Women Reading Women

THE BOOK GROUP of the College Park Branch of the American Assocation of University Women has been meeting nine times a year (September through June) since 1977. The group numbers between eight and 10, and ranges in age from the mid-forties to the seventies. What have we read? Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, autobiography and biography, short stories, mysteries, classics, history, travelogues -- almost anything. We have read bestsellers, but more often than not our choices are not so current.

Two books we recommend are:

A Private War: Letters and Diaries of Madge Preston, 1862-1867, edited by Virginia Beauchamp (available from Rutgers University Press). With all the recent interest in the Civil War, this book offers a peek at a real middle-class family living in what is now Towson during that period. Madge Preston's diary entries reveal a very different life from the one she portrays in her letters to her daughter at school in Emmitsburg. Preston may have been an abused wife; the reader must decide.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (available in Harper and Row paperback, 1990). The story of a black American settlement in Florida and how its members survive a hurricane. The prose style of this African-American novelist should not be missed. TERRY ANN SAYLER University Park

Family Stories

IT IS the rare book an adult fondly remembers from elementary school and then, finding it on the shelves of the public library, wants to read again to her children and grandchildren. Such a book is The Peterkin Papers, by Lucretia Peabody Hale. First published in 1880, it has provided more than 100 years of laughter in its depiction of the bizarre happenings in the life of a modest family. Modern families may find their own household problems equally disconcerting, but they will lack the resources of the Lady from Philadelphia, who never fails to find a common sense solution to the most perplexing situation. The book is out of print, but available in libraries.DOROTHY A. GLASER Washington

Old and New Favorites

RETIREMENT HAS opened new vistas in reading -- the opportunity to become acquainted with classics I never read and to reread old favorites. Three years ago, I read my first Anthony Trollope, The Warden, and subsequently devoured the remaining five Barsetshire novels, plus The Kellys and The O'Kellys. Sticking with the Victorian scene, I moved on to Middlemarch, Little Dorrit and The Mayor of Casterbridge, books (though not authors) all new to me. All are available in paperback editions.

As for old favorites, John P. Marquand's So Little Time (out of print) and Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond (available in a Carroll & Graf paperback) stand out. Marquand is short on plot, but long on bringing people and mundane but decisive problems to life. The Macaulay is quite different -- a delightfully British and zany yet serious treatment of love, religion, travel writing, and youth and aging that is both funny and thought-provoking. RICHARD W. SAXER Arlington

Book World readers are invited to send in recommendations of favorite books for possible inclusion in "Recommended Reading." (We ask that you not recommend current or recent bestsellers or books that have been widely reviewed within the last year.)

Contributions should be brief (no more than 200-250 words). Please include name, address and a daytime phone number (no addresses or phone numbers will be published). Send to: Recommended Reading, Washington Post Book World, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Unused contributions cannot be returned.

If a submission is selected for publication, the sender will receive a Washington Post Book World book bag.