If I were allowed to interview the President-elect, I wouldn’t ask Donald Trump about his ties with Russia, or his misogynist views of women or whether or not actor Tom Arnold’s claim that the man is a racist is true. (Click) I’d ask him what he was reading. Apparently, he doesn’t review national security briefs. So what does he read? President Obama is a book lover, but nothing in Trump’s Twitter tweets tells me about the tastes of the upcoming Commander-in-Chief.
Anyone’s who’s ever picked up a book knows, sometimes, it can change a life. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin enabled the nation to find its conscience. George Orwell’s 1984 made us wise about the evils of unchecked governments. Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl showed us the insanity of hate.
My belief, and there is science behind it, (Blog 11/18/13) is that fiction increases “our capacity for empathy by engaging our imagination as [books] introduce us to new perspectives.” (“Why We Need To Read,” by Will Schwalbe, The Week, Dec. 23-30, 2016, pg.53)
Socrates affirmed that an unexamined life isn’t worth living. Books give us that opportunity to self-examine. Though we read in silence, we commune with a book’s author, two minds bent over the same words and the same thoughts, a sharing ideas that could be life-changing. If the writer is skilled enough, once the book is closed, the characters and their stories stay with us.
Certainly, Carolyn Parkhurst’s Harmony opened me to the heartaches and rewards of raising an autistic child. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary helped me to see the imprisoned lives of women. Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life taught me about male friendships and bonding. To read what we choose is a right never to be taken for granted.
What Donald Trump reads, what books are stacked upon his night stand, would give us a sharper picture of the man. What are you reading Mr. President-elect. If you won’t share your tax returns, at least share a few titles.