Today we’re excited to announce November’s featured reader for our Page Turners of Jefferson County series, which asks a local resident to reflect on the role books and reading have played in his or her life.
Amy Panzarella is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Community Affairs at American Public University System. She joined the University in 2008 and is responsible for all aspects of human resources including budget; healthcare benefits; professional training and development; recruiting and onboarding; and compliance. Ms. Panzarella has worked in human resources for over 20 years in a variety of industries to include finance, gaming, manufacturing and now higher education. She holds a Master’s degree in Management with a concentration in human resources. Ms. Panzarella also holds a Senior Professional Human Resource Certification (SPHR) and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM, SCP) designation. She was named “HR Professional of the Year” in 2011 by the West Virginia Society of Human Resources State Council. She graduated from the Leadership West Virginia program in 2011 and continues to be a contributing writer for the Around the Panhandle magazine offering human resources, management and professional advice to its readers.
As an active member in her local community, Ms. Panzarella serves on several Boards of Directors, to include: President of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia University Hospitals – East Foundation Board (Director), the Charles Town Old Opera House, Vice President of the Charles Town Rotary Club, and she was appointed to the West Virginia Commission on the Arts by the Governor in 2015 for a three year term. Ms. Panzarella is a founding member of the Eastern Panhandle Society for Human Resources (EPSHRM). Additionally, she volunteers on the Local School Improvement Council (LSIC), the Career and Technical Education Council in Jefferson County, and the Marketing and Technology Advisory Council for Washington High School.
Ms. Panzarella lives in Charles Town, WV with her family. She enjoys spending any free time that she has with her husband Chris, their sons Andrew and Tyler, and their two dogs Bella and MJ. They spend their weekends working on projects around the house, hiking in Harpers Ferry and spending time with family.
What book(s) are currently on your nightstand?
Currently, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is on my nightstand. After so many years of what I construed as hype, I watched all the Harry Potter movies last December. At the conclusion of watching the series (and a change of heart about my perception of hype), I had so many unanswered questions that I was confident the books would answer. So far, that has proven true! The reason that I am only on the second book of the series is due to the fact that when I can finally settle down to read, I can’t keep my eyes open! That says nothing of the quality of the story, just that I need to read when I’m not tired!
What genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I do not discriminate! I love many genres. I read everything from the Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series to Gone Girl.
Where and when do you like to read best?
In my family room by the fireplace in the early evening. If I wait too late into the evening, I am too sleepy.
Which book most impacted your career?
Undoubtedly, Who Moved My Cheese? Per the directive of the corporate president for whom I worked in 1999, I read it and then groups of us were required to discuss it and align it with what was happening within our organization. It was such a simple read, but quite thought-provoking. As the company was working through a significant culture change, and I was preparing to have my first child, it was quite timely. Since reading that book so many years ago, I learned to take a deep breath when times are hectic and try to enjoy it!
Who is your favorite fictional character?
This may be the most challenging question! I have many fictional characters for whom I have a fondness. Naturally, Harry Potter is at the top of my list. I am also very fond of Francesca’s character in The Bridges of Madison County.
What’s the last book you put down without finishing?
I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I was trying to read the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I just couldn’t force myself to finish the third of the series Fifty Shades Freed. I found that it lacked creativity and substance. I can’t remember a time prior to this that I ever stopped reading a book midway through.
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? What would you ask them?
Wally Lamb would be invited to my dinner party. He wrote, She’s Come Undone, a book I read in 1993. It was quite impactful for me at that point in my life. I always wondered how a male author could understand the complexities of the female struggle so eloquently. What events in his life exposed him to this so that he could articulate it so eloquently?
William P. Young, author of The Shack. This book was a true page turner. I felt so many emotions in the throes of the read; it was sometimes unbearable to go on! I may have finished this book in record time. The characters were so intricately described; I could easily visualize them in my mind as I was reading. I would ask him two questions. First, how were you able to create a realistic story without succumbing to the raw emotion of what you were writing? Second, how do you really feel about the movie adaptation of your book? I’m not sure I can watch the movie because I think the imagination is far more powerful and vivid, but if you (William) fully support this, I will give it a try.
I would love to talk to Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was my childhood hero! I was obsessed with the feisty, pioneer girl from Walnut Grove. Indeed, I watched the television series, but I read the entire series of books she wrote depicting her years growing up on the prairie. I would cherish an opportunity to ask her about her adventures growing up; teaching school at the young age of 17 years old; and being forced to grow up so quickly at such a young age (though I am sure she knew nothing different could exist). I would complement her on her ability to pull the reader into the story. As a child, I would read her books by flashlight as I would get in trouble for staying up late to read.
What childhood memories about reading stick most in your mind?
My dad was in the Air Force so we always lived far away from our family in Oklahoma. We used to take the long road trips to visit family in Oklahoma over summer breaks and holidays. My sister and I used to pick out the books we were going to read on our trip and then race each other to see how many books we could read before we arrived. Our car trip was at least 15 hours one way, and we read the entire time. I loved reading The Boxcar Children series, the Sweet Valley High series, the Little House on the Prairie series; and I loved to read any biography or autobiography I could get my hands on. I can’t remember who won the majority of the time, but sis and I were avid readers and had a great time with the challenge!
If you had to name a book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
Very interesting question, I must admit. In part, I would say that it was the Little House on the Prairie series. I truly admired the determination, wit, and independence of Laura Ingalls Wilder and spent many hours daydreaming about growing up in strife and turning out like her.
Which five books would you take with you on a desert island?
I would take any of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books (do they still write those?).
Any of the Bill O’Reilly Killing books that I have not read yet.
The rest of the Harry Potter series (I know I could finish the series on a desert island!)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
Webster’s Dictionary…really! I love words and I love to learn new ways of articulating my thoughts creatively.
Is there a book you’ve read & liked that you’re embarrassed to admit? Guilty pleasure?
Fifty Shades of Grey was my guilty pleasure. I just couldn’t get beyond the third book.
What do you plan to read next?
Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly.