The latest best seller, wrapped in a glossy new cover, lies in the office of Edward Hall, for 22 years administrator of Anne Arundel County's public library system, adjacent to a historical text whose history is shown in its tattered jacket.
And, maybe, just maybe, when Mr. Hall retires in the fall, he'll have time to read those books and several others waiting for him at home.
"I'm not worried about what I'll do when I leave," Mr. Hall says. "I have enough to do to keep me busy. I've already had a taste of what it will be like.
"When my wife died I thought, 'What am I going to do?' But I'm busier now than when I was married," he adds.
The loss of his wife, Betsy, 11 months ago, combined with a feeling that it's simply time to move on, led Mr. Hall to his decision to retire in October, he says.
"I'll be 65 in November," he says. "I've been here 22 years. I just have a mind-set that an organization, any organization, needs new leadership after a while."
A native of Lexington, Ky., Mr. Hall came to the county's library system in 1971 after working on the staff of the Free Library of Philadelphia and serving as director of both the Southern Maryland Regional Library Association in La Plata and the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown.
His first challenge as administrator was to find a building for the library's central office. When Mr. Hall arrived, library headquarters was in Reynolds Tavern, a historic Annapolis tavern and inn that was too small to serve as a headquarters.
"I immediately saw that the library system was going to grow, and I knew we couldn't grow in that space," Mr. Hall says. "I knew I could not administer a large system out of that building.
"We had employees working out of the basement. If there had been a fire, I don't know that I could have gotten everyone out. Whenever we had book deliveries we had to put them in the backyard because we didn't have any space in the building."
So headquarters moved to its current site, off Harry S. Truman Parkway in Annapolis. Although Mr. Hall will not take credit for the library system's growth, co-workers say the facts speak for themselves. Seven of the 14 current library branches were built during Mr. Hall's tenure.
"He's always listened to the public," says Jerry Hopkins, manager of the Annapolis branch library. "He's always been responsive to the employees. It's an integral part of what he is. He believes in libraries."
Ms. Hopkins, who has worked with Mr. Hall since he first arrived, says her boss is the type of man who "provides the best and expects the best. Everyone strives to please him. A large part of the staff considers him a friend."
Another of Mr. Hall's successes came when the materials circulation was automated during the 1980s. But the library chief says he is most proud of the staff he helped develop, people he says are "totally dedicated to serving the public."
"The building is just brick and mortar," Mr. Hall says. "I regret I've not been able to give [my staff] all the tools they needed to work with. But generally speaking, I would say we've been fairly successful."
The job of library administrator required Mr. Hall to do a bit of politicking, a duty he admits he enjoyed. And the politicians enjoyed working with him.
"He was a great leader," former Anne Arundel County Executive O. James Lighthizer said. "He had a real vision of where he wanted to take the system. . . . He will be difficult to replace."