Seeing that Barack Obama snapped up Daniel Woodrell’s Bayou Trilogy, Brave New World, and Room for himself and Frost for his daughter, here are four alternative recommendations for what the First Family might consider reading on their summer vacation — and what it might mean for the rest of the country.
1. Killing Mister Watson, Peter Matthiessen. Need motivation to defend the idea that government should enforce labor laws, and that the rich and powerful shouldn’t be allowed to run amok, particularly at the expense of their communities? But still want some good, old-fashioned Spanish Moss-draped intrigue? Matthiessen’s brutal, beautiful story about a Florida planter who terrorizes his community in the state’s frontier years and the people who team up to kill him when his abuses go too far is a haunting reminder of the lawlessness of the American past.
2. Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson. So the administration might not have funded that paper about possible first contact — or have much interest in space exploration period. But if you’re going to read slightly dated science fiction, and want to think about the implications of growing corporate power and an aging population that’s going to consume resources a younger generation initially thought would be available to them (see: entitlement reform), you could do worse than to start Kim Stanley Robinson’s seminal trilogy.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood. If you’re looking for creepy domestic tales and could use a little motivation to push back against the conservative war on women (thanks for the free birth control though, we appreciate it!), this dystopian classic hits up all sorts of issues, from sexual freedom to the dangers of a stratified class system.
4. Trickster’s Choice, Tamora Pierce. Want to talk insurgencies and your decision-making process in Afghanistan over the vacation dinner table with Sasha? Hook her up with the first of Tamora Pierce’s duology about what it takes to build a movement that can defeat an established government — she won’t need much of a reminder that there’s a difference between feminist spymasters and the Taliban. And at least she won’t be reading Flowers in the Attic.