What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
“Alone Together,” by Christian Williams, a former colleague from The Washington Post. It’s the story of his single-handed ocean sail in a 32-foot sloop, 2,700 miles from Southern California to Hawaii and back. Discovery: When you think you are alone, you are not. You bring all your memories, relationships, advances and setbacks. Williams’s sequel, “Philosophy of Sailing: Offshore in Search of the Universe,” is also brilliant. There are new things to discover about yourself and your life out there alone on the sea.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
The first book I recall reading all the way through was “The Swiss Family Robinson,” by Johann D. Wyss, about a family stranded on an island. It was, I believe, the first time I dropped out of my own world into another for a sustained period of time — the transformation that only a book can provide, requiring the imagination to stretch and fill in all details.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Lincoln, F.D.R. and Nixon — on the record, with multiple tape recorders running. Nixon, though, might not come. If not, I would substitute Eisenhower.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
Elsa Walsh, my wife of 29 years and a former writer at The Washington Post and The New Yorker and author of the book “Divided Lives.” She knows the secrets as well as the flaws and shortcomings.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
An inscribed copy of Katharine Graham’s “Personal History,” from Katharine Graham.
How do you decide what to read next?
Since I am a slow reader, a book is a big commitment of time. I try to pick something packed with human lessons that will not tempt me to skim in detail. I hope Jason Matthews, who was a C.I.A. covert operations officer for 33 years, will follow his “Red Sparrow” series of spy novels with another brilliant study in espionage tradecraft.
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