The gift of books: 25 voices

What book 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 it?

And what book would you give to a prominent person whom you have never met, but would very much like to know?


In two sentences or less explain why those books and identify the stranger.

Parris Glendening


Governor of Maryland

A children's book, "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate The Wash," by Trinka Hakes Noble, is my book for a special person. There are few greater joys than reading to children. Whenever I have an opportunity to visit a school, this book is one of my favorites to share. I would give this book to my adult friends, in the hope that they too will experience the same pleasure.

I would really enjoy meeting film director Steven Spielberg. I truly admire him, not only for his science fiction films, but also for his love of history and his commitment to preserving a record of the Holocaust. I would give him "The Foundation Trilogy" by Isaac Asimov. He has probably already read it, but it would be great to discuss it with him.

Carla Hayden

Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

This year I plan to give the most special and supportive people in my life - my mother and grandmother, who are both great readers - Alice Steinbach's "The Miss Dennis School of Writing and Other Lesson's from A Woman's Life." Her collection of experiences will hopefully touch and comfort them while also giving them a better sense of the city I now live in.

The person I would like to meet is a pioneer and visionary in the information technology environment and I would like to present a copy of the very entertaining and informative "A History of Reading," by Alberto Manguel. I think that Bill Gates, the founder and CEO of Microsoft, might find Manguel's excursion through the reader's world will give additional conceptual depth to his efforts.

Diane Rehm


Executive producer and host of the "Diane Rehm Show" on National Public Radio broadcast from WAMU-FM in Washington.

"No Free Ride," by former Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume. An inspiring story of a man who moved from the anger of deprivation into a world of education, community responsibility and achievement. The perfect gift for anyone who is struggling to find a way of life.

I'm also going to give people a copy of the new book of photographs by Santi Visalli titled "Washington," for which I wrote the introduction.

"Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West," by Stephen Ambrose. The most momentous expedition in American history, across the North American continent, from the Mississippi to the Pacific. An incredibly moving story of partnership, loyalty and persistence, and the ability to overcome unimaginable hardships. The book also documents the leadership role played by President Jefferson, and his ability to work with hostile Congress to achieve his aims. My recipient would be President Bill Clinton.

Sue Karen Donaldson

Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.


To my special friends I plan to give the book "Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaardner in the hope that they will experience the joy of a rekindled sense of wonder as they read this mystery novel.

I would give Gail Sheehy the book "Written by Herself," edited by Jill Ker Conway because she along with women in this anthology of autobiographies inspire me to continue striving to contribute meaningfully to the human experience of life.

W. Paul Coates

Director of Black Classic Press.

The book I will give over and over this year will be "Merry Christmas Baby," by Paula Woods and Felix Liddell. This is a wonderful collection of essays, poems and illustrations celebrating Christmas and Kwanzaa that will enrich readers all year long.

If the opportunity presented itself, I'd present any one of Walter Mosley's books to Mayor Kurt Schmoke. The mayor often seems like an uptight guy. He should follow Bill Clinton's example; find a quiet place and curl up with Walter's now famous characters, Mouse and Easy Rawlins. Mouse could possibly teach the mayor how to win friends and influence people - like the governor.


Tzvi Hersch Weinreb

Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore

This year is the 250th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the great 18th- century mystic and pietist. To my oldest granddaughter, I will be giving a biography of Rabbi Luzzatto, "Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto: His Life and Works," by Yirmeyahu Bindman, and published by Jason Aronson. I hope it will help her to enter adolescence with an appreciation of Jewish poetry and thought.

I would very much like Pope John Paul II to understand the Jewish tradition as I experience it. I would therefore like to give him a copy of a work done by Rabbi Luzzatto, "The Path of the Upright: Mesillat Yesharim." Jason Aronson has also published this work with an English translation.

Peter A. Jay

A Sun editorial page columnist for 22 years, was on the editorial page staff from 1974 through 1982. He is also a farmer in Harford County.


For my daughter Sarah, a born writer and my companion afloat on some wonderful American waterways, a copy of H.D. Thoreau's "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers."

I reread this book at least once a year for several reasons, among them its reminder that even the most ordinary physical exertion can open intellectual doors which will always remain locked to the sedentary.

And for Robert Bell, the new chief judge of Maryland's Court of Appeals, a hard-to-find copy of Alexander M. Bickel's "The Morality of Consent." The late constitutional scholar argues more eloquently than anyone since Edmund Burke that absolutist ideology and moral imperatives lead inevitably to tyranny, and that a decent human society must learn to live with imperfect justice, because there is no other kind.

Michael Harrison

General Director of the Baltimore Opera Company

My 3-year-old son Graham is the most special to me. In this holiday season, we'll be sharing Maurice Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are." The book came before Sendak translated the work into colorful and engaging images for the opera stage. In addition, his opera work has included a spectacular Mozart's "The Magic Flute," and will include a new production of "Hansel and Gretel" in 1999.


Terry Teachout

Music critic of Commentary, writer of "Front Row Center" column for Civilization. He also writes regularly about books for the New York Times Book Review, opera for Opera News and jazz for the Wall Street Journal. He is finishing "H. L. Mencken: A Life."

My all-purpose gift book this season is Richard Kendall's "Degas: Beyond Impressionism," the catalogue of the great Edgar Degas show up through Jan. 5 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I'm giving it to my art-loving friends because Kendall's lucidly written, comprehensively informed study of Degas' late work is a model of everything art scholarship ought to be; I'm giving it to my ballet-loving friends so they can spend hours gazing at the five photographs of the three different versions of "Dancer Looking at the Sole of Her Right Foot," the finest dance sculpture ever made; and I'm giving it to a couple of other friends who can't get to Chicago to see the show, just to make them jealous.

Having watched "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" three times in the theater and once on pay TV, I'd like to send Janeane Garofalo a copy of Dawn Powell's wistfully witty 1942 novel "A Time to Be Born" - recently reissued in paperback by Steerforth Press - in the hope that she'll buy the rights and make a film version in which she plays the heroine. (If you're reading this, Janeane, call Michael Pakenham collect and ask for my phone number!)

Elsbeth L. Bothe


A recently retired judge from the Baltimore Circuit Court, she presided over numerous murder trials in her 18 years. Baltimore homicide detectives awarded her a plaque designating her a "Homicide Hero."

A book I will give to people who are very special to me: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's latest, shortest, most evocative tale: "Of Love and Other Demons," as always beautifully written; spirited, spiritual, humorous, historical, easy to read, leaving much to reflect over.

I will give Colin Wilson, the brilliant and prolific British philosopher with an encyclopedic knowledge not limited to true crime, an (abridged) copy of Randall Sullivan's book about the Billionaire Boys Club, "The Price of Experience," trusting the combination of a complex case with clever, bizarre characters would appeal to him as it did me.


Kevin Kallaugher, political cartoonist for The Sun since 1988, also draws for the Economist, the International Herald Tribune, Business Central Europe and Mediaweek magazine.

Matt Groening's "Simpson's Uncensored Family Album," This is the perfect gift for visiting relatives this holiday season. If you think you have the most dysfunctional family on the planet, relax, there is one that is worse.


To the president, his Cabinet and the incoming members of the 105th Congress. "Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons."

This book brilliantly portrays how cartoonist have successfully savaged the foibles of American politicians through the ages. Hopefully, our leaders will be inspired to provide bountiful material for Volume II.

Joan Mellen

Author of 13 books including a novel and several biographies. She teaches creative writing at Temple University and writes a periodic column about novels for The Sun. Her latest book is "Hellman and Hammett," published this summer by HarperCollins.

To my good friends, to my troop of brilliant cousins, to my acquaintances, to my students once and present, to anyone who has not yet read it, I offer this Christmas the outstanding novel by Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient," newly reissued in paperback.

Read this luminous book first, then see the film, its virtues notwithstanding. The earth will move. The world will never look the same.


Clarinda Harriss

A professor of English at Towson State University. Her most recent book of poems is "License Renewal for the Blind," a recent winner of the American Chapbook Award.

A book for people I truly care about, and whose lives I'd like to enrich: Virginia Adair, "Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems," Just to know that this marvelously tough-minded, true- voiced poet sees with such clear eyes at 83 - and blind - is bound to improve a reader's outlook on life.

A book for a celeb I've never met but would like to: For Mick Jagger, "The Poems of John Donne," any modern edition. The two Englishmen have at least one thing in common: Attitude with a capital A. I've always wanted to hear Mick - with or without the other Stones - do "The Flea," "Woman's Constancy," "The Indifferent," and Holy Sonnet 14: "Batter My Heart."

David Kusnet

Chief speech-writer for President Clinton from 1992 through 1994, he is the author of "Speaking American: How the Democrats Can Win in the Nineties."


If I had the time, the money and the world's greatest bookstore nearby, I would give my friends novels by Brian Moore. "The Emperor of Ice Cream" is a classic coming-of-age story. In different ways "The Feast of Lupercal," "An Answer from Limbo," "The Luck of Ginger Coffey" and "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne" offer insight into characters whose lives have taken disappointing turns, from loneliness to irresponsibility, loss of religious faith and political commitment.

Perhaps the only domestic policy issue for which President Clinton does not have an instant understanding is the role the labor movement can play in shaping public policies and corporate strategies. So I'd like to give Clinton recent biographies of two of the greatest labor leaders of this century: Steven Fraser's "Labor will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor," and Nelson Lichtenstein's "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor."

Frances Hughes Glendening

The first lady of Maryland, as well as an attorney and life-long Maryland resident.

Book for a special person: "A Book From The Sea," by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I've read everything she's ever written.

I would love to meet Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I would give her "Lovingly, Georgia," a book of letters by Georgia O'Keeffe.


Fred Lazarus

President of Maryland Institute, College of Art.

For special people: "Can a Coal Scuttle Fly?" by Camal Calloway Murphy and Tom Miller. This wonderful book encourages all of us to follow our dreams and vision.

A book for Louis Farrakhan is "Letters from an American Farmer," by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. This was the first book to recognize that the strength of Americans was drawn from dissolving ethnic differences and forging a new identity.

Victoria Sirota

An Episcopal priest and vicar of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, she holds a doctorate in music as well as a master of divinity degree. An organist and university music teacher before ordination, she has written widely about creativity, theology and music


"Our Selves, Our Souls & Bodies: Sexuality and the Household of God," edited by Charles Hefling, is a collection of essays by Anglican authors, ordained and lay, who struggle faithfully to hear God's voice in the midst of the current pain, fear and confusion surrounding homosexuality and Christianity. For my spiritual friends who grapple with their prophetic voice, this book casts light on a topic that threatens to divide but also holds the key to new life in the church.

Peter Gomes' "The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart" from one of the great preachers of our time (and my former homiletics professor at Harvard), is a courageous call that we reread the Bible with our full intellect, faith, passion and integrity. For Bishop Desmond Tutu, this book would provide the basis for a spirited conversation about the presence of God in today's world (and even at Harvard!).

Robert Orsi

A professor in the religious studies department at Indiana University, he writes for various journals and his written several books including: "The Gods of the City: Religion and the Contemporary Urban Landscape in North America," and "Thank You St. Jude: Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes."

To my loved ones I will be giving John Berger's moving novel about a young woman dying of AIDS, "To the Wedding," hoping that it points them, as it did me, to the deepest, pagan sources of hope and human communion underlying the holiday.

And I want to give "At Home in the World" by the anthropologist Michael Jackson, a cross-cultural reflection on the possibility of any of us feeling at home anywhere at the end of the century, to Frank Sinatra, our haunted poet of the homeless heart.


Lisa Schwarzbaum

A writer-at-large and movie critic for Entertainment Weekly. She was previously a feature writer at the New York Daily News and had worked for the Boston Globe and Real Paper. A regular contributor to national magazines, she is writing a book about the spiritual life of Hollywood for Pocket Books.

Every grown-up I know still coddling a whiny inner child is receiving a copy of "Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's gorgeous memoir about growing up in Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s. The man survived a wretchedly poor, misery-soaked Limerick childhood and lived to describe it with compassion, cool honesty and great humor. That's a gift of grace; we should all take a lesson.

I'd love to bust into immaculate home of obsessive Jerry Seinfeld - he of the eponymous sitcom so famously about "nothing" - and give him "The Mezzanine," Nicholson Baker's first and best novel, about a guy who buys some shoelaces on his lunch break (That's the plot, period.) It is such a witty symphony of obsession, digression, minutia, and wit that Jerry will be bound to offer me a bowl of cereal or some Snapple, and we can sit on his couch and talk - about not much at all, probably.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Lieutenant governor of Maryland.


For a special person: "On Revolution," by Hannah Arendt.

To Vaclav Havel (president of the Czech Republic) I'd give "Lincoln," the biography of Abraham Lincoln by David Donald.

James Asher

City editor of The Sun. He was previously an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has been writing for newspapers for 25 years.

To Those Special: "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Lately, I've become a shameful promoter. Written in 1908, this novel touches the spirit and celebrates spontaneity.

To all current politicians and their wannabe competitors: "The Complete Works of Shakespeare." There are many lessons contained therein.


Ray Suarez

Host of National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation," heard locally on WJHU-FM and WAMU -FM.

My closest book buddy is my kid brother, William. We are constantly reading each other's recommendations and have a Brooklyn to Washington lending axis. I'm going to give Simon Schama's "Landscape and Memory" because going on a trip with this brilliant writer is like eating a multi-course meal, each one better than the last (though each time you tell yourself, "It can't get better than this.").

I'd like to give Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich copies of William Julius Wilson's new book, "When Work Disappears." Though I have no doubt we'd disagree on the book's assertions and conclusions, I'd love to talk with both of them about why

Sue Spath

Principal of Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in Cherry Hill, Baltimore.


The book I would like to give to special people is "Gifted Hands" by Ben Carson because it shows the value of persistence in obtaining one's goals in life.

I would like to give "Savage Inequalities" to President Clinton because it paints a picture of the extremes of wealth and poverty in our public schools.

Jan Winburn

Enterprise editor at The Sun, She is a working mother whose husband is ostensibly enlightened.

"Composing a Life" by Mary Catherine Bateson (daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson) describes the improvisation required of women in the modern world. It is full of insight for any woman trying to balance work and children and those especially needy specimens known as men. It's a good book for men to read, too, even the enlightened ones.

Michael Shelden


Michael Shelden is the author of three biographies and writes for the Daily Telegraph in London, the Times of London, the Washington Post and the New Yorker. He writes a periodic column about novels for The Sun.

To my dearest friend, I will give the latest short-story collection by Tobias Wolff, "The Night in Question," a work of haunting beauty. To my favorite prominent stranger - Newt Gingrich - I would like to present a valuable work on the dangers of overreaching, Louise Barnett's wonderful "Touched by Fire: The Life, Death, and Mythic Afterlife of George Armstrong Custer."