I missed the news that President Obama’s summer reading list had been released. Of course, I wasn’t exactly waiting for its contents to hit the wire, and his choices won’t affect my TBR list at all. This list has stirred some pretty boring controversy. Namely, four of the five books he chose to read are FICTION. This is, apparently, a big deal.
Fiction-readers are lightweights, are escapists, have no stomach for the issues of the real world. A fiction-reading president is a soft-headed ninny who is more interested in spinning yarns defending his policies than researching solutions to current problems. I have a hard time taking, say, Ann Coulter seriously on this (as in most things), as she strikes me as the sort of person who only reads her own books, maybe skimming those of Hannity and Beck. But you’ll find yourself a better-rounded person having read a few Wodehouse stories (to name an author) than by reading anything she’s written.
People who denounce fiction as less than serious or worthwhile have clearly been reading the wrong kind of fiction, if any at all. It reminds me of a few years ago when this photo was published:
The blog on which I first saw it huffed and puffed about the dire implications of the presidential hopeful’s book choice. Based on the title, that blogger assumed it was evidence of Mr Obama’s latent anti-American leanings. Clearly the blogger neither read nor even looked up the book, which is a sober critique of American policy and its consequences for this nation; Zakaria comes across fairly pro-American, which is what motivates him to encourage a stronger, more sensible foreign policy.
Incidentally, Mario Vargas Llosa’s 2010 Nobel lecture have been published (tiny review here). It’s title: In Praise of Reading and Fiction. I haven’t read it yet, but have just downloaded it to my Kindle, and am looking forward to it. If you understand Spanish, you can listen to it here. (You may also want to reread Tolkien’s Mythopoeia.)
At any rate, you’ll do no better than to listen to this bit from “On the Media” wherein Edmund Morris is interviewed regarding Teddy Roosevelt’s reading habits. Morris’ trilogy on that president are high on my TBR list. Roosevelt’s literary prowess trounce any recent president’s feeble attempts to impress the public with the fact they can, in fact, read. Also put to rest is the notion that one cannot be both a reader of fiction and a deep, serious mind.