Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the books that make men

From here, the reading list that shaped Obama:

* The Bible
* “Parting the Waters,” Taylor Branch
* “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
* Gandhi’s autobiography
* “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin
* “The Golden Notebook,” Doris Lessing
* Lincoln’s collected writings
* “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville
* “Song of Solomon,” Toni Morrison
* Works of Reinhold Niebuhr
* “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson
* Shakespeare’s tragedies

George Yeo's reading list from his FB page:-

Dao De Jing by Lao Zi
A Study of History by Arnold Toynbee
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Art of War by Sun Zi
The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong


In one of my favourite books (Busman's Honeymoon - read it, it has everything), there's this police inspector character who doesn't seem like the especially educated type.

Nonetheless, he astounds the protagonists with his confident familiarity with the 'greats' of the western canon of literature - Milton, Bacon, Shakespeare, Donne etc. They spend a great part of the rest of the book trading quotes but not before the police inspector is asked why - why read these books? Books irrelevant to his daily life and definitely irrelevant to his job.

I'll never forget his answer, he said in effect - that ihe found it important at the end of terrible or mundane days at work, to put his mind in contact with 'great minds'.

Not that Obama is a police inspector but I found this observation to be accurate of him and of people whose lives have been shaped by books:

"Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others — as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame."

From here,

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