The gift of books: 21 voices speak


What books are you giving this season to people who are very special to you, with the firm hope that their lives will be enriched by reading them? Or, WHAT BOOKS WOULD YOU GIVE THIS SEASON TO THREE PEOPLE, publically well known, who you have never met but very much would like to know? Identify these strangers. In two sentences each, why each book?

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger

President and Founder, the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

To Steven Spielberg: I'd send Madelein L'Engle's classic modern fairy tale, "A Wrinkle in Time," with the hopes that he'd make it into one of his most beautiful movies.

To Oprah Winfrey: I'd send Joan Grant's classic "far memory" book, "Winged Pharaoh" a story about the journey and strengths of a woman in ancient Egypt.

To the widow, Mrs. Rabin, of Israel: I'd send the very moving autobiography written by Madame Anwar Sadat, "A Woman of Egypt," in hopes that Mrs. Rabin would fine some solace in Mrs. Sadat's story and feel a kinship with the loss of another woman's great love of one of humanity's greatest and bravest


Willis G. Regier

Director, the Johns Hopkins University Press

For my father, a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, a copy of Gerhard L. Weinberg's " A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II," the best one-volume history of the war I know.

For my brother, a computer programmer devoted to the languages of antiquity, a copy of Timothy Gantz's "Early Greek Myth."

For my wife, who teaches French at Johns Hopkins, a volume in the renowned Pleiade editions, probably of "Victor Hugo" or "Voltaire." These editions were the inspiration for the Library of America, and are considered ideal for the library of any scholar of French literature.

Lloyd Bowser

Commissioner, Baltimore City School Board

"Conversations With God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African-Americans," by Melvin Washington, Ph.D. This book is indicative of the prayer life of African-Americans, which I believe has been the redemptive power as well as staying power of African-Americans. Individuals will gain a better understanding.

"Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America," by Herb Boyd and Robert Allen. A very inspiring anthology - especially for the young black male who is in dire need of affirmation. This book will provide that ingredient needed to carry forth the "torch."

"The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," Deepak Chopra. This book, hopefully, will provide the individual striving for success with a better understanding of the basic ingredients necessary to reach one's full potential which will lead to a fulfilling, more productive life.

'Turkey Joe' Trabert

Former saloon keeper, oral historian and collector of Baltimore memorabilia To my wife Anne Sherry Mullen Trabert, who became a Master Gardener through the University of Maryland Extension at Cylburn: "2850 House and Garden Plants," by Rob Herwig, an encyclopedia of plants with a picture and description of each of the 2850 plants.

To my sister-in-law Mary Eileen Linton, who lives on her estate "Two Stag Horn Sumacs" in Union Mills: "Scarlett," by Alexandra Ripley. This is the sequel to "Gone With The Wind," by Margaret Mitchell, which I gave her last year.

To Dan Rodricks, TV host and writer, "The Care and Repair of Fishing Tackle," by Mel Marshall. Dan loves fishing and the discipline of care for equipment in the few minutes of spare time he has.

I bought all of the books at the Good Will Book Nook, which is downtown on Charles St. and they cost me a total of $10.50.

Lisa LoVullo

L Director of electonic news and information services, The Sun

"Old Turtle," by Douglas Wood to my 19-month-old son. This beautifully illustrated and superbly written children's book teaches that God lives in all things and cannot be defined by any one person or group.

"Honor Thy Father," by Gay Talese, to my parents and in-laws to celebrate the memories of growing up in Italian immigrant


"Chesapeake," by James Michener, to my friend who has much to learn about her adopted home that Michener called "a sequestered paradise."

"Tidewater Tales," by John Barth, to my husband, sometimes captain, sometimes mate, always my best sailing companion. For adventures remembered, journeys to come and sharing our two passions, our son and sailing.

David Simon

Director, Baltimore School for the Arts

"The Diary of A Nobody," by George and Weedon Grossmith. Originally appeared in Punch and published in London, June 1892 by Messrs. Bradbury and Agnew. Republished by the Folio Society in 1969. This is a good-natured treasure of platitudes and trivialities with subtle and not-so-subtle humor, but not without warmth and sympathy. I have read it many, many times to relive the experience.

"The Venetian Hours of Henry James, Whistler and Sargent," by Hugh Honour and John Fleming. A beautifully designed and evocative book inspired by Venice, augmented with the literary essays of Henry James, and impressively illustrated with the works of John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler. An artistic enrichment to share with my children.

"Listening To America: Twenty-five Years in the Life of a Nation As Heard on National Public Radio," edited by Linda Wertheimer. Given one's time constraints with respect to keeping up with newspapers and magazines, NPR continues to provide in-depth radio journalism nationally and internationally.

Terry Teachout

Editor of "A Second Mencken Chrestomathy." He now is writing "H. L. Mencken: A Life." He reviews and writes arguments regularly for these pages

Some books don't just enrich your life - they change it. Most of the books that have changed my life are biographies, and most good biographies preach the same sermon, one nicely summed up by Longfellow:

"Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time."

The three biographies I especially like to give as presents are James Boswell's "Life of Samuel Johnson," Michael Scammell's "Solzhenitsyn: A Biography" and William Manchester's "The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill." Three very different books about three very different people, but each one in his own way a person who changed the world, not only by his actions but by his indomitable example. (Nowadays, one of the most important reasons to read about the lives of the great is to be reminded that some people really are great - that greatness is more than just a matter of opinion.) As if that weren't enough, each of these books has the richness, depth and narrative drive of a first-rate novel. What better way to enrich a special friend's life than a good book about a personal greatness?

John Waters

Filmmaker, author and chronicler of Baltimore

I'm not much of a fan of the pope, but I'd give him a copy of the hilariously mean Mother Teresa book, "The Missionary Position," by Christopher Hitchens, to see if he has a sense of humor.

Marvin Thomas

Director, Howard County Library

"Charles Kuralt's America," by Charles Kuralt. Cheerful travels from New Orleans to Alaska with retired CBS reporter Charles Kuralt.

"Wild Lawn Handbook." Beautiful ways with wild flowers and other methods to beat the lawn mowing blues, a true alternative to the traditional front lawn.

"Columbia: A Celebration." A Wonderful pictorial work on Columbia, Md., by a local newspaper team of Susan Thornten Hobby, who wrote the text, and David Hobby, who took the pictures. A very special book for everyone who lives in Columbia.

Shani Mack

Owner, Louie's Bookstore, Baltimore

Without revealing exactly who will be receiving exactly what, I'll be giving "may I feel said he" from Stewart, Tabori and Chang's Art & Poetry Series to someone very close. In "may I feel," the series pairs a whimsical, if not somewhat explicit, "love" poem by e.e. cummings with Marc Chagall's almost lyrical paintings of lovers, animals and musical instruments.

To the lucky recipient of Kenji Kawasaki's 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions, I'll give a lesson in the art of chindogu, "the unuseless idea." This truly inspiring book features photographs and entertaining descriptions of the best of Kawasaki's unuseless inventions ranging from the utilitarian training wheels for high heels to the amusing noodle-eater's hair guard.

Lastly, I'll be giving "Winnie-the-Pooh on Problem Solving," by Roger E. Allen and Stephen D. Allen, to a few people on my list, myself included. Pooh's follow-up to his successful book on management provides us with a practical step-by-step system of identifying and solving those pesky problems in business and in life.

Robert Welch

Academic Dean and Vice President,

Goucher College

These three books have significantly influenced my thoughts about science, technology and education.

"The Soul of a New Machine," by Tracy Kidder, is a wonderfully readable example of creative non-fiction. This portrayal of the development of mini-computers serves as a benchmark for understanding the information technology revolution and it reads like a novel.

Thomas Kuhn's provocative "Structure of Scientific Revolution," presents science not as an orderly development of discovery but as a disorderly series of revolutions. Kuhn challenges us to rethink some of our basic assumptions about progress.

"Alma Mater," P.F. Kluge's witty memoir of a year teaching at his alma mater, gives an inside/outside examination of the culture of a liberal arts college. The book entertains on a personal level and enlivens the debate on the value of a humanities education.

William K. Marimow

Managing editor of The Sun, who frequently writes for these pages

"Snow Falling On Cedars," by David Guterson. A wonderful novel about a 1954 murder trial in Puget Sound, which examines the relationship of Japanese-American citizens to their neighbors, the nature of love and justice.

"The Nightingale's Song," by Robert Timberg. Great reporting and insightful, authoritative writing on how the careers of five talented Naval Academy graduates converged and sometimes collided from the Vietnam War era through the Reagan administration.

"A Map of the World," by Jane Hamilton. A tragic death of a 2-year-old triggers an avalanche of misfortune for a family trying to acclimate to life on a farm. This book explores the nature of prejudice and the imperfections of the American criminal justice system.

Rafael Alvarez

Sun staff reporter

"The Adventures of Augie March," by Saul Bellow. A chestnut from America's "them days are gone" shelf. Augie is a first-generation student of the Greeks and the streets trying to be true to his own wily self and have a ball doing it in Depression-era Chicago. Bellow's language has never been better, saying of one character: "She often wept in her room over the general drift of her life ..."

"Guide to the Perplexed," (written in the 12th century) by Moses Maimonides. Not only one of history's great rational essays on Jewish law, but a title applicable to everyone I know. An entire cosmos beyond America's obsession with self-help, this Spaniard's guide delivers the goods: "When I can see no other way of teaching a well-established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools, I prefer to address myself to one man ..."

"Mother Teresa: A Simple Path," compiled by Lucinda Vardey. Not so much a book about the good, hard work of the legendary Albanian nun, but reflections by her disciples on striving to equal Mother Teresa's labors. With chapter titles like "The Fruit of Service is Peace," here lies the recovery for a nation hopped-up on greed.

Benjamin F. Lucas II

Attorney at Law and Baltimore historian

"Flashman," by George MacDonald Fraser, is the first in a series of novels that recount the exploits of an almost lovable cad (Harry Flashman) in the military campaigns and events of the Victorian era. Fraser is an impeccable historian and Flashman's candid appraisals of himself and the prominent figure of the time are delightful.

"The March of Folly," by Barbara W. Tuchman. Examines the remarkable predilection of leaders to pursue policies that are contrary to their nation's interests. Taking the reader through four disastrous exercises in governmental decision-making (the Trojan Horse episode, the reign of the Renaissance Popes, the British loss of America, and the American experience in Vietnam), Ms. Tuckman shows how the inflexible and dogged pursuit of policy can bring about utter disaster. The study of history is valuable in that it is important to know where we have been.

"The Mini World Atlas," by John Bartholomew and Son, which is available through the J. Peterman Co. catalog, because it is vital for the individual to know where he or she is going. This little treasure fits easily in the coat pocket or carry-on and provides hours of fun for travelers while en route to their various destinations.

Brian Weese

Owner of Bibelot bookstore, Pikesville, Md.

For Yigal Amir: "Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain," by Benzion Netanyahu. This is a brilliant and definitive study of the persecution of non-believers during the Spanish Inquisition. It illustrates how zealotry of any type ultimately spins out of control, harming both the zealots and their intended targets, wreaking havoc on society at large.

For Chief Justice William Rhenquist, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas: "The Right to Privacy," by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy. The authors combine landmark court cases with some lesser-known trial decisions to argue that the right to privacy, although not articulated in the Constitution, is considered by most of the American public as a fundamental right, legally protected. The Constitution has to be interpreted in a way that acknowledges this accepted "right," and the justices must balance public expectations with the Constitution's language.

For President Clinton: "Stormy Weather," by Carl Hiaasen. The president can spend an afternoon away from the pressures of his job with the latest mystery by this Miami Herald writer. After a hurricane rips through southern Florida, the con artists and carpetbaggers swarm over the area; among them is a man who has dedicated his life to saving Florida from just these kinds of people. A fast-paced, wonderful read.

Joan Mellen

The author of 12 books, she writes regularly, both reviews and arguments, for these pages

To Clint Eastwood: I've changed my mind since I called him a crypto-fascist in a book I wrote about the image of men in American films called "Big Bad Wolves." I present Mr. Eastwood with a copy of Sergei Eisenstein's "Film Form and Film Sense" not because he isn't a fine film director already, but because he is.

To P.D. James: Over the water I send "Overcoming Law," by Richard A. Posner, an intriguing journey into legal theory from which she might construct many plots for her astringently sensitive detective hero Adam Dalgleish. He's the one I'd really like to meet, if only he existed.

To Larry Bird, former Boston Celtic basketball player: I offer a novel in which he appears as the upright man so rare in contemporary fiction, the story of how his unselfish appreciation of team effort translates into personal life. It's a novel I haven't yet written, but would like to write.

Carleton Jones

Retired Sun newsman and author of several books on Baltimore history and architecture

H.V. Morton is the English master of almost everything in travel that is glorious. Particularly radiant is his "A Traveler In Italy," originally published in 1964 and the bible for what must be hundreds of thousands of fans. It's impossible to realize, by Morton's light and marvelous prose has the eerie quality of putting you there infallibly.

I also revere B.A. Botkin's "A Treasury of Mississippi River Folklore." In this case, really a treasure of early 19th century happenings, both grotesque and uplifting.

A third choice and one of the great exploration stories of the modern times is Commander Edward Ellsberg's thrilling saga of the conquest of the Arctic Ocean, "Hell on Ice."

Gregory Kane

Sun columnist

"Live From Death Row," by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal's work is the most searing and eloquent look at the issues of racism, class and criminal justice since the writings of George Jackson. Abu-Jamal managed to impress me even though, deep down, I believe he murdered the cop in the early morning hours of December, 1981.

"Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston's work is a feminist novel written long before feminism ,, became fashionable. The book is a love story between a black woman seeking independence and her much younger lover, and is much more satisfying than the "black-man-as-heel" novels, short stories and plays popular with today's black feminist authors.

"The Devil's Dictionary," by Ambrose Bierce. Written during the latter years of the last century, the dictionary holds up remarkably well as Bierce hilariously defines the world according to Bierce. Critics called him "Bitter Bierce," but it's hard to look unkindly on a man who defined love as "a form of insanity curable by marriage."

Avril Haines

Owner, Adrian's Book Cafe, Baltimore

For my father, the scientist, "What is Life," by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. It is a stunning coffee table-sized book that explores the origins of life. It is both scientifically accurate and philosophically challenging and yet it is not boring - I think he will enjoy the pictures if nothing else.

For an old friend who majored in history, Jane Austen's "History of England: By a Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Historian." Jane Austen wrote this book for the amusement of her family at age 16 and it includes wonderful remarks such as those she wrote about the British monarchs: "THE COURAGEOUS - Edward the 4th, who demonstrated his bravery in marrying one woman while engaged to another and Henry the 8th, whose abolishing Religious Houses and leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general."

For my niece, "Bastard Out Of Carolina," by Dorothy Allison. The story is told through the voice of a child; a South Carolina bastard who is an outcast in her world. The work is moving and violent and it examines childhood abuse and prejudice in a ruthless manner. It would be difficult, I think, for this book not to have an effect on you.

Stephan Loewentheil

Owner, The 19th Century Shop and rare books dealer, Baltimore

To Newt Gingrich: Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." One of the key books

in the development of our national literature, "Leaves of Grass" shows that books, ideas and art that some deem offensive or immoral can turn out to be among our culture's greatest achievements.

To Bill Gates: The first edition of Euclid's "Elements of Geometry" (Venice, 1482). This beautifully printed book demonstrates the aesthetic and historical value of books as objects recollecting the time and place of their creation. The significance of a great book cannot always be captured merely by its contents.

To Colin Powell: "The Writings of George Washington." A military hero with no ambition to become president, Washington bowed to public pressure and accepted his responsibility to his nation. Washington wrote, "my movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit, who is going to the place of his execution."

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