During a stint working in his college library, Kevin Kelly ''felt a little intimidated. I hadn't read a lot in high school. I didn't know where to begin.'' Then he got a bright idea: He'd write to famous people (politely including a self-addressed stamped envelope), ask them what ''10 books a well-read person should have read,'' and maybe get a book of his own out of the deal.
It wasn't easy. Kelly wrote to 2,000 celebrities. Along the way he suffered dry mouth (from licking $3,000 worth of stamps) and disappointments (Steven Spielberg and Stephen King wouldn't allow their responses to be published). He also got a knock from David Letterman. ''Letterman read my letter on his show. He said, 'You know, Kevin, this is my favorite book: How to Make Money Sending Out Self-Addressed Envelopes.'''
Despite Dave's dig, five years after he began writing to bigwigs, Kelly has something to show for his ''obsession'': Books That Shaped Successful People collects reading lists from the likes of Gloria Steinem (Little Women) and Dan Quayle (Robinson Crusoe). The most oft-mentioned title? The Bible, recommended by Edward Asner, Hugh Downs, and Robin Leach, among others.
Some unlikely responses: Joan Rivers recommends Zen in the Art of Archery; Bob Costas picks The Feminine Mystique. Choices that don't shock: Mike Myers advocates Curious George; Woody Harrelson selects The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Clint Black's litany includes Eat to Win and Forrest Gump. Only a couple of celebs broke the cardinal rule of canon creation: Jeff ''he might be a redneck'' Foxworthy and Barry ''he used to be Greg Brady'' Williams give the top spot to, yes, their own books.