Daytime talk show hosts will sometimes dabble in memoir (see Barbara Walters or Rosie O’Donnell), but the Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford has published a total of nine books in a variety of genres. Her latest is a children’s book called The Legend of Messy M’Cheany, about a little boy who can’t stay clean.
“Since I’m post-menopausal, and I don’t sleep, I might as well write all night long,” Gifford says.
This whimsical story was based on a hymn that she recorded for a CD years ago. Gifford says she based the parable on her own daughter, Cassidy, now 17, but changed the character’s gender to save her any embarrassment when she was still in grade school. “In person, if you saw her, she’s the most put together thing,” Gifford says. “If you visit her bathroom or closet, Messy M’Cheany is alive and well. She’s got the most gorgeous hair you’ve ever seen in your life. And she’s got every product known to man or woman in her bathroom. It’s hard to find the tub with all her stuff.”
Oprah might have landed the reputation as TV’s most avid reader, but Gifford is just as voracious about books. She even helped come up with the title to her co-host Hoda Kotb’s memoir—Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer and Kathie Lee. “I love books,” Gifford says. “One of the toughest things for me, there are so many books I have to read for our show, I don’t get around to some of the books I want to read.” We asked her to name her all-time favorite titles.
Little Womenby Louisa May Alcott
It’s my favorite book. I remember loving to sit outside under a big tree each fall, munching on apples and getting lost in the adventures of the March girls. Naturally, I identified most with Jo.
To Kill A Mockingbirdby Harper Lee
This story of tragic injustice resonated in my young mind and still does. It should be required reading for everyone.
The Catcher in the Ryeby J.D. Salinger
It was the first "anti-hero" I had ever encountered and I thoroughly fell for Holden Caulfield.
Of Mice and Menby John Steinbeck
I felt very adult reading this book. I loved the dueling simplicity and complexity.
The Family Under the Bridgeby Natalie Savage Carlson
This is my favorite children's book. Cass and I read it, and I sobbed my eyes out. It was the first time ever that Cassidy and I both agreed that we wanted to read a book again right away. I loved it so much I optioned the rights and wrote a musical based on it (with composer David Pomeranz) that debuted off-Broadway in 2004.