Sheila Stephens, accountant:
“This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,” by Kay Mills (Plume).
“Hamer was a civil-rights leader from Mississippi who brought voting rights to people of all colors on the Delta. She suffered many hardships but, thanks to her dedication, eventually she prevailed and won the respect of high officials.”
Deborah Ross, film graphics designer:
“An Ocean in Iowa,” by Peter Hedges (Hyperion).
“Hedges also wrote ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,’ and he has a knack for capturing both the humor and pathos of dysfunctional families, as seen through the eyes of the children. The writing is lean, precise, poetic and heart-wrenchingly funny.”
Ted Eccles, marketing executive:
“How The Irish Saved Civilization,” by Thomas Cahill (Anchor).
“As the Roman Empire collapsed, the literature of Western civilization was close to extinction. How bands of Irish monks came to possess these books and why they were inspired to make copies is Cahill’s remarkable subject. He reminds us of the power of the written word.”
Cie Allman, fitness expert:
“Emerson’s Essays,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Harper & Row).
“For those who wish to live life, it shouldn’t be lived like an apology. Emerson reminds us that, whether or not there’s a Nobel Prize at the end of the rainbow, it is necessary to value those thoughts and qualities of life that are genuine and equal, not glittering and unsteady.”