Who's Reading What?

Retired librarian Glenna Nowell, compiler of annual celebrity "Who Reads What?" list. AP

California Gov. Gray Davis' favorite book is "A Man for All Seasons." Actor-comedian Lily Tomlin likes "The Shipping News." Film star Mira Sorvino was fascinated by "A Brief History of Time."

Haley Joel Osment, featured in "The Sixth Sense," recommends "Sphere" by Michael Crichton and "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

They are among the famous names on the 2002 "Who Reads What?" list compiled by Glenna Nowell, a retired small-town librarian who started polling politicians, athletes, authors and actors in 1988 for an annual list of celebrities' favorite reading materials. The list was released in advance of National Library Week, April 14-20.

In the past, Nowell used her librarian's expertise to locate the mailing addresses of her VIPs so she could write to them. Concerned that the anthrax scare in the fall would discourage celebrities from opening their mail, the ever-resourceful and Internet-savvy Nowell turned to e-mail and discovered the stars were only a mouse click away.

"Some responses came back the same day," Nowell said with a smile.

Nowell was especially delighted to hear from Osment, hoping the young actor would inspire other youths to read.

Osment, who turns 14 on Wednesday, said "The Killer Angels" is written "like you are inside the minds of the heroes of Gettysburg."

Nowell said the choices this year include a rich mix of award winners, classics and perennial favorites.

"There's something on this list for everybody, believe me," said Nowell, who has read most of this year's top picks.

Author Anne Perry, who writes crime novels set in Victorian London, said the book that influenced her thinking most is Dante's "Inferno," while "The Ballad of the White Horse" displays G.K. Chesterton's "love of life and humanity."

Another mystery writer, Mike Stewart, who penned "Sins of the Brother," recalled hitchhiking all over Maine when he was a teen-ager and listed "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Catcher in the Rye" among his favorites.

Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" has been listed in past years by Charlton Heston and Bob Hope, among others, while J.D. Salinger's "Catcher" has been listed five times over the years.

"It was Salinger's writing that made me first start dreaming of writing fiction myself," Stewart wrote. At 18, I first read 'The Old Man and the Sea' (by Ernest Hemingway). That's when I knew I'd become a writer."

For author Clive Barker, a favorite was the collected works of T.S. Eliot.Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News," now a movie starring Kevin Spacey, turned up as Tomlin's top novel.

An email from Davis, the California governor, cited "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt as his favorite book, and the chief executive was reading "John Adams" by David McCullough.

Former Olympic figure skater Oksana Baiul chose the story of another athlete: "Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton," by the Chicago Bears football legend and Don Yeager. Fellow figure-skating Olympian Tara Lipinski listed "All Creatures Great and Small" by James Herriot.

Actor Mira Sorvino called "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking "utterly fascinating, if extremely challenging reading." Sorvino also lists Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina," which she describes as "a brilliant American coming of age novel."

Actor Matthew Modine described his choice of Jean Giono's "The Man Who Planted Trees" with an upbeat message, saying it "reminds us that each of us can make a difference. That we can leave the world a better place for future generations of life on this big blue ball!"

By Glenn Adams
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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