The Baltimore Sun

Since 2004, Nichole Hickey has been the executive director of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which features concerts, exhibitions, classes and workshops to connect the arts to the community.

"We truly do offer something for everyone over the course of our 16-day festival each year," Hickey said.

The festival runs through Saturday, ending with a performance by East Village Opera Company, a musical group composed of a string quartet, five-piece band and two singers.

Hickey and her husband, Michael, live in Columbia with their dogs, Bebe and Caity.

"Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell

This was the first "real book" given to me as a child. I love animals and I love happy endings. I read and reread this book as I was growing up and for me it epitomizes the best of "children's literature."

"Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham

This is the most recent book I've had time to read. I've read most of Grisham's work; however, this book was most meaningful to me as I went to Italy for the first time on vacation in September 2007. Reading the book following that trip was just a lot of fun because I could so easily visualize the characters, settings, and even some of the situations Grisham describes. He could have been traveling with us!

"The Art of Shiva" by Manil Suri

While I haven't read all of it - it's high on my list of things to do after our 2008 Columbia Festival of the Arts season ends - I have read excerpts and it is clearly a beautiful and compelling book. Manil Suri is appearing at the festival, reading from both this book and his first novel, Death of Vishnu, on Thursday. I expect that the personal contact with him will make the book even more meaningful to me.

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