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From the President

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We stand behind our taste in books

PHOTO:  Our noses in books:  the Magazine staff.The Magazine staff is pictured to the left, illustrating the principle You are what you read. I'm behind Frosty the Snowman. When we got the idea for this column, as part of an issue in which all the features discuss books worth reading, writing, publishing, teaching, seeing, or otherwise thinking about, we decided that each editor would write a bit about his or her favorite books. As the oldest reader in the group, I got the most space.

Most readers like to talk about what they're reading. And like all addicts, they're always on the lookout for another endorphin-producing experience: the next book they can't put down. So here's what we like, in hopes that you find another good read.

First, Frosty the Snowman. This copy is six months younger than its owner, proving once more that the best way to produce a reader is to start early. My mother did, and when Frosty resurfaced two years ago, I had a Proustian moment: looking at snowsuited children gazing into a bakery window whose goods are iced with frosting as white and inviting as the snowman himself, I was back to toddler awe.

Gone with the Wind was once my favorite book, reread every year. Today, like Rhett, I no longer give a damn. Jane Austen does get repeat reads, usually in the bathtub-where the heroines of Sense and Sensibility dissolve into the ladies from Persuasion. The plots blur, but reading Austen always yields the same pleasure in decorous sentences covering bare-bones truth.

Books worth rereading change as we change. My ninth-grade book report on Lolita began, "I fail to see what is erotic about this book." In college, I saw Nabokov's Humbert Humbert as the protagonist of a tragic love story; as the mother of teenage daughters, I see the story differently yet again. This fall I reread Moby-Dick, a book I don't remember opening since college. I marveled at its depths then (enough to take a course reading all of Melville's other novels), and after several decades of life's sea changes marvel still more.

Associate editor Chris Smith flaunts Cattus Petasatus, The Cat in the Hat in Latin, by Jennifer and Terence Tunberg: "A friend who knows me too well gave me this book for my birthday. I love it because it speaks equally to my scholarly and immature sides, which I often have trouble keeping in balance." He also returns to Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume ("I want to go for a long, contemplative walk after each chapter") and the poems of Catullus ("a new riddle every time").

Associate editor Sharla Stewart stands behind Willa Cather's O Pioneers! "I grew up in Nebraska," she says, "resenting the fact that it was Nebraska and not someplace more cosmopolitan, and as soon as I was old enough I fled the Midwest. A couple of years ago in Atlanta, I picked up a Willa Cather book for a buck at a yard sale. Aside from the odd short story in high school and college English classes, I'd never read her work. I couldn't put the book down. She was writing about my homeland, and she had it so absolutely right, the way Faulkner gets the South right or Keillor gets Minnesota right."

Assistant editor Qiana Johnson, AB'98, goes for Tolkien's The Hobbit. "Many of the adventure stories I read as a kid had a hero who was strong and smart and knew it-not exactly someone I could identify with. Bilbo gets dragged on this adventure where he thinks he won't be useful only to find that he's more resourceful than he thinks. I also love the descriptions of the lands they travel through: Middle-earth provided me with weeks of things and places to daydream about. And hey, having a hero who's not very tall is always cool." --M.R.Y

What's your favorite read?

We've told ours. Now you tell us-and other readers-yours, at the Magazine's new bulletin board. Go to www.alumni. and click "Read."


  > > Volume 93, Number 3

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Battle of THE books
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Search for meanings
  > > Anatomy of a text
  > > Publish and flourish
  > > Page-turners
  > > Read a business book

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