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Big Books Issue

Carla Hayden

Executive director, Enoch Pratt Free Library

Photo: Frank Klein, License: N/A

Frank Klein

City Paper : What are you reading right now?

Carla Hayden: I have many books surrounding me at home. I have different stacks. I have mysteries in one stack. Of course Laura Lippman, who’s the best. Sujata Massey, who also was at the Sun. Then I have the basket of biographies and history, and that includes the gigantic book—but really, really great—of George Washington. Did you know he was a great dancer? He loved Champagne. The book is literally about five pounds, by Ron Chernow. There’s a new book that I really can’t wait to get into. It’s called Wendy and the Lost Boys. It’s about Wendy Wasserstein that did The Heidi Chronicles.

CP: Do you have an e-reader?

CH: I’m gonna get one. For the last three years we’ve had where you can download e-books for free from our web site. And we just launched a program of loaning e-readers. So I’m gonna get a Nook, because that’s the one we use. And that five-pound book I just mentioned? I might give that away to somebody for a gift and get it for the e-reader.

CP: Do you remember what the first book you read as a young adult that really struck you was?

CH: One of the first books that I remember as a child, and I have it here, is Bright April by Marguerite De Angeli. We were in New York and there was a branch library, a storefront, right across from P.S. 96. And this was a book that had a little black girl. She was a Brownie, I was a Brownie. The pictures were beautiful, and it was the first time I’d really seen myself, or people that looked like us, in a book. And I checked it out over and over, so much that my mom thought we owned it. And that’s when I learned about library fines. I still have warm feelings about that book. The idea of seeing yourself reflected in a picture book was so very powerful for me. She had two pigtails, and so did I.

CP: Are there books you feel like you should read but have never gotten around to?

CH: Oh yeah. All the Harry Potter books. I haven’t read them all. I haven’t done as much with books on tape and I think they’re a good thing, because you can use the time in the car or at the gym. I think that was a great invention.

CP: What was the last book you read that really struck you?

CH: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. She’s such a good writer. When you have a nonfiction writer who writes like fiction, even though it’s true they write so well that it’s like reading fiction. Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, that’s one of the best.

CP: Do you wish you had more time to read?

CH: Oh yeah, there’s so many things you could read. A lot of people who love to read responded I’m sure to that old Twilight Zone episode where it’s the end of the world but the man feels like things aren’t that bad because the library’s still there and there’s all these books and he can just read and read and read. Then he’s so excited and then he breaks his glasses. Talk about tragedy.

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