On November 1, the Chicago Tribune invited its two heavy-hitter writers, Aleksander Hemon, and Garry Wills, to come up with a list of required reading for the new president: five fiction, five non-fiction. You can see therelist here: It includes Thucydides, Al Gore, and Jose Saramago, among others. I have to confess, I was underimpressed with their recommendations.My own list:Non-fiction: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Barack will have policy wonks aplenty on specific issues but my physics friends say this should be required reading for anyone having to think seriously about nuclear weapons, proliferation, dirty bombs, and related policy issues. Ahmed Rashid’s The Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who covered the Taliban for years, wrote this important book right before 9/11. We could have avoided a lot of mistakes in Central Asia if we had listened to him and experts like him.National Security, FBI and CIA Intelligence Briefings. Given that the nation’s security apparatus had warned Bush and Condoleezza Rice of an imminent attack on U.S. soil in the summer of 2001, a great deal of the mess we’re in now could have been avoided had the president and his aides only read the briefings and acted appropriately.Women’s lives and bodies have been compromised by eight years of the Bush administration, in which access to contraception and abortion have been curtailed both at home and abroad. Barack has announced support for Griswold and Roe, allowing people to return to the privacy of their homes and doctors’ offices to make important choices, but the Catholic bishops are demanding that he abandon these views. There are many books available on reproductive matters; one that is eminently readable is Abortion at Work.Finally, Helen Thomas’s Watchdogs of Democracy? is a timely critique of the way in which the Washington Press Corps failed to ask the key questions needed for our citizens to understand what the Bush administration intended to do about war, peace, the environment, the economy, and our nation’s health.Fiction, PoetryIrina Ratushinkskaya’s Grey is the Color of Hope. This memoir from the Soviet-era gulags tells readers about the human cost of power, and the human capacity for survival and hope. The Brothers Karamazov. A ripping good yarn about faith, families and murder.Richard II. What happens when you let power go to your head.Melissa Benn, One of Us. This novel about ambition and politics, by the daughter of one of England’s important labor leaders, is a gripping novel of the cost to the people who support the big kahuna on his/her quest for power.Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest. Shows what could happen when we let greed rule in the place of justice.
What do you think Barack should be reading?
P.S. Heman couldn’t come up with any books by women; Wills had one. Extra points for those who imagine women writers.