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Lending celebrity to books

Laura Bush likes 'Beloved.' John Major praises 'The Palliser Novels.'

April 15, 2004|Glenn Adams | Associated Press

GARDINER, Maine — Laura Bush joins actors, writers and a former British prime minister in pitching her favorite books for the annual "Who Reads What?" list, out in time for National Library Week.

Among the books listed by the former teacher and librarian are Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Beloved," the story of a murdered slave child whose ghost harbors a terrible secret; "The Brothers Karamazov," Fyodor Dostoevsky's tale of tragic family rivalries; and Truman Capote's collection of colorful characters and personal vignettes, "Music for Chameleons."

As first lady, Bush has made reading a national cause. In a similar vein, the Gardiner library once a year encourages reading by listing the favorite page-turners of world leaders and other celebrities.

"As a librarian, Laura Bush probably gets so many requests for book suggestions that she's deliberately compiled a diverse list," Glenna Nowell, who started the list 16 years ago, said Wednesday.

"I don't for a minute think she didn't read those books. I'm sure she's read a broad variety of books."

President Bush was on the list in 1999 when he was Texas governor. Others have included former President Clinton, actor Mel Gibson and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

John Major, former British prime minister, answered Nowell's invitation to appear on the 2004 list by praising Anthony Trollope's "The Palliser Novels" as "a superb depiction of Victorian political life and a delightful read."

Al Roker, NBC-TV personality, called "Devil in a Blue Dress" by Walter Mosley "an African American noir thriller. It doesn't get any better."

Broadway star Sutton Foster and Jeri Ryan of TV's "Boston Public" both listed John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany" as their favorite.

British actor Tom Wilkinson had high praise for "The Wisdom of Crocodiles," a modern thriller by Paul Hoffman. "The reputations of the masters need no boost from me," he wrote.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm listed John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" as her No. 1 read.

This year's list, released before National Library Week begins Sunday, has the usual strong representation of authors and writers, including former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, who puts "Train" by Pete Dexter first on his list.

Romance novelist Jennifer Crusie called fellow author Terry Pratchett "my comfort read" and said she was so amazed by Pratchett's "Feet of Clay" that she reread it the next day.

Author Jonathan Franzen listed "Independent People" by Halldor Laxness and "The Man Who Loved Children" by Christina Stead as his favorites, while writer Laura Lippman chose "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith.

R.L. Stine, author of the "Goosebumps" series, called Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" his favorite.

As for Ken Follett, classic children's author Beatrix Potter caught his attention with "The Story of a Fierce, Bad Rabbit." Follett called it "the shortest thriller ever written." The tale features an innocent bunny, a bad bunny and a hunter.

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