Take Charles Schwab's pick, for example. The investment counselor calls "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay "a must-read not only for all investors — but for all thinking people."
"So there's a good mix of the tried and true classics and ... a page turner," said Glenna Nowell, who has been compiling her lists since 1988.
Past contributors have included former Presidents Clinton and Carter, President Bush (while he was Texas governor) and United Nations Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The silver-haired Nowell, who relies increasingly in the Internet for her literary sleuthing, drew diverse responses for the list appearing in time for National Library Week, April 6-12.
Actor-comedian Dom DeLuise sent back a vote for the children's book he authored, "Charlie the Caterpillar," and even sent this small central Maine city's library a copy of it adorned with his wild, page-sized autograph.
Rep. Dick Gephardt recommended the biography of a fellow Missouri Democrat, "Truman" by David McCullough. "Truman" was also tops on a previous list for John Baldacci, then a Maine congressman and now governor.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Democratic presidential aspirant, listed "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley with Ron Powers, and "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose, as his favorites. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, chimed in with Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
Actor Stacy Keach is another a Hemingway fan. Noting that he recently recorded all of Papa's short stories, Keach said, "It was such a satisfying experience to revisit one of the world's great writers."
"I love to read all kinds of stuff, anything from Shakespeare to trashy novels," wrote Keach, who also listed "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris and "Nights in Rodanthe" by Nicholas Sparks.
Ben Stein, actor-comedian-game show host and an author himself, included "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald and "John Brown's Body" by Stephen Vincent Benet on his list of favorites.
British Lord Jeffrey Archer, also an author, was succinct in his description of "Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens: "A good story, told by a great writer."
Celebrities' favorite books include two that were not originally published in English, Nowell said.
"Three Trapped Tigers" by Cuban author Guillermo Cabrera Infante, which actor Andy Garcia listed as his favorite book, was originally published in Spanish.
Nowell relied heavily on writers to round out the 2003 list.
Thriller-mystery author T. Jefferson Parker wrote that "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger "knocked my socks off," while "The Cadence of Grass" by Thomas McGuane "tore my hat off."
Author Peter Robinson said the characters in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" are so well-developed that "they stay with you long after you've finished reading."