After I retired (almost entirely) in 2000, I was a little concerned about what I would do. I was visiting a very good friend in Austin and one night we were discussing what a retiree should be doing in her spare time. Sheri Youngblood suggested I find some good books to read. Up until then about the only thing I had read were news stories by reporters and information that I needed to know.

Sheri gave me a book that she had enjoyed that was written by Mary Higgins Clark. I don’t remember the title of that book, but it started me on a path to read everything that she had written. Some of the books are hard back, but most are paper back. One such book that I picked off my shelf is “Just Take My Heart”. It was almost ironic that I picked this book because a few months ago I survived open heart surgery.

At my age, I don’t remember everything I read, but I have enjoyed everything she has written and one of my bookcase shelves is filled with Mary Higgins Clark. I wish she would write more by herself now because those she shares with another author just aren’t that good.

Sheri, my very good friend, passed away several years ago and I miss her terribly, but every time I see a Mary Higgins Clark book on a shelf I think of her. I have even bought several of the same books twice, not remembering that I already have one until I started reading it again.

I like a book that I can relax with and forget everything that is going on around me. Many readers like to be educated, and that’s okay, but I want reading to be a special time. Most of my reading is before I go to sleep at night and sometimes that is pretty late in the evening when I have a good book that I cannot put down.

With my interest in local and area history, I had a hard time deciding other books. I was ask by a friend to write about that influenced my life. So the second inspirational book will actually be about two books that influenced me. One is “Katy’s Baby, the Story of Denison, Texas” by former Denisonian, the late Jack Maguire and the second book is “Theater Row, Movie Palaces of Denison, Texas” by the very much still alive Denisonian Billy Holcomb.

Both authors became good friends through the years and their books have influenced my writing about Denison. Jack’s book was written in 1991 and Billy wrote his book in 1999. Billy even asked me to write the Epilogue “Donna Hunt Remembers” in his book that gave his book an extra plug.

History has become my “thing” and these two books have become like my “Bibles.” Maybe what I need to know may be short, but many times one of these books have answered questions that make my columns most interesting.

Another book that has made an impression on me is “My Eight Presidents” by Sarah McClendon, a Texan who was working in Washington, D.C. Sarah was a fellow member of Texas Press Women and we became casual friends through that connection.

When I started writing this I pulled her book from my shelf and realized that she wrote a long piece instead of just signing her name in the front of the book. Sarah always stayed a few steps ahead of what she was doing and I guess she got distracted and forgot to sign the piece. I do have a couple of notes that she wrote me saved in the book.

One that I have cherished was back in 1975 when Press Women published a cookbook and Sarah wrote to say that she hoped the cookbook was a flop. As a P.S. written some time later she chastised the members for what she said was not sending in their recipes. “They probably had something more important to do. Besides, probably many of them are so busy trying to stay working they do not have time to do much cooking or housekeeping.”

The cookbook turned out to be a success that sold out in just a few days.

Anyone who worked for eight presidents and wrote to tell about it made an impression on my life and Sarah certainly did.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include “Two School on Main Street, The Pride of Denison, Texas, 1873-2007” that Dr. Mavis Anne Bryant and I wrote after 2007 when the school on Main Street in Denison was demolished. Writing that book and putting it together probably made the biggest impression on my life because I learned a lot of information in my research and a lot of “stick-to-it” to get the book finished. There are three more books that Mavis and I produced, but the “Two Schools” book is the one for which we are most proud. Incidenally, copies of that book still are available.

There are books out there on many subjects that make lasting impressions on readers. These are just a few of my favorites and all but Mary Higgins Clark’s and Sarah McClendon writings and Press Women Cookbook, are about our own hometown, right here in Denison, Texas. I happened to be chairman of that cookbook too and wish I had more copies today.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at