Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Books That Impacted My Life

Recently, in connection with the 120th anniversary of the magnificent Port Washington (NY) Public Library, where I spent so many valuable hours and received so much good help, I was asked to name some of the books that have made a big difference in my life. Since I’m sure that my fellow grandmothers have read some of these – and if not, would like to read them - I’m copying here the choices I sent to the library.

"The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan and "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir. I read both of these books during the summer of 1963. I was a young mother with three small children and although I loved taking care of them, I knew that I wanted to pursue other avenues in my life, and both of these books inspired me and gave me confidence in myself. In 1997 I nominated Betty Friedan for the Career Achievement Award presented by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and I was proud to present her with her well-deserved award.

Going back quite a few years before then, I have to say that Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women" made a huge impression on me. I read that book five times, first when I was about ten years old and most recently in my mid-twenties, when I cried at the same parts of the book that I had always cried at. Like so many other readers I identified with Jo, the strongest of the sisters, the most independent, and – what was significant for me – the writer. I think I have to credit this book with first giving me the idea that I could choose writing as a profession.

More recently my life was influenced by Arlene Blum’s book, "Annapurna: A Woman’s Place," about the first American ascent of Annapurna and the first all-women’s summiting of the mountain. I have never climbed a mountain, but this book inspired me so much that I did end up doing high-altitude trekking in the Himalayas, fell in love with Nepal and her people, ended up going there seven times, helped my guide start a library in his village, did what was probably the single biggest thing I ever did to change someone else’s life – arranged for cleft lip surgery for a village child, and then wrote my own book, "A Balcony in Nepal: Glimpses of a Himalayan Village."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Susan Adcox said...

How did I not know about your Nepal book? I'll have to order it. BTW I also read Little Women multiple times. When I was a kid, I had a small bookshelf that I turned to when I ran out of library books. Those books were read over and over again. Little Women, Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe and Five Little Peppers were the main attractions.