What Is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading For A Prime Minister And Book Lovers Of All Stripes by Yann MartelWhat Is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading For A Prime Minister And Book Lovers Of All Stripes by Yann Martel

What Is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading For A Prime Minister And Book…

byYann Martel

Paperback | November 3, 2009

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“I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We’re all busy. But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep.”

From the author of Life of Pi comes a literary correspondence — recommendations to Canada’s Prime Minister of great short books that will inspire and delight book lovers and book club readers across our nation.

Every two weeks since April 16th, 2007, Yann Martel has mailed Stephen Harper a book along with a letter. These insightful, provocative letters detailing what he hopes the Prime Minister may take from the books — by such writers as Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Galloway — are collected here together. The one-sided correspondence (Mr. Harper’s office has only replied once) becomes a meditation on reading and writing and the necessity to allow ourselves to expand stillness in our lives, even if we’re not head of government.
Yann Martel is the prize-winning author of the internationally acclaimed Life of Pi, which won the 2002 Booker Prize, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, a collection of short stories, and Self, a novel. He lives in Saskatoon.
Title:What Is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading For A Prime Minister And Book…Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8 × 5.15 × 0.65 inPublished:November 3, 2009Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307398676

ISBN - 13:9780307398673

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Concept Martel takes on a vigilante mission inundating Stephen Harper with books to read as well as carefully constructed and thoughtful companion pieces. A highly relevant work.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from VERY original Yann Martel takes the concept of an 'active citizen' one step further. This book is a collection of the letters he has, without fail, sent every 2 weeks to Stephen Harper since he has been elected. The letters are book, play, poetry, short story, etc. recommendations. Martel mixes political issues with witt and humour. His message is one that sticks: what Harper has read or is reading, is relevant... What is his mind made of if he hasn't read the classics, religious texts, Canadian poetry? Once someone becomes elected to public office, they have to be just as accountable for their imaginative dealings as they are for their financial ones. A PM's reading material is imporant because it shapes the quality of mind and imagination. So like Yann puts it, we have a right to know because "their dreams may become my nightmares".
Date published: 2010-01-14

Read from the Book

BOOK 1: THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCHBY LEO TOLSTOY  April 16, 2007 To Stephen Harper,Prime Minister of Canada,From a Canadian writer,With best wishes,Yann Martel  Dear Mr. Harper, The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy, is the first book I am sending you. I thought at first I should send you a Canadian work—an appropriate symbol since we are both Canadians—but I don’t want to be directed by political considerations of any sort, and, more important, I can’t think of any other work of such brevity, hardly sixty pages, that shows so convincingly the power and depth of great literature. Ivan Ilych is an indubitable masterpiece. There is nothing showy here, no vulgarity, no pretence, no falseness, nothing that doesn’t work, not a moment of dullness, yet no cheap rush of plot either. It is the story, simple and utterly compelling, of one man and his ordinary end. Tolstoy’s eye for detail, both physical and psychological, is unerring. Take Schwartz. He is in dead Ivan Ilych’s very home, has spoken to his widow, but he is mainly concerned with his game of cards that night. Or take Peter Ivanovich and his struggle with the low pouffe and its defective springs while he attempts to navigate an awkward conversation with Ivan Ilych’s widow. Or the widow herself, Praskovya Fedorovna, who weeps and laments before our eyes, yet without ever forgetting her self-interest, the details of her magistrate husband’s pension and the hope of getting perhaps more money from the government. Or look at Ivan Ilych’s dealings with his first doctor, who, Ivan Ilych notices, examines him with the same self-important airs and inner indifference that Ivan Ilych used to put on in court before an accused. Or look at the subtle delineation of the relations between Ivan Ilych and his wife—pure conjugal hell—or with his friends and colleagues, who, all of them, treat him as if they stood on a rock- solid bank while he had foolishly chosen to throw himself into a flowing river. Or look, lastly, at Ivan Ilych himself and his sad, lonely struggle. How clearly and concisely our vain and callous ways are showed up. Effortlessly, Tolstoy examines life ’s shallow exteriors as well as its inner workings. And yet this pageant of folly and belated wisdom comes not like a dull moral lesson, but with all the weight, shine and freshness of real life. We see, vividly, Ivan Ilych’s errors—oh, they are so clear to us, we certainly aren’t making his mistakes—until one day we realize that someone is looking at us as if we were a character in The Death of Ivan Ilych. That is the greatness of literature, and its paradox, that in reading about fictional others we end up reading about ourselves. Sometimes this unwitting self-examination provokes smiles of recognition, while other times, as in the case of this book, it provokes shudders of worry and denial. Either way, we are the wiser, we are existentially thicker. One quality that you will no doubt notice is how despite the gulf of time between when the story is set—1882—and today, despite the vast cultural distance between provincial tsarist Russia and modern Canada, the story reaches us without the least awkwardness. In fact, I can’t think of a story that while completely set in its time, so very, very Russian, so leaps from the bounds of the local to achieve universal resonance. A peasant in China, a migrant worker in Kuwait, a shepherd in Africa, an engineer in Florida, a prime minister in Ottawa—I can imagine all of them reading The Death of Ivan Ilych and nodding their heads. Above all else, I recommend the character Gerasim to you. I suspect he is the character in whom we recognize ourselves the least yet whom we yearn the most to be like. We hope one day, when the time comes, to have someone like Gerasim at our side. I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We ’re all busy. Meditating monks in their cells are busy. That’s adult life, filled to the ceiling with things that need doing. (It seems only children and the elderly aren’t plagued by lack of time—and notice how they enjoy their books, how their lives fill their eyes.) But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep. And there are other possibilities, too. Sherwood Anderson, the American writer best known for his collection of stories Winesburg, Ohio, wrote his first stories while commuting by train to work. Stephen King apparently never goes to his beloved baseball games without a book that he reads during breaks. So it’s a question of choice. And I suggest you choose, just for a few minutes every day, to read The Death of Ivan Ilych. Yours truly,Yann Martel   Reply: May 8, 2007 Dear Mr. Martel: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I would like to thank you for your recent letter and the copy of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych. We appreciated reading your comments and suggestions regarding the novel. Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. Sincerely,Susan I. RossAssistant to the Prime Minister  Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was a prolific author, essayist, dramatist, philosopher and educational reformist. Born into an aristocratic Russian family, he is best known for writing realist fiction, focusing particularly on life in Russia, and is considered one of the major contributors to nineteenth-century Russian literature. His marriage to Sophia Tolstaya (Tolstoy) produced thirteen children, eight of whom survived into adulthood. Tolstoy wrote fourteen novels (two of his most famous being Anna Karenina and War and Peace), several essays and works of non-fiction, three plays and over thirty short stories.

Table of Contents

Book 1: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
Book 2: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Book 3: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Book 4: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
Book 5: The Bhagavad Gita
Book 6: Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
Book 7: Candide by Voltaire
Book 8: Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems edited by Simon Armitage
Book 9: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Book 10: Miss Julia by August Strindberg
Book 11: The Watsons by Jane Austen
Book 12: Maus by Art Spiegelman
Book 13: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Book 14: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Book 15: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Book 16: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Book 17: The Island Means Minago by Milton Acorn
Book 18: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Books 19: The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson and Rob Gonsalves
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
Book 20: The Educated Imagination by Northrop Frye
Book 21: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Book 22: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Book 23: Artists and Models by Anaïs Nin
Book 24: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Book 25: The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi by Larry Tremblay
Book 26: Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
Book 27: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Book 28: Read All About It! by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush
Book 29: Drown by Junot Díaz
Book 30: The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
Book 31: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Book 32: The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway
Book 33: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Book 34: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Book 35: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
Book 36: Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
Book 37: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Book 38: Anthem by Ayn Rand
Book 39: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Book 40: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Book 41: Gilgamesh in an English version by Stephen Mitchell
Book 42: Gilgamesh in an English version by Derrek Hines
Book 43: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Book 44: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Book 45: Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
Book 46: Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics 1965–1999 by Paul McCartney
Book 47: The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror by Michael Ignatieff
Book 48: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Book 49: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Book 50: Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields
Book 51: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Book 52: Burning Ice: Art & Climate Change a collaboration organized by David Buckland and the Cape Farewell Foundation
Book 53: Louis Riel by Chester Brown
Book 54: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
Book 55: The Gift by Lewis Hyde
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List of Authors and Titles