Stephen Bowen ’68
Retired Senior Partner, Latham & Watkins
“This is all religion and ethics,” Steve Bowen says as he places his hand on a masterfully crafted maple bookshelf practically aglow in the late afternoon sun. It’s about six feet wide and holds eight rows of books stretching to the ceiling on one wall of his nearly 5,000-book library.
The entire room is lined with books organized by subject and author, from philosophy to history (subdivided into American, British, and World) to American Renaissance authors to literary criticism. Fiction and poetry start in here but extends into another room, where you’ll also find biographies.
Bowen points out a row of books by his friend, Professor Bill Placher ’70. He talks of the books as if their authors live in their words.
“Derek Nelson is up here, though his biography of Martin Luther is in the front room. Steve Webb is here.”
“I’d rather read than just about anything,” he says. “As long as I can read, life will be worth living.”
WM: What do you get from reading that makes it such a powerful part of your life?
Bowen: A sense of perspective, mostly. There is nothing entirely new under the sun.
What is the first book you remember being read to you?
Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, by my mother.
What is the first book that you read on your own?
The first serious book, in grade school, was The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane.
Did you have a favorite book as a child?
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
As a young man?
To Kill a Mockingbird.
Is there a Wabash professor/author who shaped your reading, the way you see and understand the world?
Is there a book you particularly didn’t enjoy reading, but are glad you read?
What’s the funniest book/author you’ve read?
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
Name a book that’s good medicine for you?
Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective (two volumes) by James Gustafson.
Name a book you read to your children.
Anne of Green Gables (to my daughter).
Name a book you and your wife read together.
Name a book everyone should read.
The Raj Quartet (all four volumes) by Paul Scott or the Neapolitan Novels of Elena Ferrante.
Have you read all the books in your library?
I’ve read about 90 percent of what’s in the front room (biographies), about 70 percent of the books in the big room. I’m 70 years old—I have lots of time.