What is the most influential book that you’ve ever read?

Murphy (1)

photo: Alexander DeGogorza Moravcsik


Mrs. Susan Murphy:

“The book that made me a reader was Moby Dick. Without question. I read it … my sophomore year in college, and … I was kind of dreading it. But I had a wonderful professor at Kenyon [College] who changed … everything about how I read. And I became a better reader because of him. But I remember … that book just exploded everything about reading for me. I felt, for that journey, not only did Herman Melville take me to all these places, but I began to see the intricate patterns. I could see the ways that writers constructed. It just took me to a place where … I recognized pieces, and how pieces come together to create a whole. I loved how Melville took on these ideas of fate and free will, but I also loved the pure immersiveness of that experience on that whale ship, and feeling like I knew everything there was to know to being on a whale ship … But more so than that immersive experience, it changed the way I was able to see the way a novel works. And everything I read after that journey with that professor and Moby Dick became something different. Not only did I feel like I had gained more skills, but I felt like I had gained this superpower.”


photo: Annie Kim


Ms. Patricia Manhart:

“Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Tale of America’s Great Migration. It culminates 15 years of research that she conducted about the Great Migration, and it connects Reconstruction in the South moving to cities in the North, and … the legacy of slavery. It answers the question, ‘Why do we still talk about slavery and reparations in the United States?’ You see the history [of] moving into different cities … discrimination faced by African Americans in the United States … It really connected so many themes of what I could be teaching [as] an American history teacher, to really see cause and effect, injustice in the United States, systemic racism, issues that weren’t resolved post-Civil War, and … why New York or Cleveland have problems going back to the Great Migration. Not because we have African Americans in these cities, but because they are treated differently, or they lack the same economic opportunities, or they’re red-lined from housing, or they’re not paid the same, and the ramifications that that has, going into modern-day. So it was a hefty text to get through, but it was just so well-done, and it was Wilkerson interviewing African Americans living in different places across the United States, tracing back their family histories, going back to sharecropping, going back to issues in the criminal justice system, and it just tied together so many themes that I would hope to teach about … It really shapes what I do as an American history teacher.”

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