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Reading L.a.

September 28, 1997

Sean Choi, high school math teacher:

"Talking Zen" by Alan Watts (Weatherhill).

"He's a cunning writer; his words seem naive and simple, but they emanate, they pulse. His insights into daily life stay with you and swell into a whirlwind, then a tornado that revolutionizes your thinking."

****

Larry Chernoff, chief executive, Encore Video:

"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien (Viking).

"Vietnam remains a major area of interest for me, and I read about these characters, torn by the war, as if they were members of my own family."

****

Ramona Ripston, executive director, ACLU:

"American Pastoral" by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin).

"For those who missed the '60s, Roth has captured it perfectly. Reading him makes me sad to see how unrealistic much of our idealism was. Of course this is hindsight, and a few of us still continue to fight for fairness and justice."

****

Maclovia Vargas Haviland, retired human resources specialist:

"The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros (Random House).

"I grew up in East L.A., and my name was always a challenge to my teachers. I never understood why. Then I read 'My Name' in this collection of stories, and I knew I wasn't alone. It described my life: being brown in a culture that doesn't accept you."

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