Summer Reading 2003
Notables Talk About Their Favorite Books
August 2003 -- This summer, Weekend Edition Sunday is talking with well-known people from various professions about their reading life. What are they reading now? What are their favorite books? How much do they read, and why? Here are their answers.
More Summer Reading from NPR.
Dr. Julie Freischlag
Hear the interview with Julie Freischlag, August 31, 2003.
Dr. Julie Freischlag is the chief of surgery at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, and chair of surgery for all of Hopkins' medical insitutions. So how does she find time to read?
"I think I look at reading almost as a gift I give myself," she says. "... give myself an hour, or give myself some time to have a book."
"I read on the airplane because I travel probably 30 to 35 times a year, so I'll allow myself one way where I do work, and then if I get that all done, then on the way back, I get to read." And evenings. And mornings, sometimes.
Lately she's been reading a lot of fiction, though she says that's not necessarily typical. Biographies, books on time management and effective business techniques, women's issues -- all find a place in her mixed doctor's bag of books.
"When you do read, you do actually get to relax a bit," she says. "...and go into a different dimension where you actually can come out of it, I think, refreshed from the reading."
» Read about Freischlag's appointment as chief of surgery at Johns Hopkins.
» Read an interview in which Freischlag discusses her career choice.
» American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Ellis
» Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
» The Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
» The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
» She Wins, You Win, Gale Evans
» A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton
Hear the interview with Robert Rubin, August 24, 2003.
Robert Rubin, U.S. Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration, spent 26 years with financial titan Goldman Sachs before joining the White House team. After leaving public office he returned to the private financial world as chairman of Citigroup. He's also about to publish his own book, In an Uncertain World, plumbing his past experience on Wall Street and in Washington's power corridors.
He describes himself as an "eclectic" reader and says he often has as many as half a dozen books going at once. Though he reads "mostly" non-fiction, he mixes in some fiction as well. He tends to pick up a book that's been around the house a while -- though that doesn't stop him from browsing at bookstores.
Rubin says he returns often to a book called Philosopher's Holiday -- now out of print -- written by Columbia professor Irwin Edman. It's a collection of short fiction pieces Edman wrote to make specific philosophical points.
But reading is rarely a busman's holiday for Rubin, a man who was praised for his stewardship of the economy and the nation's fiscal health in the mid-to-late 1990s.
"I almost never read books on economic issues," he confesses.
» Read Robert Rubin's biography at the Citigroup Web site.
» Read a 'Frontline' interview with Rubin for The Clinton Years series on PBS.
» Read a tribute to Rubin delivered by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) after Rubin left the Clinton administration.
May 13, 1999: NPR's John Ydstie covers Rubin's departure from the Clinton administration for Morning Edition.
» A Philosopher's Holiday, Irwin Edman
» The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams
» Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, Gretchen Craft Rubin (his daughter-in law)
» A Political Education, Harry McPherson
» President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Richard Reeves
Courtesy The University of Chicago
Hear the interview with Paul Sereno, August 17, 2003.
Paleontologist Paul Sereno grew up in Naperville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He earned his doctorate in geology at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Sereno is a professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. In 1999, he co-founded Project Exploration, an organization which teaches science to the public, with a focus on educating children in cities.
Sereno says that he doesn't read much fiction, and his taste in reading gravitates more towards books about the human condition. He also reads to learn about physical activities, and has used books to train for marathons and improve his billiard skills.
This past week, Sereno announced in India the discovery of Rajasaurus narmadensis, a new carnivorous dinosaur species. He will be spending the next two months on an expedition in Niger.
» Visit Paul Sereno's Web site.
» Visit the Project Exploration Web site.
» Read about Rajasaurus narmadensis, a dinosaur recently discovered by Sereno.
Nov. 15, 1999: NPR's Christopher Joyce profiles Paul Sereno on Morning Edition.
» Galloway's Book on Running, Jeff Galloway
» Dragon Hunter, Charles Gallenkamp
» In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
» The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Tariq Ali
» Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
Photo Kaveh Sardari
Hear the interview with Azar Nafisi, August 10, 2003.
Azar Nafisi taught English literature at the University of Tehran and Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai University in Iran. She was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the veil and left Iran in 1997. Her memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, is about the book club in Tehran she formed with seven women to read and discuss such forbidden books as Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita. Now, Nafisi is a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
Nafisi's own recent reading includes mysteries, novels and memoirs. She says that she particularly enjoys stories about ordinary people such as Stone Diaries by Carol Shields and Net of Dreams by Julie Salamon because they "make you understand that the most extraordinary things are in fact in ordinary facts of life."
» Visit the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University Web site.
Terry Gross interviews Azar Nafisi on Fresh Air.
» Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
» Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
» Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas
» Net of Dreams, Julie Salamon
» Language Police, Diane Ravitch
» Address Unknown, Kathrine Taylor
» Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
» Loitering With Intent, Muriel Spark
» Gulag, Anne Applebaum
Photo courtesy Princeton University
Hear the interview with Shirley Tilghman, August 3, 2003.
Shirley Tilghman is the 19th president of Princeton University, a position she has held since 2001. She says she listens to audio books when she walks her dog. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, and she finds that listening to their work on tape is a much different experience from reading their printed words. Most recently, she has been listening to the third volume of a biography of Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate, by Robert A. Caro.
Before becoming president of the university, Tilghman taught molecular biology at Princeton for more than ten years. Though she doesn't read as much of the scientific literature as she used to, she does spend one day a week in the lab, and recommends Genome, by Matt Ridley, and DNA, by Nobel laureate James Watson, for general readers interested in exploring molecular biology.
» Visit the Princeton University Web site.
» Master of the Senate, Robert A. Caro
» What Went Wrong, Bernard Lewis
» Crisis in Islam, Bernard Lewis
» Kate Remembered, A. Scott Berg
» Nature and Nurture, Matt Ridley
» Genome, Matt Ridley
» DNA, James Watson
» Vanity Fair, William Thackery
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Hear the interview with Jane Alexander, July 27, 2003.
Actress Jane Alexander chaired the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993 to 1997. Most recently she has played the role of Helen Alving in a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.. Alexander says that many of her favorite writers are playwrights, and she particularly enjoys Ibsen's work. When she's not reading to prepare for a role, she enjoys listening to audio books and reading about birds.
Alexander says she especially enjoys reading about the lives of the pioneers who settled the American West. Her grandfather was Buffalo Bill's physician, and Calamity Jane was one of her favorite characters to play on the stage.
» Djuna: The Formidable Ms. Barnes, Andrew Field
» Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest, Sandra Day O'Connor, H. Alan Day
» The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley
» To the Actor, Michael Chekhov, Mala Powers, Simon Callow
» Venetian Stories, Jane Turner Rylands
» Fluke, Christopher Moore
Hear the interview with Anthony Bourdain, July 20, 2003.
Anthony Bourdain is the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York. He enjoys reading culinary memoirs and cookbooks, from which he gleans ideas. Recently, he enjoyed Jacques Pepin's memoir, The Apprentice and "for sheer culinary pornographic value," strongly recommends the forthcoming El Bulli 1998-2002 by Spanish chef Ferran Adria.
He loves reading mysteries as well, and just finished Bangkok Eight by John Burdett. His all-time favorite crime novel is The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins.
Bourdain is the author of the best-selling Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. He has also written three crime novels, the most recent of which is The Bobby Gold Stories. Currently, Bourdain is working on a cookbook he describes as "Julia Child meets Full Metal Jacket."
» Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
» A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines
» The Bobby Gold Stories
» Bone in the Throat
» Bangkok 8, John Burdett
» The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins
» Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
» The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection, Michael Ruhlman
» Kitchen Book and Cookbook, Nicholas Freeling
» The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, Jacques Pepin
Hear the interview with Iris Zimmermann, July 13, 2003.
Champion fencer Iris Zimmermann represented the United States at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and hopes to go to Athens, Greece, in 2004. This summer she is training in New York to qualify for the Olympic team and plans to compete in the World Fencing Championships in Cuba this fall. Zimmerman is a student at Stanford University where she is studying political science.
Zimmermann's long subway rides to her training this summer have given her plenty of time to read. She and her fellow fencers have formed a book club called Jed's Book Corner. They started the club in an effort to get to know one another better, and to relieve some of the pressure of training for the Olympic Games.
» Visit the United States Fencing Web site.
Zimmermann's Summer Reading:
» A Bed for the Night: Humanitariansim in Crisis, David Rieff
» Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
Zimmermann Also Recommends:
» House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
» Time of Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
Hear the interview with Jonathan Franzen, July 6, 2003.
Writer Jonathan Franzen, author and contributor to The New Yorker, brought old copies of the magazine to Australia and New Zealand this summer. He was touring to promote his novel The Corrections and the essay collection How To Be Alone. He also brought historian Gordon Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize.
One of Franzen's projects this summer is to read more American history, including Reagan's America, by Garry Wills.
» Visit Jonathan Franzen's Web site.
» Visit The New Yorker Web site.
Jonathan Franzen joins Neal Conan to discuss How to Be Alone, on Talk of the Nation.
Terry Gross interviews Jonathan Franzen on Fresh Air.
» The Corrections
» How To Be Alone
Franzen's Summer Reading:
» The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Gordon S. Wood
» Reagan's America, Garry Wills
» Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Franzen Also Recommends:
» Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, Tom Bissell
» We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch
» The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
Photo: David Bohrer
Hear the interview with Lynne Cheney, June 29, 2003.
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has written or co-written six books. Her most recent is America: A Patriotic Primer, which teaches patriotism to children.
Using the profits from America, Cheney endowed the James Madison Book Award, honoring history written for children. So she has been reading a lot of books for kids lately.
Cheney says that she usually has several books going at once, and this summer plans to read The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. They were recommended to her by Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of her husband's Bush Cabinet colleague.
» Read more about Lynne Cheney on the White House Web site.
» Visit the James Madison Book Award Web site.
NPR's Susan Stamberg interviews Lynne Cheney about her book America: A Patriotic Primer.
Lynne Cheney's July 2002 talk at the National Press Club.
Cheney's Recently Read:
» Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, John Fleischman
» When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, Pam Muņoz Ryan, illustratied by Bryan Selznick
Cheney's Currently Reading:
» Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Emery Battis
» Savage Run, C.J. Box
Cheney's Planning to Read:
» The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
Eden Ross Lipson
Hear the interview with Eden Ross Lipson, June 22, 2003.
Eden Ross Lipson is the children's book editor at The New York Times. She is also the author of The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children, now in its third edition.
» Visit The New York Times Web site.
NPR's Neal Conan and guests discuss the hot titles in children's books this season.
NPR's Liane Hansen talks with Eden Ross Lipson about the death of Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking.
» Dark Materials Trilogy, Philip Pullman
Including: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
» The Thief Lord, Cornelia Funke
Photo: Stephanie Diani
Hear the interview with Suzan-Lori Parks, June 15, 2003.
Playwright, screenwriter and novelist Suzan-Lori Parks won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog. Her first novel was published in May 2003. Getting Mother's Body is the story of a pregnant teen, Billy Beede, and her road trip from Texas to Arizona to the grave of her mother, the fast-running and six-years-dead Willa Mae.
NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates interviews Suzan-Lori Parks about the success of her play Topdog/Underdog.
NPR's Lisa Simeone visits the Public Theater in New York for a rehearsal of Top Dog/Underdog.
» Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel
» Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
» Unless, Carol Shields
Hear the interview with Jeff Bezos, June 8, 2003.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, doesn't just sell books. An avid reader himself, Bezos has recently developed an interest in cartography and Roman engineering, though he favors science fiction.
» Visit the Amazon.com Web site.
NPR's Susan Stamberg interviewed Jeff Bezos in October 2000 about leadership.
NPR's Wendy Kaufman profiled Bezos in October 1999.
» The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
» Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow
Bezos Plans To Read:
» The Paris Review Book: of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, the Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953
» Gentlemen of Space, Ira Sher
Photo: ŠThe New Yorker/Gaspar Tringale
Hear the interview with Laura Hillenbrand, June 1, 2003.
Author Laura Hillenbrand's career was off to the races after she produced her best-selling historical account Seabiscuit: An American Legend, about the famous overachieving race horse who captured the nation's imagination early in the 20th century.
NPR's Scott Simon interviewed Laura Hillenbrand in April 2001 about Seabiscuit.
NPR's Linda Wertheimer interviewed Charles Frazier in August 1997 about Cold Mountain.
» Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier
» The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara
» Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, William Nack
Photo: Gasper Tringale
Hear the interview with David Remnick, May 25, 2003.
Editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick enjoys reading the work of journalists including Joseph Mitchell and John McPhee, as well as novelists such as Saul Bellow and John Updike. Philip Roth's work in particular, says Remnick, gets stronger and more vivid as the years pass.
» Visit The New Yorker Web site.
» Visit The Oligarchs Web site.
» Visit John McPhee's Web site.
» Visit the Library of America Web site.
» The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
» The Oligarchs, David Hoffman