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First lady on list of eager readers

What books do the famous have piled on their nightstands? An annual list reveals the titles they choose.
/ Source: The Associated Press

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 Dostoyevsky’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 encourages reading by listing each year 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.

Nowell gets instant feedback from each year’s list.

“People say I’m so glad (a title) is there. Then they tell me what they’ve been reading,” the retired librarian said.

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.”

Nowell heard back from U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige the same day a furor erupted because he called the nation’s largest teachers union a “terrorist organization.” Paige listed as his favorites two books about business trends, “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

Roker, Ryan, others contributeAl 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 favorites.

British actor Tom Wilkinson, who has appeared in “Shakespeare in Love,” “In the Bedroom” and “The Full Monty,” 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 on Sunday, has the usual strong representation by 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.

Mystery writer James Lee Burke offered multiple favorites, including “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner, “Mildred Pierce” by James Cain and “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams.

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 of good and evil features an innocent bunny, a bad bunny and a hunter.

“In just 142 words it has suspense, crime, gunplay, and retributive justice,” Follett wrote.