For the Love of Literature

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Katie Faulkner
Photography by Lanewood Studio

Shot On Location at Starline Books

A man’s life is made full by his loved ones and life experiences. He is fueled by his goals and ambition. But perhaps nothing nourishes a man’s mind so much as the words he drinks in, the books he devours.

The more refined his palate becomes, the more a man’s hunger for understanding of the human condition grows. His ability to relate to others, to consider the world from a different perspective, to show compassion, to carry on an informed conversation, to discover new interests, and to continually keep his wits sharpened are tell-tale traits of a gentleman.

Taking a step back from today’s technology-laden, fast-paced realm of instant gratification, those who prefer to take their time and turn the pages may just digest life a bit more gracefully.

We have gathered a smattering of the Chattanooga area’s most avid readers, community leaders, and passionate bibliophiles to tell us about how ink on paper has fed their personal development.

Keith Sanford sitting on a stool holding a book about Leonardo Da Vinci

Keith Sanford 

President & CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium, Chairman of the CVB Board | Married for 38 years | 4 children & 1 grandchild | Public Education System Mentor | Newspaper Junkie


With biographies of the world’s greatest men listed as some of his favorite reads, Keith Sanford makes an effort to be involved with as many projects and programs as possible. He keeps his life varied and challenging – maintaining that “Renaissance Man” status inspired by his most admired characters. With a full home, a full calendar, and an office full of books, Keith’s life, like the novels he enjoys, teeters between impressive biography and action novel.

SG What got you into reading?

KS Two things: the prep school that I went to had us read a ton of great literature with four years’ worth of amazing English teachers – tons of Western classics like Chaucer and Shakespeare – and my mom. She really encouraged us to read, and it seemed every time we ever saw her, she had a book in her hand.

SG What’s your favorite genre?

KS Biographies, history, and then for fun I like adventure-style books, such as the Dan Brown book I just finished or a spy novel. Especially when I’m traveling, I like to have a light read. I’m currently reading a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson, which is definitely more challenging.

SG Do you have an all-time favorite character that influenced you?

KS I’m not sure if you’d call him a ‘character’ since he was a real person, but in high school we had to read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. It’s a biography of Michelangelo, and I remember being so impressed by his ability to completely master more than one discipline at a time.

SG What do you love about the act of reading?

KS It’s hard to put into words, but basically, if it’s been a stressful day or if I just want to relax for any reason, reading takes me away to another world. I can commit my thoughts completely to something else for a time, and it has a very calming effect – even if the content isn’t calming.

Dr. Richard Jackson sitting at a table in a bookstore holding glasses

Dr. Richard Jackson 

UTC English Department | UT National Alumni Association Distinguished Service | Professor | Awarded the Order of Freedom by the President of Slovenia


Dr. Jackson is an accomplished author and professor. His academic pursuits and over 25 publications have taken him, and his writing, across the world. With over 2,000 books scattered throughout rooms in his home and his UTC office, he spends his days reading everything from the morning papers and his students’ work to personal pursuits. He says reading has been less “influential in his life” and simply, “his life.”

SG What got you into reading?

RJ I have always enjoyed reading, I guess. In high school, I was much more interested in science though. So I went to an engineering university in New York City, but ended up being more enamored by the humanities courses than the engineering ones. I took some time off school, and I spent a lot of time in Greenwich Village, hanging out and listening to the folk music. It was really the music — particularly the lyrics — that got me very interested in writing. Consequently, I dove a lot deeper into reading about the same time.

SG Do you have a favorite genre?

RJ I’m currently reading some strange little short stories by a Hungarian author named László Krasznahorkai that I’m really enjoying. I tend to be closest to different books of poetry at different times, and I love a lot of the classic Southern writers: Eudora Welty, Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor. I like to read biographies and scientific writing, some fiction. I’m really all over the place with what I read. I always tell my students (and myself) that you should read different genres, styles, authors, even different languages, things you may not have an interest in yet.

SG In your opinion, is there anything you deem especially characteristic of Southern literature?

RJ Yeah, I feel like there are several things, but one that always stands out to me is how close the stories are to the land. I love to be outdoors, and I feel like you can go to a park or walk around somewhere and really understand what they’re talking about. In Southern writing, the land almost becomes a character in the story.

Buddy Faulkner sitting in a bookstore holding a stack of books

Buddy Faulkner

 Owner & Architect at Faulkner and Associates Architects | Graduated from The University of Mississippi | Married for 37 years with 4 children | Knew William Faulkner as “Brother Will


With an illustrious family history in the world of literature, Buddy Faulkner has a deep-seeded appreciation for many forms, genres, and styles. He also appreciates the effort and devotion of his favorite authors. Ranging from classics to more blood-curdling and gritty works, he has no qualms with tackling challenging texts or reading raw and unrelenting creations. Yet he also enjoys lighter selections, short stories, and recited poetry.

SG What got you into reading?

BF Well, I come from a family of readers. Both parents, all my grandparents, everyone enjoyed reading. My grandmother, whom I adored, was an avid reader. And through reading, she developed an impeccable ‘character radar.’ What I mean by that is she could read people accurately. I could bring friends over, and they wouldn’t even have to say a word around her. But the next time I saw her, she could tell me all kinds of aspects of their character.

SG In your opinion, how does reading influence people?

BF Well it certainly gives your soul a lot more depth. People who read are more informed about relationships, and that’s all we really have in this life. There are things and there are relationships. Most of the time we’re dealing in things (money, belongings, and such), but the only thing that matters in God’s world is relationships.

SG Do you have a favorite genre,
author, or book?

BF I enjoy different genres and forms. I enjoy historical and biographic works. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose is one of my all-time favorites. It’s about Lewis and Clark, and I’ve read it seven or eight times. Then for ‘beach reading,’ when you want something faster and fun, John Grisham is at the top of my list. He picks contemporary topics, and it’s always an interesting read. There’s fiction you enjoy, and then there’s fiction that you should read. That would be books like Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and Willam Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

Reverend Robert T.J. Childers sitting and holding books in a bookstore


Reverend Robert T. J. Childers 

Rector at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain Episcopalian | Married with 2 children | Former Lawyer | Blessed Brewmaster benefitting Metropolitan Ministries


Reverend Childers has long been drawn to understanding the human condition. From his time as an Alabama attorney to his journey through seminary and into priesthood, Childers has pondered the power of the written word to connect people to each other and to teach us about ourselves. His love of reading about everything from harsh realities to beautiful redemptions continually fuels him in his chosen vocation of connecting with people.

SG What got you into reading?

RC So I grew up in Selma, Alabama, and downtown there was a Carnegie library. During the summer the library hosted a story hour, so I would ride my bike down and listen to the stories being read. Then I’d go and check out as many books as they’d let me take home. That library ended up being my first job too – I  worked there in high school.

SG Do you have a favorite genre?

RC Lately I’ve been reading a lot of civil rights focused literature, mainly because there is so much history about that topic where I’m from. I’ve been reading Outside Agitator by Charles Eagles. It’s an account of a civil rights organizer, a seminarian, who was murdered in Selma. The book even includes a part where the main character interacts with my father, who was a lawyer and church leader at the time. But beyond that, I enjoy fiction, other nonfiction, scriptures, and writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, who were very introspective – really anything about people, I enjoy.

SG Do have a favorite character that has stayed with you?

RC Yes, actually. Leo Bebb from The Book of Bebb series, by Frederick Buechner, is this charlatan minister who is so flawed but in a very human way. He has a duality that I think makes him relatable to everyone. Characters are fascinating because they offer us insight into others’ perspectives, people that we might have never even thought about otherwise. Both fiction and nonfiction have this amazing ability to transport you to a different place, a different time, with different people. And our world doesn’t contract back down after reading these things. It reminds us that the world is so much bigger than our minds can comprehend.

Walton Robinson holding some books as he leans against a counter in a bookstore


Walton Robinson

Operations and Business Development Manager at the Robinson Team of Keller Williams Realty |
Vice President of the Chattanooga Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association | Married to Meghan Robinson with two rescue dogs, Marvin & Dixie | University of Georgia Graduate & Bulldog Fan


Walton enjoys classic Southern literature and finds himself drawn to the culture and tales of his birthplace. He strives to learn continually so that he may “be smarter ­when he goes to bed than when he woke up that morning.” For Walton, reading is a calming practice that leads him down a path of understanding his region, his past, and most importantly, his fellow man, fostering empathy and compassion ­­— two traits he believes are must-haves for any gentleman. 

SG Is there anything that you deem especially characteristic of Southern literature?

WR I think that characterizing Southern literature and writing is less about a style or an aesthetic and more about characters. The history of the South, both good and bad, is flush with vibrant characters and complex people. To be Southern is to be complex and conflicted. At the end of the day, this is what defines the ‘Southern’ character, and ultimately Southern writing as well.

SG Do you have a favorite genre?

WR My favorite genre to read is historical nonfiction. I do love a good novel, but to me, some of the best stories are made better because they are true. That goes double for books about the history and people of the South. Also, I am a big believer in the adage that history is important because ‘it is impossible to understand where you are headed unless you know where you’ve been.’ History gives you valuable perspective on the present and the future – I think a lot of people underestimate that.

SG What got you into reading?

WR My grandmother, Nancy Glaze Robinson. She was a public school teacher in Chattanooga for over 40 years and was an avid reader. Reading is something she fostered and encouraged in me. She loved a good story and she constantly had a book with her. 

You Also Might Like

[related_post post_id=""]
CityScope Celebrating 30 Years Logo

Get access to the next issue before it hits the stands!