On Favorite Books

People have been making a great deal of Republican VP nominee, Paul Ryan's favorite book choice, Atlas Shrugged. Which is understandable, given that it's a political book with such a wide influence that no one bothers to actually read it (myself included). A few moments ago, I read a brief article/post asserting that Ryan now claims his favorite author is Thomas Aquinas, as though trying to cover up the highly controversial Ayn Rand business.

I understand that a politician claiming a political book as a favorite is a certain statement about his own political persuasions. I get that. But I'd like to point out that if someone asked me who my favorite author was, I'd likely say "Dostoevsky," and I'd mean it. But if you asked me what book I have read more often than any other, it would probably be Cynthia Voigt's On Fortune's Wheel. Which, considering what that whole series has to say about magic, fantasy, and cultural narratives of belief, would be very deceptive as an indicator of my personal feelings about such things. Or if you asked which author's canon I was most familiar with, I suppose that would be C. S. Lewis. Who is lovely, but not quite the same as Dostoevsky. Or perhaps it would be Madeleine L'Engle. Both would say very flattering things about my discernment, I'm sure, but when you consider the wide array of readers who could make the same claim of authorial familiarity with these folks, it becomes harder and harder to see a real connection between the books I most love and the sort of person that I am.

This is very different than the influence of a mentor or a pastor or a teacher. Books are our teachers, certainly. But we have more agency with them than we do individuals. The same article mentioned above likened Ryan's Ayn Rand to another major political figure's erstwhile pastor. I like comparisons. I often find them to be helpful. But this one seems more than a little misguided.

That's all I have to say about the politics of things, though I'll continue to mull over my reading choices and what they have to say about me. Because I'm sure they say something, but I'm less sure that what they say is particularly relevant . . . or honest.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished watching 2 episodes of Jeeves and Wooster, and then read this. Honestly, you and Jeeves would be fun to listen to in conversation. Anyway, you have me thinking (as always) about my favorite authors and books. Right now all that comes to mind is Frog and Toad. I'm sure there's depth in there somewhere...I bought Atlas Shrugged last summer, but may read Fountainhead first--it's shorter.


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