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‘The Shelf Of Constant Reproach

Several people were asked what books they are currently reading

William Gaines, editor, Mad magazine:

I read three papers a day. I’ve got about 200 books on my night table I never got to. I’m in the middle of some spy novel, but I can’t remember the name of it. The only time I get to read is on vacation. I started this spy book on my last vacation, got halfway through and couldn’t finish it. I’m going on another vacation this week, and I will finish this book and maybe three more and hopefully the Kitty Kelley book.

Ed Koch, former New York mayor:

I’m almost done with “A Fortunate Son” by Lewis Puller, who lost both legs in Vietnam. He is the son of Chesty Puller, who was the most decorated Marine in the history of the United States. It is an extraordinary book. The book I have next up is Clark Clifford’s new autobiography. Next (after that) is Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears.” I read on planes, in my car and from 11:30 to midnight every night. I generally finish what I start--I just schlepp it around till I’m done.

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David Crosby, musician:

In prison, I read a lot of escapist fiction--yuk yuk. I read a lot of science fiction, especially cyberpunk writer William Gibson. He and I both read “Stone City” by Mitchell Smith recently and exchanged faxes about it. It’s a real stunner. I’m powerless about books. I go into the store, and something inside me says, “It’s OK, Dave, they’re books,” and I walk out with a huge bagful, and my wife says, “Oh no, you did it again.”

Ruth Hirschman, KCRW station manager:

I’m reading in the Middle East, mostly--the first two books of Najib Mahfuz’s trilogy, “Palace of Dreams” and “Palace Walk.” I’m just about to leave for Australia, and I am one of the few people I know who takes very few clothes and a lot of hardback books. I’m not terribly involved with American fiction but like strange, offbeat American books like Tony Horwitz’s “Baghdad Without a Map.” I think there’s a lot of interesting writing coming out of travel now. I have a shelf called “The Shelf of Constant Reproach,” but I don’t give up. I don’t give up on a book because it’s difficult but because it’s unimportant or about things not my concern.

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Wolf Blitzer, CNN Pentagon correspondent:

I read newspapers: the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, all the military publications and an early-bird clipping service the Pentagon puts out. Also, on the CNN computer, I’m looking at the wire service all day. So I’m always reading. I don’t have as much time for books as I’d like. Mostly I’m reading political nonfiction. I’d like to read some novels and fun things, but this year, between the Gulf War and the Russian crisis, I haven’t had the time.

Stephen Sayadian, cult filmmaker:

I’ve been reading like crazy: “The New Confessions” by William Boyd, a story of a famous fictional silent-film director; “Memoirs of an Amnesiac” by musician and raconteur Oscar Levant, “Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade” by John Hawkes--it’s too hard to describe what he does--and all six volumes of “Crimes and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Aberrant Behavior.” I always finish what I start because going in I know I’m going to like it. I never read scripts. I write my own, and I can barely read those without No-Doze.

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Kathleen Brown, state treasurer:

I finally finished the wonderful “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner and “Damages” by Josephine Hart, a little novel of serious consequences. I also read “There Are No Children Here,” about children growing up in Chicago’s housing projects. I had a sneak read of “Rising Son,” by Michael Creighton, a murder mystery about the growing Japanese influence on the American sphere. I try and read three books a month. I always feel good having “Secrets of the Temple” on my night stand to remind me of the importance of our federal reserve system.

Marilyn Quayle, wife of the vice president:

I’m currently reading the copy-edited version of my own book, “But Be the Serpent.” I’m dying to read a book called “Silent Coup.” Usually, I read several books at the same time, but I always finish them. I don’t spend as much time reading as I’d like to, but I do read every day. There’s just never enough time to read.

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Marvin Minsky, robot psychologist:

Mostly I read E-Mail on Internet’s Usenet, which is a university and research-institution computer network. There are a lot of smart people out there and others who make noise, and I spend time reading short three-page essays people write, and then everyone comes down on them. It’s very interactive but public.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, columnist:

I read down the bestseller lists, both fiction and nonfiction, because it’s important to me in lectures to be up-to-date on what people are reading. Then I read things that are fun and trash, for my own pleasure. I read endlessly and compulsively. If I have nothing to read, I’ll read the dictionary. On my table are “Three Blind Mice” by Ken Auletta, Dominick Dunne’s “The Mansions of Limbo,” “Fighting for Air: In the Trenches With Television News” by Liz Trotta and, just arrived, “Texas Sage” by Sandra Brown, and one I can hardly wait to start, a book called “Why Things Are” by Joel Achenbach, with answers to every essential question in life.

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