Header photo by Hamish Grant. Used with permission.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What is Stephen Harper Reading?

Stephen Harper is at the centre of the country's most exclusive book club.  He hasn't acknowledged it yet.

Every second Monday, author Yann Martel (writer of the Man-Booker Prize-winning book The Life of Pi) sends Prime Minister Harper a book that will help him govern better through teaching more about "stillness."  Martel writes:
Who is this man? What makes him tick? No doubt he is busy. No doubt he is deluded by that busyness. No doubt being Prime Minister fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares little for the arts.

But he must have moments of stillness. And so this is what I propose to do: not to educate—that would be arrogant, less than that—to make suggestions to his stillness.

For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.
Since April 16, 2007, Martel has sent the Prime Minister 77 books.  He has received five replies from various assistants, correspondence officers, and even Industry Minister Tony Clement; but nothing from the Prime Minister. 

Martel recently also received a hand-written letter from President Obama. Nothing from Harper.

What an interesting series of political statements Martel is making.  In each letter, he explains why he has sent the book and the lessons he hopes the Prime Minister will learn from it.  He also posts the letters on his website.

What do you think about this?  What books would you recommend Stephen Harper read?


  1. Ah the Harps, Prime Minister Harper, The true blue blooded Canadian... Well I can definetly say why Stevey is not reading the liberal and intensely popular, "The Life of Pie." Although he is doing his best to mimic another world leader (check out these photos: http://bit.ly/aW6IGa and http://bit.ly/9feOFm), he is kind of looking like this one (http://bit.ly/aqab5m) to some people, namely this guy (http://bit.ly/bPVI1N). While no book exists yet called; "How to be a politician that everyone likes," I have a few suggestions:

    1) The Game by Neil Strauss. Yes, Harper needs to penetrate the secret society of pick up artists - why? Cause the guy has NO GAME. What better way than to learn than from a fellow Canadian. He's not an effective communicator, lacks charisma and really does NOT have a way with women - even the Queen. The antics Strauss exposes the reader to are quite ridiculous but the craziest part is - they work: especially on the ladies. They makeup roughly 55% of the population... http://bit.ly/19fyN5.

    2) How to Make People Think You are Normal by Ben Goode. Who honestly shakes the hand of their son on his first day at school - not even a robot. Where is the compassion? He needs to take a few steps in the humanist department - what better than comedy that appeals to the most obsurd of minds. This is a definite pick up for Steve.

    3) The Kids' Environment Book: What's Awry and Why? by Anne Pedersen. I think our oils sand pushing, arctic ice-depleting Calgarian needs some basic education in biology. This grade 3 level text (complete with colouring pages) should do the trick for those long international flights. Something he can do and learn with the kids.

    Lastly Zack, I suggest:

    4) Love you forever by Robert Munsch. Why's that? Because everyone everywhere should read that book. It will remind him of his own mortality and hopefully culminate this rollercoaster of literary emotions I have just sent him on.

    These are just a few of my recommendations.

  2. Laura - when you comment ... you COMMENT! Thanks for that. Some excellent suggestions. I think I've got some reading of my own to do. The only book of the four you mentioned that I've read is Munsch's "Love you forever."

    I've been considering for a while what books I would suggest PM Harper read. I would add to your list:

    "Heat: How to Stop the World from Burning" by George Monbiot. Though it's a few years old now, it outlines some of the ways in which we can take small steps now to invest in future environmental sustainability. He also outlines what's at stake if we don't. I think the PM would be able to learn a thing or two about making Canada into a more ecologically sustainable nation (and not one that simply pays lip service to notions of environmentalism).