Sunday, July 13, 2003

Books to change the world: Readers' choices

Last Sunday, members of the Enquirer's Editorial Board wrote about books they believe might have changed the world had the right people read them. We also asked readers to nominate their own choices and explain why. Here are some of the responses we received.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

What would happen to American industry if the movers and shakers, the people who get things done in our world went on strike? Rand gives a vivid demonstration of exactly this in her philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. This book is a must read for new graduates entering the work force.

Rand demonstrates to readers the simple theme that short cuts and the easy way out are not substitutes for simple hard work and perseverance. Rand profiles the career of the character Dagny Taggart, railroad heiress and vice-president of Taggart Transcontinental and several other captains of industry with whom she interacts. Dagny is a doer. She gets the job done, and yet encounters road blocks from a variety of angles, which include self-proclaimed intellectuals, quasi-philanthropists, and even her own brother, the very ineffective president of Taggart Transcontinental. Through all this, she never gives in or accepts "it can't be done" for an answer. The story shows us how the movers and shakers of the business world manage to accomplish great things in spite of the epidemic numbers of inept people in the work force attempting to thwart them at every turn.

However, this book contains much more than pro-capitalist philosophy. The story is also peppered with subplots of unrequited love, clandestine romance, and characters who manage to make their dreams reality with a simple unrelenting work ethic. The super successful don't get stuck in rush-hour traffic, because they drive home in the dark.

Suzette Ruth, Amelia


The Bible

You have asked for suggestions of books that would have fixed the world.

I would suggest the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A short time spent each day reading these two books would help only if the people put into practice what they have read.

The United States is slowly turning into another Sodom and Gomorrah because of the unfettered freedoms, without responsibilities, that everyone is claiming.

William A. Schmitz, Mount Airy


The Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloff

I think every parent should read this book because it is interesting reading. It helps explain humans are meant to live in continuum with each other, starting as infants. It describes a tribe of people that seems to always appear happy and peaceful. The author wanted to know why this is, and how we can do this.

It stresses that human babies have a right to be treated with respect, and they need to be well attached to a caregiver, hopefully their mother. I wish everyone would read it.

Amie Coomer, West Chester


Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux's book should be a must-read for all political and relief agency leaders who are responsible for funds distributions in Third World countries, or even in the United States.

It graphically displays the sad results of food distribution programs set up without self-help incentives and gives several examples of aid workers who show little or no interest in those around them.

Jean Wood, Saint Bernard


The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay

Who should read this book? The U.S. Supreme Court, and actually all participants in our legal system.Why? Because it shows there is little doubt about the meaning of the Constitution, especially the supposedly "gray" areas, like the Second Amendment, and especially the Ninth Amendment. The Federalist # 41 by James Madison is particularly illuminating about the Second Amendment, but is a wonderful summary of the issues faced then - and which we still face today.

Chris Sontag, Anderson Township


The Gift of Peace by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

I read and often re-read excerpts from this book.

In The Gift of Peace, Cardinal Bernardin is asked what he found more difficult - the false accusations against him or the diagnosis of cancer.

He immediately repled, "The false accusations."

When asked to explain, he replied one was an attack on his integrity (his soul), the other, the cancer was part of the human condition.

All should read this book to avoid assassinating another's character.

Cardinal Bernardin also said to pray when you are well, because when you are ill and in pain, you are unable to pray.

Jeanne McKinley Dressman, Fort Wright


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I would prefer that President Bush be familiar with William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream and Andrew Hacker's Two Nations.

Their subtitles explain why:

• The former, a "Narrative History of America From 1932-1972" is a brilliant explanation of how we, as a country, have gotten to where we are.

• The latter lays bare in cold statistical analysis why the United States is composed of two nations, "Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal."

But neither of these books will have an impact unless you're a compassionate soul willing to help the less fortunate, ready to make individual sacrifices for the good of the whole.

In that light, I would hope that Steinbeck's moving evocation of the plight of Dust Bowl refugees would get through to a president who has never known anything but the lap of luxury.

Dave Purcell, Newport


Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire is a work of nonfiction about a season spent working in a national park in the Southwest. Abbey proposes radical ideas about how to treat our land, such as banning cars in national parks. Get out and walk! Abbey also conveys the local flavor of the people and wildlife.

Environmentalists, underdogs, romantics, backpackers, libertarians, and people wishing they lived out west will enjoy this book. He combines excellent prose with a sardonic wit. If you can't appreciate national parks without an RV or think a McDonald's every other exit is progress, prepare to be offended. Conservation is something everyone should consider a high priority. And what is more conservative than conservation?

Lindsay Masters, Indian Hill


The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

This is a story about a good man who eventually succumbs to the prejudices all around him against Mexicans in Los Angeles. The author presents no miracle cure, just a good story that the reader can relate to.

Nancy S. Meyer, Anderson Township

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