Martel-Harper Challenge (Fourth Quarter 2008)

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I know I’m insane to think about another challenge when I’m already feeling overwhelmed. But I love the concept and the reading list for the Martel-Harper Challenge.

See, Canadian author Yann Martel (of Life of Pi fame) was watching Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a function and started wondering what the prime minster reads.

I tried to bring him close to me with my eyes. Who is this man? What makes him tick? No doubt he is busy. No doubt he is deluded by that busyness. No doubt being Prime Minister fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares little for the arts. But he must have moments of stillness. And so this is what I propose to do: not to educate – that would be arrogant, less than that – to make suggestions to his stillness.

So Martel sends the Prime Minister a book every two weeks. He writes a very interesting letter with each book explaining the political or emotional reasons why he, Martel, has selected the particular book. I think it’s a fascinating concept. And Martel has selected a fascinating list of books. Visit What is Stephen Harper Reading? for the reading list (updated every two weeks) and copies of Martel’s great letters. Stephen Harper’s office sent a form letter response for the first book only.

Dewey has started a challenge for us to read just two of the books from the list each quarter.

See what I’ve read, with links to any reviews, on this page.

I’m going to keep this challenge easy this quarter. I will probably reread Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal (which I read in school years ago) and probably Ayn Rand’s Anthem (which I read for a book club years ago and which I rediscovered post-move); however, after this review of Animal Farm, I may reread that instead. This will change, of course, if Martel sends a “Christmas-y” book in the coming six weeks; in which case I’ll read that.

Incidentally, what do our presidential candidates read? There is an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times Book Review about presidential reading. Check out the Amazon list of the candidates current reading choices here.

What book(s) would you send your political leader to read?

Reviewed on November 2, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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