As the Page Turns, So Reads Washington
WASHINGTON — THIS summer Washingtonians will be reading everything from William G. Hyland's ``The Cold War Is Over'' to Scott Turow's hot new thriller, ``The Burden of Proof,'' to Nikolai Gogol's ``Dead Souls.'' For just a few weeks - at the beach, in the mountains, or in the monsoon heat of a Washington summer - they will be putting aside the budget, bills, torts, flow charts, and procurement lists to delve into some of the books they've had a yen to read for months.
At the White House, a spokesperson says President Bush has just finished ``The Charm School,'' Nelson DeMille's 1988 novel of intrigue that turns on the death of an American tourist in the Soviet Union. For the future, Mr. Bush plans to read either books recommended by friends or selected from a list of titles of gift books sent to him.
First Lady Barbara Bush, who has made literacy her special cause, has just finished ``September,'' Rosamunde Pilcher's novel about the people who converge on a small Scottish town for a get-together. For her next book, Mrs. Bush is moving on to ``The Evening News,'' Arthur Hailey's melodrama about the abduction of a TV anchorman and his family by Peruvian revolutionaries.
Among Washingtonians who love books and lobby for them are James Billington, librarian of Congress, and Lynn Cheney, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Billington will be reading Gogol's ``Dead Souls'' and ``Selected Poems'' by the new United States poet laureate, Mark Strand. Mrs. Cheney's summer reading includes Philip Larkins's ``Collected Poems,'' Roger Kimball's ``Tenured Radicals,'' and Sue Grafton's latest mystery, ```G' Is for Gumshoe.''
Sen. William Cohen (R) of Maine - who is a poet, author, and novelist himself and co-author (with Senate majority leader George Mitchell) of ``Men of Zeal,'' a book about the Iran-contra hearings - has five books on his vacation list: Somerset Maugham's ``The Summing Up,'' Ian McEwan's ``Cement Garden,'' David Lindsey's ``Mercy,'' Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's ``Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco,'' and Francine du Plessix Gray's ``Soviet Women: Walking the Tightrope.''
Last year a lot of vacationing Washingtonians took with them Turow's ``Presumed Innocent,'' a riveting mystery about a lawyer, says Robin Diener of the Chapters Literary Bookstore here. This year she and Chapters co-owner Terri Merz say Turow's new book - already No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list - looks like a Washington winner.
Another book that's acing out the competition is Patricia O'Toole's ``The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918,'' which is on the Chapters list as well as the one at Olsson's Georgetown bookstore. Olsson's senior buyer, Jim Tenney, calls it ``a good book about the Washington social scene in Adams's time, a reminiscence of Farragut Square, where the Adamses lived.''
Both Chapters and Olsson's are high on one of Senator Cohen's authors, British writer Ian McEwan, whose new chiller, ``The Innocent,'' is described by Mr. Tenney as ``a devastating portrayal of an innocent British secret agent in Berlin during the building of a Berlin tunnel....''
Ms. Merz of Chapters says the store's customers ``read a lot of classics in the summer ... George Eliot, Tolstoy - all the things they think they should have read.'' She's been recommending Iris Murdoch's ``big, dense, rich novel, `Message to the Planet,''' as well as Deirdre Bair's biography ``Simone De Beauvoir,'' Jonathan Spence's ``The Search for Modern China,'' ``The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose'' edited by Frank Muir, Martin Amis's ``London Fields,'' and Ward Just's collection of short stories ``The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert,'' now in paperback.