By Tamar Zmora
Election season is here: a period of name-calling, ludicrous promises, wish fulfillment, and general childish banter. It’s the time when a select few middle-aged men (because, who am I kidding, we’re 44 XY strong) address their country, promising a better future, full of prosperity, freedom, and hope -- or at least that’s what the commercials say.
After a long day on the campaign trail, I imagine that the candidates might relax by reading a good book in quiet solitude. But which one to choose? Based on their campaigns and life histories, these are my recommendations for each candidate.
The Candidate: Mitt Romney. In 1983, a Romney family vacation went awry when their dog, Seamus, “had a little accident” while in his cage, which was strapped to the roof of the car. Rather than turn around or take the pup to the vet, the Romneys continued their 12-hour drive. This year, that story came back to haunt Mitt when a web design company had a little fun with the power of Google. Perhaps if he’d read this book, Romney would have had a little more compassion.
The Book: Notes from the Dog (Gary Paulsen). Finn is a 14-year-old loner with an affinity for Bob Dylan and his border collie, aptly named after the musician. His only friend is a smarter, more athletic, socially capable boy named Matthew -- that is, until Johanna, a 20-something graduate student, moves in next door. Johanna has breast cancer, and the boys do everything in their means to care for her. Along the way, Finn finds notes in his pocket, which he’s convinced are from his exceedingly smart dog. As visions of Johanna linger in the boys’ psyches, they learn what’s important in life and what’s worth fighting for.
The Candidate: Newt Gingrich. Aside from being a lizard with a toxic endoskeleton, a newt is also a presidential nominee. Gingrich’s past is marred by his infidelity: His first marriage, at 19 years old, was to his 26-year-old former geometry teacher. Given is concern for education from a young age and his enthusiasm for dinosaurs, I believe I’ve pick the perfect title.
The Book: Dinosaur vs. the Library (Bob Shea). A perfect unifier of Newt’s ardent support of education reform and profound interest in dinosaurs, this picture book will have the politician’s heart all a-flutter. There’s not too much of a story -- simply a loud, roaring dinosaur who’s on his way to the library -- but if the politician wants a slightly more mature book, The Enormous Egg might lay some new questions about the seemingly extinct creatures. In that book, when a hen hatches a triceratops, the young protagonist Nate must come up with a solution for what to do with the quickly growing dinosaur.
The Candidate: Rick Santorum. A firm opponent of Planned Parenthood and birth control, Santorum has now branded himself an adamant pro-lifer. Unlike some of his kind, who grant exceptions for rape, Santorum fervently believes that life resulting from rape is innocent and deserving of protection. Though I still cannot fathom how so many male politicians can possess so much control over a female’s body-related choices, I think Santorum should peek into this book.
The Book: Because I am a Girl (Various). Seven authors follow the lives of girls around the world, from Sokodé’s experiences with child trafficking to Bendu’s night terrors after the killings in her village in Sierra Leone. Santorum might especially enjoy Deborah Moggach’s “The Woman Who Carried a Shop on Her Head,” the tale of a good Christian African woman who’s coping with the distress of her husband’s reported infidelity and her daughter’s conflict with abstinence. In “Ovarian Roulette” (Kathy Lette), the sad realities of slum life for women in Catholic Brazil -- rife with pedophile tourism -- will burden even the most zealous of pro-lifers.
The Candidate: Ron Paul. A quote attributed to philosopher Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” History has shown that sometimes by not getting involved, we allow evil to prevail. Perhaps Paul needs to travel more and reconsider his “no foreign involvement” stance. If he’d rather stay put, this book might have the same effect.
The Book: The New Granta Book of Travel. For those who have not had the chance to travel further than their own backyard, Granta’s travel essays offer readers that same “joie de vivre,” featuring tales from the raging Mississippi River to Siberia’s Ob Sea. Traverse Vienna and journey to the land of love with “Going Abroad” by W.G. Sebald. Or, if that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can “Trespass” through Africa with Paul Theroux.
The Candidate: Barack Obama. Since the 2008 days of hope and change, many students and young adults haven’t seen much of a difference: We’re still facing the financial pains of student loans and joblessness. Obama should read the book below to get an idea of what we’re going through.
The Book: How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater (Marc Acito). A story of financial struggle to which many of today’s youth will surely be able to relate. What happens when a 17-year-old with Juilliard dreams realizes he must support himself? Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. Acito’s charming humor is undeniable, though at times a bit drawn out.
Which books would you recommend for the presidential candidates?
'The Reading List' is TNGG Boston's spot for literary recommendations and reviews, written by Tamar Zmora.
Photo (top) by DonkeyHotey (Flickr)
About Tamar -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.
The author is solely responsible for the content.