We're thrilled to have three summer interns in the Corporate Communications team, all of whom will be blogging right here throughout the months ahead. Today we welcome Shea Kennedy, a rising junior and History major at the College of the Holy Cross. Shea is blogging about the five books that influenced her life the most. Enjoy!
In my childhood, reading was a part of my daily routine, just like brushing my teeth before bed or laying out my uniform on school-nights. Back in the day, when I couldn’t read the intimidating Harry Potter books all on my own, I still recall my mom’s feigned British accent as she brought the adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron to life. This bedtime ritual quickly became my favorite part of the day. Book after book, year after year, I became increasingly fascinated by the idea of storytelling and how fiction and non-fiction changed my perspective on the world. Still, I didn’t realize the impact of this daily reading on my personal growth until this past fall, when I read startling reports about literacy inequities amongst young children for one of my courses. It really hit me—I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to lose myself in great books, wander around Hogwarts with Harry and explore the world of Dr. Seuss. I owe much of my enthusiasm for reading and writing to my Irish family, filled with gifted storytellers and writers. It is because of old family tales and those bedtime stories that I find happiness in reading all types of narratives today and appreciate the message in each one. As I look back on some of my favorite stories, I can more clearly see the important lessons “hidden” in all of them. Here are the most memorable and meaningful books I have read so far in my twenty years and counting!
1. Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. Although typically quoted for graduations or major milestones, I constantly read Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go, when I was a little girl. Maybe it was the rhyming, the bright illustrations or the “O’Shea” mention that first drew me to the book, but I now see the more profound message behind the lightheartedness. Life is quite trying at times, but we can’t allow these challenges to hinder our happiness. We can’t sweat the small stuff; life is too short for that! As Dr. Seuss assures us, “there is fun to be done!” and so we must remember this especially when life gets tough!
2. Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World by Anabel Kindersley. When I think back on my absolute favorite books from my childhood, the one that immediately comes to mind is Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World. I vividly remember the front cover, filled with pictures of everyday kids from all around the globe. I was always curious about the lives of kids from different cultures and countries. What was a typical Japanese school like? What did Italian children do for fun? Did British kids REALLY eat tea and crumpets? Almost every night before bed, I especially loved reading the section on these two Russian sisters who were both ballerinas. This unique collection of stories about foreign children and their families definitely sparked my interest in travel from an early age.
3. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It was the first book in which I remember feeling genuinely upset about a character’s plight. When the young protagonist, Marty, stumbles upon the abused stray dog, Shiloh, you can't help but fall in love with the helpless beagle’s story. When I initially read it, I didn’t have any pets and so I always imagined that my family would get a cute scrappy looking beagle just like Shiloh one day. Today, we have three dogs (although we don’t have a beagle) and I believe my love and patience for animals partially started when I read Shiloh’s story. Marty’s bravery and his devotion to Shiloh are valuable takeaways for both children and adults alike. The kind and trusting nature of animals can teach people many important lessons about life and human nature.
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. On my first day of English class in eighth grade, I remember receiving a book with a bright orange cover and mysterious upside down dog on the front. Was this a coloring book? It turns out it was The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, a book that would teach me so much about a world that I had never known. Christopher, the protagonist, has Asperger’s syndrome and he welcomes the reader into his unique world, in which he prefers to keep to himself and enjoys doing difficult math problems in his head. As the story progresses, Christopher’s “differences” became less and less apparent, as I could relate to some of his interests and feelings. Ultimately, his story made me see the common humanity in all of us. Difference makes the world go round.
5. Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle. In my 17 years of Catholic schooling (wow, I'm old!), I think I've read every book related to the Catholic Church. But to be honest, I never truly connected with any spiritual or religious book until this year when I read the inspiring and relatable book, Tattoos on the Heart. Father Greg Boyle, the author, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, an organization that keeps at-risk youth in LA off the streets and provides them with a support group. In the book, Boyle shares his experiences with the youth, who he calls his "homies" and imparts life-changing advice along the way. I quoted his insightful advice about life and religion in my theology papers so much that my professor joked about it (oops!). This book is simply a must read for religious and non-religious people alike. Boyle's eloquent words are a reminder that life is a remarkable gift, so put your heart into everything you do.