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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Literature and Politics*

Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader is a short book - only 120 pages. But the 2008 All Fairfax Reads selection is far from a simple read. By page 2, the author sets up a basic question. Can one judge a political figure — or in this case, royalty — by his or her tastes in reading?

For example, Ronald Reagan is said to have named Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad as one of his favorites. John F. Kennedy seemed to prefer biographies to fiction on his list of favorites, but did include Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love.

In the opening of Bennett’s novella, the Queen actually doesn’t have a clue what her reading tastes are. “It [reading] was a hobby and it was in the nature of her job that she didn’t have hobbies.” By book’s end her reading has not only changed her view of herself, but her view of the monarchy.

Are there books that changed your perspective? Are there classics you wish politicians would read?

*Each Tuesday, library staff will post an entry here on The Uncommon Reader, this year’s All Fairfax Reads selection. The project invites all residents of Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax to read and discuss the same book. Check our Web site for a book discussion guide and upcoming events as they are scheduled.

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