someone might discover his dark secrets. Beyond the plot points are layers of philosophy and allegory to uncover in this classic.”
  • One Summer: America, 1927” by Bill Bryson:
    “My grandfather was born in 1927. Besides being a living legend in my family, he is a fantastic storyteller. Like my grandfather, Bill Bryson also is a marvelous storyteller who makes history entertaining. In this book, Bryson weaved several narratives together, the world's first transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth's record-setting home run streak, Al Capone's notorious escapades and at least a dozen other enthralling, real-life events, all of which happened during one incredible summer. Needless to say, I bought a copy of this book for my grandfather and one for myself.”
  • Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
    “I love a good mystery. I enjoy reading Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled detective novels, but the Sherlock Holmes stories are my favorites to re-read. There's something about the way Sherlock Holmes reproaches his companion Watson for missing an ‘elementary' clue, saying ‘You see, but you do not observe.' You feel that if you would only look a little more closely, you too would notice the important details we overlook every day.”
  • A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole:
    “This book had me laughing out loud too many times to count. One wouldn't expect to find a novel centered around the misadventures of a selfish, slothful and sloppy protagonist to be downright hilarious and appealing. The main character Ignatius J. Reilly is only one of a host of memorable characters, and the vivid descriptions of New Orleans might prompt you to schedule a trip to the Crescent City.”
Cynthia Henry
Cynthia Henry

Cynthia Henry

College of Human Sciences librarian
  • The Green Mile” by Stephen King:
    “I picked ‘The Green Mile' for two reasons: First, King released this originally as a serial story, specifically referencing the serial format Dickens used when publishing decades earlier. Therefore, I originally read this story in parts with about a month between each, which made me voracious for the next part. Secondly, while he is the King of Horror it saddens me that people dismiss all his writing for horror ‘The Green Mile' is beautiful with spirituality and some religious elements woven throughout. This book is essentially about a man, working on death row, in the depression and all that entails.”
  • Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline:
    “One of the best books I have read recently. I think this book is appealing as it references all things ‘80s and, since I am a child of the ‘80s, it was comforting to remember icons that meant so much to me. Moreover, it is fun and entertaining, so much that I have read the book twice already.”
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling:
    “I am enamored by the Harry Potter books as everyone is, but for more than the great storyline and new world it created. I saw the love of books and reading being ignited in so many others. For this reason alone, I will always be grateful for these books. In addition, I am completely enthralled when a book creates a brand new world for me to explore as several of my favorite books do. The series does this so completely the reader never thinks, or at least I did not, ‘wait there is a big hole here. That does not work.' All elements are plausible in the new world way Rowling describes it.”
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis:
    “This book is the first time I can remember reading a book where the animals were true characters acting and thinking like a human. Of course, later in life I learned this was anthropomorphism. The lion, Aslan, seemed to be engrossed in thought, trying to work out a solution to do the best for everyone in Narnia. At the time I was fascinated by it and sought out other books that utilized anthropomorphic characters.”
  • The Color Purple” by Alice Walker:
    “The format of this story is intriguing. The whole book is laid out in letters between two sisters. I read this while attending graduate school when I still wanted to read something, but did not have much free time for pleasure reading. I read only one letter at a time, which helped the story unfold in the manner the author intended.”
  • The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells:
    “The book was read to my fifth grade class by our teacher, Mr. Humlicker. It was clearly a lesson on how format influences the story. The class listened to the book being read out loud, then to the infamous radio performance starring Orson Wells, and finally watching the 1953 movie. I will be forever grateful to Mr. Humlicker for pointing out that my imagination is far superior to Hollywood. While I do not think that was the point, the lifelong lesson I learned was read the book, then see the movie.”