Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Pick a Book for the President-elect to Read

While we are waiting around for the results of the election to come in here's a question to ponder: what book would you assign the President-elect to read? I was reading a recent LA Times article by Rights Readers favorite, Hector Tobar, in which he opines on the presidential candidates book picks,
[Romney choice] "Thunderbolt Kid" is a fun book you can read in a day, whereas the Iowa book on Obama's list — Robinson's "Gilead" — is a brooding work of serious literature that won the Pulitzer Prize. That pretty much sums up the difference in the men and their taste in books: In Obama's favorites the characters suffer, they philosophize, they struggle with and reflect on injustice, and they sermonize — the Bible is another book on Obama's list of putative favorites. 
In Romney's favorites young people go out into the sunshine and glide down rivers ("Adventures of Huckleberry Finn") and battle alien species ("Battlefield Earth" and "Ender's Game"). Apparently, Romney is like a lot of people: He reads for pure escapism. Good and evil are pretty clearly defined in most of the books he likes. Life is simpler.
That got me to thinking, what Rights Readers books would I assign to each candidate? Because immigration reform is said to be a priority for both candidates, I think Hector Tobar's The Barbarian Nurseries, which we just finished, would be a great way to explore the changing cultural landscape that immigration brings to our nation.  For Mr. Romney's struggle to understand the 47%, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed is the obvious prescription. I might also suggest that he travel through Iran with Jason Elliot (Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran) before setting a foreign policy course. And perhaps a novel with a strong feminine voice like Louise Erdrich's Tracks or Toni Morrison's A Mercy would give him some new perspective. For Mr. Obama I'm thinking of Junot Diaz' advice to the President to tell the story of where we've been and where we're going. He needs a good yarn. Maybe Ella Minnow Pea, the free speech fable? That's as close as I can get to tweaking his executive overreach. Or perhaps he could join us in reading Mo Yan's The Garlic Ballads this February as an aide to a relationship with China that isn't solely focused on trade wars. Or for a nonfiction pick, maybe we could help him 'evolve' his position on the federal death penalty with Jarvis Jay Masters' memoir That Bird Has My Wings. What human rights-themed books would you recommend?

In addition to our list of human rights-themed books, of note in the listmania department: Obama's reading list according to The Daily Beast and a list of reading recommendations to the president in 2009 from Washington Monthly.
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