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Who is Reading What?
A Celebrity Reading List: 2005

Dear Readers,
This is the 17th annual Who Reads What? list, with three people recommending a book written in 1894, and hand-stamped.  The book is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Three men, columnist Jay Ambrose, Maine Legislator Sean Faircloth and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, all listed this as their favorite book.  Ambrose says, "Twain delivers moral truths about this America of ours."  Ambrose knows the book well: he has read it three times.  Previous years' Twain fans already on the Who Reads What? list include Bob Hope, Diane Sawyer and Charlton Heston. Score six for Twain.

Dahr Jamial, an unembedded reporter in Falluja, spends six months at a time sending dispatches by e-mail that are fascinating and real news to those at home. His book choices: The ProphetNarcissus and Goldmun and Illusions are reflective of a very different time in many ways.  They look back to a philosphophical , idealistic and spiritual period in the '60s, but now, still and again, to a time of major turmoil, war and strife.

Barry Zito offers only one word, "life" for the description of his choice The Creative Mind.  Mary Higgins Clark has chosen and acclaimed new book, Kite Runner, and Erin Hart's contribution is Possession.  She says it has "mystery, romance, comedy and insight."

Although Gardiner, Maine is a small community of 6,189 people, we serve several nearby towns, and there are many voracious readers with eclectic tastes.  We hope you will try some of the books on this list. Please visit your own libraries and find treasures there.

Glenna Nowell
Editor, Who Read What?


Jay Ambrose Ray Bradbury Dahr Jamail Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Reed Arvin Mary Higgins Clark Pamela Jones Jodi Picoult
Bonnie Bedelia Rep. Sean Faircloth Eric Margolis Barry Zito
Dirk Benedict Erin Hart Ralph Nader  




Name Book(s) and Authors Comments

Jay Ambrose

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

by Mark Twain

For a book discussion group to which I belong, I recently read Huckleberry Finn for the third time.  I had read it as a child, as a college student and now, reading it at age 60, I found it as entertaining as ever, but even more insightful.  The thing is, as I learn more, I can see more in it, such as the extraordinary way in which it delivers more moral truths about this America of ours.  An absolutely great novel.

Reed Arvin

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House of Leaves 

by Mark Danielewsky


Letters to Freya 

by Helmuth von Moltke


The Jeeves Omnibus 

by P.G. Wodehouse

House of Leaves is the future of fiction.  It combines multiple-perspective narratives, the graphic novel, photography, and mixed media into a bound book.  It's probably ahead of its time, and one day will probably be better presented on a DVD.  But its scope and inventiveness are astonishing even in its present form.  A creepy idea - that a house is larger inside than it is outside, and growing larger every day, until its rooms are infinite miles of dark terror - taken to a breathtaking level of execution.  There were times when reading this book I threw it down on the floor in a combination of awe and horror.


Letters to Freya by Helmuth von Moltke.  This collection of letters from a Nazi intelligence officer to his wife burned a hole in my heart.  Von Moltke was a man of dignity and conscience desperately trying to keep his family and his faith alive from within an evil system.  He was executed weeks before the war ended for treason.  The letter he wrote his wife the day before he was shot reveals a man who had scaled the heights of human spirituality.

The Jeeves Omnibus by P.G. Wodehouse.  After the deep subjects listed above, Wodehouse is the perfect tonic.  Comic writing at its finest.  This collection is a nice way to dig into what has already proved to be an enduring cast of characters.

Bonnie Bedelia

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The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener 

by Martin Gardner

Compelling and unpretentious musings of one of the greatest free-thinking minds of the 20th century - on subjects as varied as free will versus determinism - mathematics, literature, physics, politics, economics and the nature of God.  An insightful, thought-provoking and humorous book of exceptional clarity which deserves to be more widely read and known.

Dirk Benedict

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West with the Night 

by Beryl Markham

I have trouble deciding what socks to wear so this is difficult, added to which is the fact that I read at least two books a week.  (Too much but it's a great excuse for not writing my own.)  Nonetheless, there is ONE book that always stands out when quizzed as to what book I prefer above all others (excluding my own): West with the Night by Beryl Markham.

The story of the first 50 years of her life ...growing up in Kenya, hunting lions as a little girl, becoming leading horse trainer in Africa, first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic (only Lindbergh had done it prior to her), lover of Duke of Windsor and heartbreaker of countless more, many, toast of Hollywood and on and on.

The book defies categories.  Adventure, Autobiography, Inspiration, Romance, Travel, History, Feminism...all of these and much, much more.  It is also one of the best written, that is to say, the most uniquely written book I have ever read.  Shortly after reading it when it was first published in '48 (I think), Ernest Hemingway wrote his editor, Max Perkins, that "Beryl Markham makes the rest of us (writers) look like carpenters."  It may be the only time Big Ernie paid another writer a compliment, nonetheless...he is right.

It should be required reading for all High School Students.  Maybe her lifetime habits of drinking and smoking prevent this in these PC times?  Shame.

Compared to West with the Night, Out of Africa, I Dreamed of Africa, and all other autobiographies by white Africans, read like nursery rhymes.


Ray Bradbury

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The Friendly Persuasion 

by Jessamyn West

You asked me to name a favorite book, so here it is: The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West.  Why do I recommend it?  Because I consider it one of the best books of short stories published during the last fifty years.  It is as warm, beautiful and round as a freshly laid egg.  A perfection.  It is hard for me to believe that any of your students reading it would not be touched and moved by Jessamyn West's remarkable talent.

I send you good wishes.

Mary Higgins Clark

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The Kite Runner 

by Khalid Hosseini

I loved this story and it is the kind that stays with the reader.  It is a beautiful novel, beautifully written.

Sean Faircloth
Maine House Representative

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn is a fast action-packed read.  In it a young man stands up for what is right in the face of societal pressure to the contrary.  He thinks independently and keeps his sense of humor.  Now, that's a hero!

Erin Hart 

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by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt's Possession is one of my favorite novels of the past 20 years.  It's got everything: mystery, romance, comedy, and insight into quirky human nature -- and it manages to be erudite and raucously entertaining at the same time.

Dahr Jamail
Independent Journalist

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The Prophet

by Khalil Gibran


Narcissus and Goldmund 

by Hermann Hesse



by Richard Bach

Always a difficult question, because this means I have to narrow it down to just a few...

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran is one of my all time favorites - one that should be read at least every couple of years.

Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hess

Illusions by Richard Bach

Pamela Jones
Software developer and creator of the Groklaw Website

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Patent it Yourself

by David Pressman


Open Source Licensing 

by Lawrence Rosen


Betsy-Tacey series by Maud Hart Lovelace


Nancy Drew mystery series by Carolyn Keene


Black Beauty 

by Anna Sewell


The Secret Garden 

by Francis Hodgson Burnett


Charles Dickens


John Donne's poetry


Jane Austen's writings


War and Peace 

by Leo Tolstoy

I have very little free time since I started Groklaw, except for technical books or legal tomes, so the two I am reading now are Patent It Yourself by David Pressman, Esq. and Open Source Licensing by Lawrence Rosen, Esq.


I have The Spam Kings on the shelf and I continue to hope I'll have time to get to it.  I read constantly, of course, in connection with Groklaw, but it tends to be legal treatises and technical manuals, but I hope someday to be able to go back to my old, more leisurely ways.

When I was growing up, I read voraciously.  It was my favorite pastime.  My father had walls lined with books, and I started reading both children's and adult books while still a very little girl.  As a child I adored the Betsy-Tacey series and Nancy Drew and Black Beauty, and The Secret Garden.  As I got a bit older, I loved Charles Dickens.  I still do.  I love John Donne's poetry very much, and I have a deep love for Jane Austen's writings, and I seem never to get tired of her humor, and I tend to reread her periodically.  Nowadays, I might read her on Project Gutenberg, which is a wonderful project that makes the classics available for free on the Internet.  I may be the only person who not only read War and Peace all the way through but wished there was more of it when I got to the last page.

My sister and I spoke the other night about growing up surrounded by the classics, and we agreed that our characters were formed by books as much as by anything else in our environment, and we are so glad for it.  I know that I learned to write by reading great writers.  My mother, when we were toddlers, would let us dictate stories to her and she would type them up and staple them as "books," and no doubt that early encouragement helped too.  So, now, as an adult, I am just beginning to write my own first book, and so I come full circle. 

Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun foreign columnist 

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The Anatomy of Fascism 

by Robert Paxton


Imperial Hubris 

by Michael Scheuer


Special Tasks 

by Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov

I was charmed and delighted by your email.  Libraries are for me what religious temples are to the faithful, so I'm always glad to help.

The three most interesting books I've read of late:

Imperial Hubris by Anonymous (actually Michael Scheuer), the ex-CIA senior terrorism and bin Laden analyst.  This brilliant book refutes many of the claims made about the war of terrorism and gives profound insight into the struggle now faced by the U.S. overseas.  A must read for all interested in politics and Mideast.

The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert Paxton.  The best definitions, description, and analysis I've read of the true nature of fascism, a badly overused or misapplied term.  Reading this book by the former Colombia University professor will cause many readers to see familiar patterns in our own time.

Special Tasks by Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov.  The late Soviet KGB-general reveals an enormous amount of fascinating material in his sensational memoirs, that relate the inner workings of the Soviet secret police from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Ralph Nader
Consumer Activist

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The Standard Oil Company by Ida M. Tarbell


One Thousand 

by George Seldes


Aims of Education 

by Alfred North Whitehead


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

by Mark Twain


The Shame of the Cities 

by Lincoln Steffens


Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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Flowers from the Storm 

by Laura Kinsale


Shadow Divers 

by Robert Kurson

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale.  One of the best historical romances ever.  Sexy, passionate, deeply moving.


Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson.  A so-called "guy's book", but I couldn't put it down.

Jodi Picoult

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The Ice Queen

by Alice Hoffman

I'm currently reading The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman (it will be published this spring).  As with all of Hoffman's books, I'm amazed by how she makes writing look so easy...and how she can cut clean to the bone of relationships between men and women.

Barry Zito 
Oakland Athletics Pitcher

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Creative Mind 

by Earnest Holmes



Ex Libris

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