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By David Nathan

Fittingly, Mary Anne Conboy’s pandemic reading began in mid-March with Influenza, a 272-page work of nonfiction that chronicles the 1918 pandemic that killed up to 50 million people.

In the months since COVID-19 has kept her at home on Cape Cod, Conboy ’69 G’15 has read or listened to — get ready for this — 112 books! And there are no easy readers on the list, which tilts toward history (Profiles in Courage, The Hello Girls), biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo Da Vinci, and classics (War and Peace, Little Women).

“I hear people say, ‘I’m so bored! I can’t go anywhere,’” Conboy says. “If you have a book, you can’t be bored.”

Among Conboy’s favorite reads was Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. The book changed her perspective on the Mongolian leader from that of a ruthless warmonger to one of a multifaceted societal influence on European thinking about democracy, government, art, science, and music.

“I love learning new things,” Conboy says. “You have to keep up; you don’t want to go to a doctor  who hasn’t read a medical journal in 20 years.”

Her commitment to lifelong learning manifested itself when she completed her online studies for a master’s in management from Lasell in 2015, nearly a half-century after earning her associate’s degree in interior design. In between, she received a B.A. in liberal studies from American University in 1999.

Conboy’s love of the written word began in 2002, when  he and her mother, Louise, took a train trip to visit her sister in Seattle. She brought along Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Cokie Roberts’ We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters.

“That trip got me reading again,” she says. “I haven’t stopped since.”

Conboy found more time to read after moving back to Massachusetts in 2006 from Washington, D.C., following her retirement as chief of the labor and employer relations division at the U.S. Agency for International Development, where she supervised a team of five lawyers among others.

With the Falmouth Public Library closed due to the pandemic, Conboy relies on Libby, a phone app that allows her to borrow and read e-books and audiobooks from the library for free. She enjoys listening to audiobooks while folding laundry or completing other household chores. She rarely watches television.

Next on Conboy’s reading list? She wants to read every Pulitzer Prize-winning book in the categories of history and general non-fiction — a list that numbers nearly 175 titles.