Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with Paul Helmke, a former mayor of Fort Wayne and former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,
who now is on the faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he teaches two courses.
“I have just started reading 'The Bully Pulpit,' by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I like the way she writes! And I like history. I knew a lot about Theodore Roosevelt but little about Taft. I've learned that his father had been in the Cabinet under President Grant, for example. So far in the book everything's been going smoothly. Part of the storyline is that the two were really good friends, and then in 1912 Roosevelt ran against Taft.
“Before this I had read 'Reign of Error,' by Diane Ravitch. She has some serious questions about all this education reform – the things going on in the country today. (Lawyer and Fort Wayne Community Schools board president) Mark GiaQuinta lent me the book when I had him down here to speak to one of my classes.
“Another book I read recently is 'Gun Guys.' It's by Dan Baum, who's more of a liberal progressive but also a gun aficionado. He traveled around the country visiting gun stores and shooting ranges asking why people owned guns. It's well done, and it's important to see the arguments on the other side of what I usually read. He made me understand some different perspectives, so I can appreciate the differences.
“One of my best reads lately is 'Prague Winter,' by Madeleine Albright. I read it while I was spending three weeks in Belgrade visiting my daughter, a perfect time to read this book. I hadn't realized Madeleine Albright had lived in Belgrade — twice; her father was a diplomat. And I had been visiting many of the sites she wrote about.
“Then she discovered her grandparents had been Jewish and all died in the Holocaust. It's also a tragic history of Czechoslovakia. It kept my interest, and it moved quickly. And I realized I had met her in the White House when I was mayor.
“Another nonfiction book I read is by Tim O'Brien. Its title is 'If I Die in a Combat Zone,' and takes place in 1973. One book of fiction I really enjoyed is 'The Dovekeepers,' written by Alice Hoffman. It's about Masada and a good book. (My wife) Debbie had really liked it and gave it to me.”