First Coast Connect & JPL Book Club: Dear Diary

This Book Discussion aired August 9 on WJCT FM First Coast Connect, but you won’t miss a thing! Click here to read the WJCT transcript of the book discussion or listen to the entire show. And send in your comments.

What makes a diary compelling?
Why are we drawn to read the personal private observations of another? Perhaps it’s because personal, private, unfiltered thoughts offer a truthful, honest reading experience and lets us be that fly on the wall.
I just finished a diary by Mary Boykin Chestnut, a book that allowed me to be that fly back in time, perched on the parlor walls, in the highest of Southern societies during the Civil War.
Chestnut’s diary gave me the opportunity to see the Civil War through the lens of a female and that alone was intriguing. Mary Boykin Chestnut was: a slave owner, a wife, a friend, a mother, a secessionist, a racist, and a finely-schooled and “well-bred” South Carolinian hostess. Her entries fascinated me because her point-of-view was unlike other accounts I had read of the war.
Experiencing, without hindsight or analysis, Mary chronicles her royal personal world that begins like a grand tour and collapses almost like a “one hoss shay.”
1475958Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember by James Mellon is not one person’s diary but a collection of 29 oral histories of former slaves, recorded as part of the WPA’s Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. The oral histories from this book were selected from more than 2,000 interviews. These recollections reflect the same time period as Chestnut’s but through the opposite end of the human spectrum, the slave.
Diaries and oral histories can serve as an excellent reading experience and important historical, educational and cultural primary source of life during an agonizing period in our United States.
For the same reasons that true diaries fascinate us, fictional diaries offer that same pull. Below you’ll find a small sample of top list books that employ the diary style.

Find these titles in the JPL catalog.



by Anne Frank

I’ll be discussing this diary in more detail in an upcoming post.

Consider checking out a diary for your next book. You’ll be privy to shared insights and new perspectives. However, before I crack open the first page, I want to know whether the diary is fiction of truth. Why? Go Ask Alice.
Stacey Goldring
Stacey Goldring



You can check out copies of books discussed on the show at any Jacksonville Public Library, or purchase copies at the Book Nook or Chamblin’s. Mention you’re with the First Coast Connect Book Club to get a discount.

Tell us what you think you think of the book:

  • Did you like it?
  • Why or why not?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Would you read another book by the same author?
  • Did the book trigger any emotions? Memories? Ideas? Please share these with us.

Send your questions, thoughts, and observations to

You may also find these authors in the library’s digital collection.

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