Thursday, April 14, 2005

Celebrities go for 'esoteric' books
Annual 'Who Reads What' list released

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

GARDINER, Maine (AP) -- Celebrities leaned toward specialized, somewhat abstruse subjects -- and Huck Finn -- as they listed their favorite books for 2005 in the annual "Who Reads What" list.

"Very esoteric this year," said Glenna Nowell, who started the celebrity reading list in 1988 when she was librarian in this small southern Maine city. "There's such a diversity of books, and not well-known, not best sellers." Nowell also notices a lot of nonfiction this year.

One best seller that did turn up on the list was "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. It's a book listed by best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark. Sci-fi master Ray Bradbury, meanwhile, turned to a classic, "The Friendly Persuasion" by Jessamyn West.

The list, which Nowell compiles to invigorate people's interest in reading, has drawn responses in past years from several U.S. presidents and other world leaders, athletes, actors and authors. This year's list, released to coincide with National Library Week, runs the gamut from consumer activist Ralph Nader to Oakland Athletics pitcher Barry Zito.

Nader was one of three who included "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain on his list, which also included a selection of heavier books, such as "The Standard Oil Company" by Ida M. Tarbell. But the former presidential candidate was tight with his words of literary praise, offering none in his response to Nowell.

Zito was nearly as frugal with his praise, offering a single word -- "Life!" -- when describing his reaction to the spiritualist "Creative Mind" by Earnest Holmes.

Some of this year's contributors noted the power books had over them.

Author Reed Arvin, who writes courtroom thrillers, said Mark Danielewsky's "House of Leaves" was so creepy that "there were times when reading this book I threw it down on the floor in a combination of awe and horror." Helmuth von Moltke's "Letters to Freya," which bares the spiritual side of a Nazi intelligence officer, "burned a hole in my heart," Arvin wrote.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, whose books have romantic themes, called "Flowers From the Storm" by Laura Kinsale "one of the best historical romances ever."

Phillips also listed "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson as a prized page-turner. "A so-called 'guy's book,' " wrote Phillips, "but I couldn't put it down."

Bradbury told Nowell that he considers "The Friendly Persuasion" one of the best books of short stories published in a half-century. "It is warm, beautiful and round as a freshly laid egg," he wrote.

Actress Bonnie Bedelia called "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" by Martin Gardner "compelling and unpretentious musings of one of the greatest freethinking minds of the 20th Century."

Toronto Sun foreign columnist Eric Margolis revealed his taste for books with spy themes, including this year's favorites "Special Tasks" by Pavel Sudoplatov, a former Soviet KGB general who writes about the inner workings of the Soviet secret police from the 1920s to 1980s. Margolis calls "Imperial Hubris" by former CIA terrorism analyst Michael Scheuer a "must read for all interested in politics and Mideast."

Novelist Jodi Picoult wrote that Alice Hoffman makes writing look easy in "The Ice Queen," which is to be published this spring. Picoult said Hoffman "can cut clean to the bone of relationships between men and women."

Actor-author Dirk Benedict, who reads two books a week, said it wasn't easy to pick a favorite. But he said "West With the Night" by Beryl Markham "defies categories. Adventure, Autobiography, Inspiration, Romance, Travel, History, Feminism ... all of these and much, much more."

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who covered the war in Iraq, wrote that "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran "should be read at least every couple of years."

Celebrities cite their favorite books for Glenna Nowell's 2005 "Who Reads What?" list.

- JAY AMBROSE, columnist: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
- REED ARVIN, author: "House of Leaves" by Danielewsky; "Letters to Freya" by Helmuth von Moltke; "The Jeeves Omnibus" by P.G. Wodehouse.
- BONNIE BEDELIA, actress: "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" by Martin Gardner.
- DIRK BENEDICT, actor, author: "West With the Night" by Beryl Markham.
- RAY BRADBURY, author: "The Friendly Persuasion" by Jessamyn West.
- MARY HIGGINS CLARK, author: "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini.
- SEAN FAIRCLOTH, Maine legislator: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
- DAHR JAMAIL, journalist: "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran.
- PAMELA JONES, journalist, Groklaw founder: "Patent It Yourself" by David Pressman, and "Open Source Licensing" by Lawrence Rosen.
- ERIC MARGOLIS, Canadian columnist: "Imperial Hubris" by Michael Scheuer; "The Anatomy of Fascism" by Robert Paxton; "Special Tasks" by Pavel Sudoplatov.
- RALPH NADER, consumer activist, politician: "The Standard Oil Company" by Ida M. Tarbell; "One Thousand Americans" by George Seldes; "Aims of Education" by Alfred North Whitehead; "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Shame of the Cities" by Lincoln Steffens.
- SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS, author: "Flowers From the Storm" by Laura Kinsale; "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson.
- JODI PICOULT, author: "The Ice Queen" by Alice Hoffman.
- BARRY ZITO, major league pitcher: "Creative Mind" by Earnest Holmes. - Celebrities go for 'esoteric' books - Apr 12, 2005

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