What Is Stephen Harper Reading?

What Is Stephen Harper Reading?

Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for A Prime Minister and Book Lovers of All Stripes

Book - 2009
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"I know you're very busy, Mr. Harper. We're all busy. But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep."

From the author of Life of Pi comes a literary correspondence -- recommendations to Canada's Prime Minister of great short books that will inspire and delight book lovers and book club readers across our nation.

Every two weeks since April 16th, 2007, Yann Martel has mailed Stephen Harper a book along with a letter. These insightful, provocative letters detailing what he hopes the Prime Minister may take from the books -- by such writers as Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Galloway -- are collected here together. The one-sided correspondence (Mr. Harper's office has only replied once) becomes a meditation on reading and writing and the necessity to allow ourselves to expand stillness in our lives, even if we're not head of government.
Publisher: Toronto : Vintage Canada, c2009
ISBN: 9780307398673
Branch Call Number: 011.73 MAR
Characteristics: 233 p. :,ill. ;,21 cm

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Ubalstecha
Feb 12, 2011

Yann Martel is a Canadian publishing superstar. Author of Life of Pi, which has won a bucketful of awards, he started a campaign on April 16, 2007 to get Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pay more attention to the arts, for which his conservative government seem to almost take glee in cutting funding.

His method was to start a book club, one where he would send a book every two weeks to Stephen Harper with an accompanying letter explaining why Martel had chosen the book and some of the history surrounding the novel and its author. Martel also published the book selection and accompanying letter on a blog. He has also chronicled any responses he got from the Prime Minister, although most of those came from staffers rather than Stephen Harper himself.

The book then is a publishing of the first 55 of the books Martel has sent. And to read this is to listen to a sometimes condescending, sometimes earnest pleading of someone who loves literature who is trying to reach out to the someone who has very different views than him. The problem is there are times that Martel comes off as talking down to Harper, and that turns the reader off quite a bit.

The value of this book is the reading list it provides. The list of books is not narrowed down to one genre or origin. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Canadian, International, Classic, Modern, Martel has pulled from a very broad spectrum and that is where the richness lies. For us the reader to push ourselves out of our comfort zone readingwise, broadening our minds as Martel hopes to broaden Harper's.

A quick note: Martel has recently announced that he is ending his book club after four years and 99 books. Which is sad, if only because the list of books that we all should look at has ended.

l
Leonardo7
Apr 21, 2010

I read the intro to this while sitting in a bookstore easy chair. These are Yann Martel's suggestions as to how Stephen Harper (and the rest of us) might broaden our horizons. I have this on my list. It could keep me busy for a lifetime! ;-)

Having finished this book, I found it an excellent read. I wonder if Stephen Harper has read it?

Martel maintains a thin veil of respect for our PM as he encourages him to explore the world around him through reading.

Putting aside his criticism of our current government, this book is an excellent introduction to a variety of fine literature. I have read perhaps a dozen of his recommendations and now have many more to add to my reading list. Thanks Yann!

j
jennturner
Feb 20, 2010

You have to wonder after reading this if Stephen Harper has read ANY of Martel's suggestions. Highly doubtful. Martel has written a great introduction that reinforces the importance of being well red. Interesting selection of books, from Animal Farm to Where The WIld Things Are.

v
vickiz
Oct 15, 2009

This is the 66th of a series of titles selected by writer Yann Martel to provide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to encourage an appreciation of the arts and literature in particular in the PM, and to also help Harper with his stillness and thoughtfulness. Martel has regularly sent books from a wide range of literary traditions to Harper. Martel has devoted a Web site to the reading list and his kind, considered and often poignant covering letters with each volume. (All of his letters can be read at http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/ ... and obviously they can now be read in printed form!) Martel's thoughtful persistence in this quest, started in April 2007, is both heartwrenching and highly commendable. He has never received a direct acknowledgement from Harper, and only some fairly form-letter responses from Harper's staff. He has also received a response from Industry Minister Tony Clement, but it wasn't directly related to any of Martel's book selections.

The inclusion of this particular title in Martel's parade of recommended books is particularly masterful and meta, but also kind of wistful and a touch depressing.

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