GARDINER – Works by Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway are among the most popular books with celebrities queried by a retired Maine librarian for her annual “Who Reads What?” list. But there are also a few surprise entries.

Take Charles Schwab’s pick for example. The investment counselor calls “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay “a must-read not only for all investors – but for all thinking people.”

“So there’s a good mix of the tried and true classics and (those that are) just a good thing to read, a page turner,” said Glenna Nowell, who has been turning out her lists since 1988. “There certainly is a good mix.”

Past contributors have included Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush (while he was Texas governor) and United Nations Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

This year, the silver-haired Nowell, who relies increasingly in the Internet for her literary sleuthing, drew a few surprise responses for the list appearing in time for National Library Week April 6-12.

Actor-comedian Dom LeLuise sent back a vote for the children’s book he authored, “Charlie the Caterpillar” – and even sent this small central Maine city’s library a copy of it adorned with his wild, page-sized autograph.

Politicians weighed in with titles reflecting themes of patriotism, U.S. history and courage. Rep. Dick Gephardt recommended the biography of fellow Missouri Democrat: “Truman” by David McCullough. “Truman” was also tops on a previous list for John Baldacci, then a Maine congressman and now governor.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Democratic presidential aspirant, listed “Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley with Ron Powers, and “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose, as his favorites.

Nowell, hoping to keep her list politically balanced, appealed to Sen. John McCain for help, and the Arizona Republican chimed in with Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

Actor Stacy Keach is another a Hemingway fan. Noting that he recently recorded all of Papa’s short stories, Keach said “it was such a satisfying experience to revisit one of the world’s great writers.”

“I love to read all kinds of stuff, anything from Shakespeare to trashy novels,” wrote Keach, who also listed “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris and “Nights in Rodanthe” by Nicholas Sparks.

Ben Stein, the actor, game show host and an author himself, included “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “John Brown’s Body” by Stephen Vincent Benet on his list of favorites.

British Lord Jeffrey Archer, also an author, was succinct in his description of “Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens: “A good story, told by a great writer.”

Celebrities’ favorite books include two that were not originally published in English, Nowell said.

“Three Trapped Tigers” by Cuban author Guillermo Cabrera Infante, which actor Andy Garcia listed as his favorite book, was originally published in Spanish.

“Embers,” which appeared on actor Keach’s list, originally appeared in the 1930s in Hungarian. Author Sandor Marai, long persecuted by the communists, committed suicide in 1989, a year before the book was published, Nowell said.

Nowell relied heavily on writers to round out the 2003 list. Longtime United Press International reporter Helen Thomas likes to read about other working journalists. Her top selection: “War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam,” edited by Ted Bartimas. Thomas also listed books by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Author Lawrence Block listed “Forever” by Pete Hamill, “The First Law” by John Lescroart and “Fat Ollie’s Book” by Ed McBain.

“My favorite writer, if I have one, is John O’Hara; I’ve been rereading his complete works for 30 years or more,” Block wrote to Nowell.

Writer Jan Burke had this to say about “Brat Farrar” by Josephine Tey: “I can finish reading this book, go back to page one, and never tire of taking it in again.” Burke also included “Trouble Is My Business” by Raymond Chandler.

Another author, Lee Child, listed “Sophie’s Choice” by William Styron and “Derailed” by James Siegel.

Other authors on the 2003 list include Steve Hamilton, who sent back seven titles. Among them were “Empire Falls,” a novel about a Maine blue-collar mill town, which won author Richard Russo a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

“I grew up reading mysteries, and now I’m lucky enough to be writing them,” wrote Hamilton, author of the Alex McKnight novels. Thriller-mystery author T. Jefferson Parker wrote that “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger “knocked my socks off,” while “The Cadence of Grass” by Thomas McGuane “tore my hat off.”

Author Peter Robinson said the characters in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” are so well-developed that “they stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.”



On the Net:

Gardiner Public Library: http://www.gpl.lib.me.us/

AP-ES-04-05-03 1226EST



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