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Monday, February 13, 2017

Buy a Book for Donald Trump on Valentine's Day?

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Besides buying your sweetheart a card and/or gift, you might want to buy a book for Donald Trump.

A Facebook group, Leaders are Readers, has called for concerned literary citizens to “Bury the White House in Books” on Valentine’s Day.   Aaron Hamburger and Stacie Whitaker, the organizers of the event, are urging people to buy books that they think Donald Trump should read, wrap them, write messages in them, and then send them to the White House as a Valentine’s gift (https://www.facebook.com/events/1859858284295480/).

Of course it is well known that Trump does not read books.  Claire Fallon, culture writer at The Huffington Post, argued that people should not have any illusions:  “No matter how many times we thoughtfully publish helpful, diverse reading lists for President Trump, and no matter how many volumes of serious presidential biographies are slyly slipped onto his nightstand by more intellectual advisors, Trump almost definitely isn’t going to read any of them.”  She did concede, however, that the tactic “could be a serious annoyance” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/send-trump-books-valentines-day_us_5898b09be4b0406131382138).  

Emily Temple of Literary Hub also argued against the tactic:  “Why not send a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale—or some other timely book—to a relative who voted for Trump, with a long, heartfelt note inside as to why you think they might enjoy reading it? They are much more likely to take you up on it than anyone in the administration.”  She continued:  “Instead of throwing away your hard-earned money and your hard-earned books on a worthless, illiterate idiot like Donald Trump, why not donate them to a local prison book program? Or to under-resourced libraries? Perhaps your local homeless shelter? Hey, it seems like public schools might be needing some help soon. Buying and sending books to any of these places would be much better and more useful than sending them to Trump just to try to make a scene.”  (http://lithub.com/please-dont-buy-books-just-to-send-to-trump/).

Perhaps the strongest argument that sending books to Trump is futile can be found in an article entitled “Donald Trump is Afraid of Books” written by Josh Corman in BookRiot.  Corman’s thesis is that Trump is afraid to read books because books are a serious threat to his ego and perception of himself.  Reading could expose Trump to the possibility that he doesn’t know everything and that he could be wrong.  Books challenge assumptions and “Trump views uncertainty as weakness.  He views changing your mind as an admission of failure.  And Trump is afraid of nothing so much as being seen as a failure, a loser.  Which means, of course, that books scare him to death.”  The essay is a great read:

All of this reminds me of a campaign started by Yann Martel, the author of Life of Pi.  From 2007 until 2011, Martel sent our former prime minister, Stephen Harper, a book every two weeks – a total of more than one hundred novels, poetry collections, plays, graphic novels and children’s books.  Each gift was accompanied by a letter discussing the worth of the book and exploring the importance of reading not only as a pleasure but as an essential way of knowing the world and understanding life.  Harper never responded.   (I wrote about this campaign back in August, 2016:  http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2016/08/canadian-prime-ministers-and-reading.html.)

If you’re looking for a title that might an appropriate Valentine’s gift for Trump, check out my blog entries for the last six days, from February 7 – 12 (inclusive).  Or check out the complete list of books that Martel recommended: http://guides.lib.montana.edu/c.php?g=198308&p=1302674.
Since Martel’s letters were published in book form in 2012 (101 Letters to a Prime Minister:  The Complete Letters to Stephen Harper), maybe this book could be sent to Trump?