YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ex Libris Hizzoner

March 28, 1993|David Kippen

The only way to sponsor an L.A. mayoral debate completely free from pandering may be to blindfold all 24 candidates, pile them into a bus and not tell them whether they'll be addressing the Northridge Homeowners Assn. or the South Gate PTA. The second-best test of mayoral timber might just be the wallflower's old standby: What's on their bookshelves? Herewith, their answers:

Julian Nava favors "the King James version of the Bible, by far. It is the foundation of our Western civilization, and . . . has the grandest and most inspiring language."

Tom Houston seems less enamored of "our Western civilization," naming as his favorite book "Kindness and Compassion" by the Dalai Lama, because it "teaches the need to help others."

Joel Wachs also cites the Bible as his favorite book, affirming simply that "It has had the most influence on my life." Asked which book should be required reading for every L.A. mayoral candidate, Wachs assigns his fellow candidates J.F.K.'s ghostwritten "Profiles in Courage."

Mike Woo, too, invokes presidential precedents. He would pack David Halberstam's "The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy," "not only for a desert island but also for the campaign headquarters." Woo also shows a previously unremarked flair for blurb-worthy book reviewing, recommending Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" as "a jeremiad written by the Pauline Kael of urban cities."

Stan Sanders has been reading about yet another President. Sheepishly confessing his propensity for reading more than one book at a time, Sanders has just polished off a cocktail of Gloria Steinem's "Revolution From Within" and David McCullough's biography of Truman. As for his all-time favorites, Sanders assembles the formidable coalition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dickens and Zora Neale Hurston. He would lend his fellow mayoral aspirants copies of two "very different approaches to the history of L.A. and Southern California": Kevin Starr's "Material Dreams" and Mike Davis' unsinkable local bestseller, "City of Quartz."

Nick Patsaouras has been endorsed by both Starr and Davis, but his favorite book is "Report to Greco" by Nobel laureate Nikos Kazantzakis. Joel Kotkin's "Tribes" and "Reinventing Government" by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler also come in for special mention from Patsaouras, the latter for its "innovative approaches to addressing and solving chronic problems."

Richard Katz places both "Reinventing Government" and "Tribes" alongside Starr's "Material Dreams," Mark Reisner's "Cadillac Desert" and Lynell George's "No Crystal Stair"--a virtual syllabus' worth of books to keep his rivals busy. Katz singles out Randy Shilts' "And the Band Played On": "This book moved me very deeply." The last book he read was "Rising Sun," Michael Crichton's cautionary technothriller about a Japanese economic takeover of Los Angeles: "Sometimes it's nice to take a break from the campaign."

Linda Griego's idea of a break from the campaign is a good deal more removed from contemporary Los Angeles. Her favorite book is the only one out of all the major candidates' picks (save the Bible) whose author may have lived and died without ever once hearing the name Los Angeles. "Mysteries are my favorite," Griego offers, "particularly Wilkie Collins," but she would have her opponents read "From the Ground Up" by John Case: "It is about the new economy, small and medium-sized businesses and job creation."

Longshots have favorites, too. Oscar Valdes proposes De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," while Kim Allen suggests Marx and Engels' "Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State." Frank Teran and Randy Pavelko both swear by the Bible, but Pavelko has kind words for "The Great Gatsby" and "Cool Hand Luke" as well. Eileen Anderson thinks highly of Louis Nizer's autobiography, whereas Adam Bregman just put aside his favorite book--Tom Robbins' "Skinny Legs and All"--to read Eric Lax's bio of Woody Allen. For Douglas Carlton, it's a tossup between Ayn Rand and Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." Larry Greenblatt kvells over his own parents' award-winning science text "Genes and Your Destiny," and Philip Ashamallah endorses his own "The Secrets of Success and the Secrets of Happiness," "because it is the best book ever written."

Perhaps the most trenchant reply came from little-known candidate Michael Leptuch, who would send his better-financed adversaries back to "The Grapes of Wrath." "Why? . . . It should not happen again."

The remaining six candidates did not respond.

Los Angeles Times Articles