Read What is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for a Prime Minister and Book Lovers of All Stripes by Yann Martel Online


“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 m“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....

Title : What is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for a Prime Minister and Book Lovers of All Stripes
Author :
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ISBN : 9780307398673
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

What is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for a Prime Minister and Book Lovers of All Stripes Reviews

  • Michele
    2018-11-15 17:02

    The best part of this book is the concept. Martel was challenged by a reader to defend his "book club" with the PM. He asks "Is asking Stephen Harper to account for his reading habits irrelavent? Worse: is it improper and dishonorable, attacking the private man rather than his public policies?" I really admire his answer: "As lon as someone has no power over me, I don't care what they read, or if they read at all... But once someone has power over me, then, yes, their reading does matter to me because in what they choose to read will be found what they think and what they will do".Each of Martel's letters to the PM is unique. Sometimes he talks about the literature, sometimes he talks about genre, sometimes about politics in general, and sometimes he talks about specific policies that the PM has enacted, particularly as they affect the arts.I did add a few books to my reading last based on what Martel says about them, but the value of this text lies less in Martel's choice of books as in his explanations of why these texts, and more generally, literature, are important.

  • Trish
    2018-10-31 15:52

    I read this as it was being published on Martel'w website. It was unfailingly interesting to see what he was recommending, and why. I especially enjoyed hearing Martel's growing pique at the long-life of Harper's political seat...Martel couldn't conceive of a populace that would re-elect a man of Harper's gifts (or not). I loved that Martel took the time to structure something for both Harper and Canadians in general about how best to go about informing themselves. It was meant to be a short-term project that became a labor of not for Harper, but for freedom of thought and support for arts of all kinds. I just like the way this man thinks. I am always on the look out for what Martel will come up with.

  • Mary Lou
    2018-11-13 13:06

    For several years Martel has maintained a private, and very one-sided, book club with Stephen Harper. This book is a record of the letters he’s sent to accompany the second-hand copies of the actual books he’s also sent as recommended prime ministerial reading. The list is odd, and oddly touching, two of the criteria for choosing books being that they have something important to say and that they be short - because a PM has limited reading time. Martel insists that, while a private citizen’s reading material should be private, a person who is in a position of leadership and public trust should be required to read widely and to make public what s/he reads. Makes sense to me - I’d certainly like to think that people who are making important decisions have been exposed to the thinking of thoughtful people and might, therefore, be able to make thoughtful, informed, and humane decisions. Martel uses his letters not only to give a brief and often illuminating discussion of the meaning and merits of each book, but also to muse on an array of topics obviously close to his heart - why people read, how art and life intertwine, how reading promotes and allows “stillness” (according to M. an essential quality for creativity to happen), the importance of teachers and education, how art and openness are essential to civil society, ... . Mostly the book made me feel that I have a lot left to read, and that I don’t think deeply enough about what I have read. The books on his list that I have not yet read I’ve added to my reading list. Those that I have read are: Animal Farm - George OrwellTo Kill a Mockingbird - Harper LeeThe Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-ExuperyThe Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven GallowayTo the Lighthouse - Virginia WoolfThe Bluest Eye - Toni MorrisonA Modest Proposal - Jonathan SwiftMaster Pip - Lloyd JonesThe Uncommon Reader - Alan BennetThe Good Earth - Pearl S. BuckJane Austen, a life - Carol ShieldsJulius Caesar - William ShakespeareOf the twelve books on this list, nine are books I’ve read more than once. Maybe that’s a comment of a sort on the quality of M.’s suggestions.

  • Ben
    2018-11-16 16:10

    What is Stephen Harper Reading? A review by Ben Antao Yann Martel, 46, the 2002 Man Booker prize winner for his novel Life of Pi, has published an interesting non-fiction book titled What is Stephen Harper Reading?, a series of letters to the Prime Minister of Canada urging him to find time to fill his mind with good books. Martel’s recommendations span an eclectic spectrum of novels, plays, poetry, short stories, children’s books, memoir, biography, history and philosophy.What excited and impressed me is that his letters running to about 900 words on average are incisive essays of literary criticism at its best. Of the 55 books he’s sent to the PM over a two-year period from April 2007, I’d say I’ve read more than half of them and liked his critical observations on the values of reading them. Authors range from Tolstoy, Orwell, Jane Austen, Gabriel Marquez, Voltaire, Harper Lee, Hemingway, Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas, Toni Morrison, Pearl S. Buck and Shakespeare.Having read his Life of Pi, I’d say the quality of his prose in this book reminded me of the English essayists, Lamb and Hazlitt, whose essays in literary criticism also sparkled like gems of insightful prose.In an Introduction giving a rationale for his action, Martel writes:“Stephen Harper must have pockets of solitude and idleness during which he contemplates life. There must be times when his thinking goes from the instrumental—how do I do this, how do I get that?—to the fundamental—why this, why that? In other words, he must have some moments of stillness. And since I deal in books, reading and writing them, and since books and stillness go well together, I decided, by means of good books, to make suggestions that would inspire stillness in Stephen Harper.”If the above doesn’t inspire you to read Martel’s book, neither may my brief review.

  • Ubalstecha
    2018-11-03 20:12

    Yann Martel is a Canadian publishing superstar. Author of Life of Pi, which has won a bucketful of awards, he started a campaign on April 16, 2007 to get Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pay more attention to the arts, for which his conservative government seem to almost take glee in cutting funding.His method was to start a book club, one where he would send a book every two weeks to Stephen Harper with an accompanying letter explaining why Martel had chosen the book and some of the history surrounding the novel and its author. Martel also published the book selection and accompanying letter on a blog. He has also chronicled any responses he got from the Prime Minister, although most of those came from staffers rather than Stephen Harper himself.The book then is a publishing of the first 55 of the books Martel has sent. And to read this is to listen to a sometimes condescending, sometimes earnest pleading of someone who loves literature who is trying to reach out to the someone who has very different views than him. The problem is there are times that Martel comes off as talking down to Harper, and that turns the reader off quite a bit.The value of this book is the reading list it provides. The list of books is not narrowed down to one genre or origin. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Canadian, International, Classic, Modern, Martel has pulled from a very broad spectrum and that is where the richness lies. For us the reader to push ourselves out of our comfort zone readingwise, broadening our minds as Martel hopes to broaden Harper's.A quick note: Martel has recently announced that he is ending his book club after four years and 99 books. Which is sad, if only because the list of books that we all should look at has ended.

  • Kadi_d
    2018-11-03 18:08

    A wonderful collection of books I now want to read accompanied by delightfully well thought out ironic/cynical/sarcastic letters to my favorite douchebag.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-20 18:52

    Easy read. Overall impression: meh. Patronizing tone that made me feel annoyed more often than not. Some new books I'll add to my tbr pile nevertheless.

  • Fábio de Carvalho
    2018-10-22 20:58

    Avec son concept original et pertinent, Yann Martel nous suggère, collatéralement, plusieurs lectures intéressantes, mais le fait avec sa plume prétentieuse porte-parole d'un monde philosophique déconnecté de la réalité et ce à un point tel ou on en vient à ressentir une certaine pitié envers Stephen Harper. Je suis un passionné de littérature et si un inconnu notoire initiait avec moi un club de lecture par correspondance, je lui répondrais certainement avec plaisir. S'il s'agissait d'un homme de théâtre notoire quelconque qui me suggérait avec acharnement et condescendance d'assister à de diverses représentations d'un art que je n'apprécie pas (à savoir le théâtre), je ne daignerais peut-être pas non plus lui répondre.Il ne m'est donc pas difficile de considérer qu'une personne n'étant pas passionnée de littérature n'ait pas jugé nécessaire ou pertinent de répondre au condescendant Yann Martel au courant de son dialogue monologué.

  • Rebecca
    2018-11-15 15:08

    A delightful book--I love Yann Martel! The impetus was an event attended by Martel and the (still) Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. Harper appeared to Martel bored with the arts. Martell vowed to educate Harper by mailing him biweekly books with commentaries about the book. The commentaries serve as political bullets. Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of replies from the Honorable Harper such that, after four years of a largely solo correspondence, Martell ceased this activity in February of this year.

  • CarolynAnn
    2018-11-11 15:11

    3.5 really (I need more options)Our bookclub was reading all Canadian authors in homage to Canada 150 (yes, we only started in September) and we wanted to read something by Yann Martel since he is considered one of our best authors. Since we'd already read Life of Pi, I found this one to add to the list, mainly because I thought it sounded quite intriguing. And, certainly, that is how I would describe it... I found certain chapters very interesting and quite humerous (in a sarcastic way). I also appreciated the preface and the lack of recognition for the Arts in Canada which sparked this project of Martel's (sending the Prime Minister a book every second week). So, this story is a collection of the letters that Martel included with each book he sent... and while I don't know if he ever really expected a reply from Stephen Harper, it's interesting to see why he picked each book. Some of it got a bit repetitive in my mind and some of the choices / letters didn't seem to be relevant to his point, in my mind. However, I have to say I liked it better than I thought I would ... Martel is a very good writer in my opinion.

  • Michèle
    2018-11-20 19:51

    (English below)Que lit Stephen Harper? par Yann Martel. 258 pagesUn court aperçu par Martel de livres qui sont tous intéressants, porteur d’une facette de l’humanité. Je ne les lirai jamais tous, mais la sensibilité de Martel affleure en surface, et son appréciation du métier d’écrivain (et sa dépréciation dans notre société).L’élément déclencheur? Un moment d’appréciation des artistes pour les 50 ans du CAC, dans la chambre des Communes. Le PM (qui aime tant les artistes!) y assistait, sans montrer le moindre intérêt. Il était ailleurs dans sa tête… Yann Martel a décidé de lui envoyer deux livres par mois, pour lui prouver que les écrivains, les conteurs d’histoires apportent des moments de quiétude dans notre vie mouvementées.Les auteurs que j'ai envie de lire dans sa liste.Jeannette WatersonGAbriel Garcia Marques, Chronique d'une mort annoncéeGlgamesh, traduction de MitchellAnthony Burgess, Orange mécaniqueCitation: L'espérance de la littérature, l'espoir de la quiétude, c'est que la paix que les livres les plus divers peuvent partager côte à côte transformera leurs lecteurs, afin qu'eux aussi soient capables de vivre côte à côte avec des gens qui sont bien différents d'eux. The book give an overview of the various literary production, even if we may not have read all those!

  • Anda
    2018-11-01 13:47

    - By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept - Elizabeth Smart- Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan- Short and Sweet - 101 Very Short Poems - Simon Armitage- Artists and Models - Anais Nin- Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes- To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf- Gilgamesh - an english version by Derrek Hines- The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror - Michael Ignatieff "If the earth could gather itself up, could bring together every animal, every mountain and valley, every plain and ocean, and twist itself into a fine point, and at that fine point grasp a pen, and with that pen begin to write, it would write like Tolstoy." - Book 30, The Keutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy"The great thing aboout reading books is that it makes us better than cats. Cats are said to have nine lives. What is that compared to the girl, boy, man, woman who reads books? A book read is a life added to one's own. So it takes only nine books to make cats look at you with envy." - Book 15, Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

  • Vicky
    2018-11-12 20:10

    This book is hard to find since it was never published in an American edition but it is a book that should be in all libraries and read by every politician. Martel puts it quite succinctly "To citizens who aspire to be successful leaders, this is the simplest way I can put it: if you want to lead, you must read." The letters are often funny and include so many insights into authors and reading. I am happy to say I now have my copy autographed. Martel was Montana State University's 2013 freshman convocation speaker. also came to the public library the next morning for a very intimate question and answer program that ranged from some very funny stories about the movie and Academy Awards , his 2010 book, Beatrice and Virgil and his new bookHighs Mountains of Portugal (the book he had gone to India to write initially those many years ago).

  • Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)
    2018-11-19 16:56

    I’m not lying when I say that I really enjoyed the parts that I did read of this book. It’s a non-fiction book about books, which I thought would be a great read to learn about some fantastic Canadian fiction. However, I found myself enjoying the introduction more than the actual letters (Yann Martel’s pretend letters back from Stephen Harper were priceless – some of them had me falling out of my seat in laughter!). From what I could tell, after reading the first three letters written to the Prime Minister, Martel talks about a book in great depth — only giving away the odd thing, which I’m sure I would forget by the time I got around to reading the book. I’m sure that a lot of the books he recommends are great reads, but having not read very many of them (I had read one), I put it down deeming it a good read, but more for someone who had read the books already and was looking for a thoughtful, in-depth view on them from another amazing Canadian writer.

  • Ali Forest
    2018-11-01 20:47

    I don't quite know how to rate this book. On one hand, there are some great selections made. Good essays on the books chosen are included. On the other hand, this is more than a little condescending. I understand the root of this was the author's irritation at (what was) the current government's lack of interest or acknowledgment for the arts. Fine, I get that. However, he is running a country and never asked you to form him a book club. I mean, what is the guy supposed to have responded with? What would have appeased you? This is such a great idea to get people more steeped in literature, and from such a wonderful Canadian author to boot, but it decreases the value, at least for me, that underneath it all, its an attack.

  • Hayden Ellington
    2018-10-23 14:58

    This book was very interesting, as the five stars prove; it was an amazing book for me. I had many books to read before reading this book, but now the list suddenly got bigger. It was someone who recommended it to me and I borrowed it from her. It's almost sad she wants it back, even my mom wants to have a look at it before a return it. The books is actually a non-fiction and the letters written by Yann Martel are very nice and his opinions very interesting. A couple of his letters made me pause so I could think and see what my opinions were on the same fact. Also the project in itself is such a cute, marvelous one. Sending letters and usually just one book per two weeks... It takes commitment. Almost more so with Stephen Harper when you received just a couple of letters of return.

  • Ginger
    2018-10-27 19:03

    I will read basically any book on the love of reading. Martel certainly recommends a host of books that I plan on adding to my reading list, but also gives a frequent gems of commentary on the act of reading and writing, from an author's perspective. I could have lived without his constant politics (a personal pet peeve of mine is when non-Americans feel the need to criticize and comment on U.S. politics), but I suppose the topic is hard to stay away from when you are writing the Prime Minister.

  • Sirish
    2018-11-18 14:06

    Read every one of these reviews/essays while the website was still live. I am not a great admirer of Martel's writing, having had lacklustre experiences with Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil, but here his casual narration fits in perfectly. It also helps that Martel loves not only these books, but also the idea of books and believes in their power to salvage humanity, and I personally think that the medium of essay suits his talents best. It's a pity you have to buy a book now, but I still think its worth the effort if only for the phenomenal essay on Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

  • Cynthia
    2018-11-10 18:07

    Yann Martel, the author of "The Life Of Pi", clearly wrote this book for book lovers in a format of letters to our prime minister, Stephen Harper. It was very interesting in terms of response from our Prime Minister himself. I enjoyed Mr.Martel's view on such books including Animal Farm, etc. It is very likable, and this book is also somethings of value, since it is a Red Maple Book. Clearly, this is an enjoyable read and information source for all book lovers.

  • Ryn
    2018-11-12 14:57

    Great concept!! I am Canadian. Steven Harper is Calgarian. I also live in Calgary. It was interesting enough on those levels to me at first, for those reasons. Reading it, gave me new reasons to like it. A book recommending other books is a delight. Especially when reasons for recommending them, are equally interesting to read. Loved the reality of this author's interaction with the Prime Minister. Great idea; wish I had thought of it!

  • Debbie
    2018-11-17 20:11

    Wow what a fun, interesting and beautifully written plea for literacy in our leader! Martel's letters to the PM are gorgeous pieces of writing in their own right. The letter re: 2 children's books he sends Harper in Dec 2007 was my favourite, I have read it over several times, pure art! Just put 4 of the books on my next book order.

  • Mortira
    2018-11-15 19:59

    Brilliant! Here we have a collection of interesting and thoughtful letters that celebrate reading and subtly, artfully book-shame a grown man who says his favorite title is the Guinness Book of World Records. What more could a reader want? (Actually, I would have preferred it a little more secular, but you can't have everything.)

  • Jane
    2018-11-03 13:12

    I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the title. There are only a couple of books on the reading list - that I have actually read, and only a couple that I intend to read. I did like the premise of the book and the fact that Yann sent a letter to the Prime Minister with each book. There are a couple of books on the list I intend to tackle - in the audio version probably.

  • Jennifer
    2018-11-18 12:44

    Gotta love Martel's sense of humour and persistence in sending all those letters and books to our Prime Minister. Pretty sure it was all lost on him (Harper), but thankfully Martel shared it with the audience. I'm keeping this book so I can (eventually) read all the pieces referenced in it. A great checklist for literature of our times.

  • Carissa
    2018-11-04 18:08

    Yann Martel reminded me why I love read so much. I love that he doesn't just recommend books that everyone is 'supposed' to read. He got me reading graphic novels, kid's books and even more poetry. So good!

  • Crystal Allen
    2018-11-11 21:07

    I saw this book sitting on my boss' book shelf and asked to borrow it. The radio station that I listen to on my morning commute used to talk about the book's that Yann Martel was sending to Stephen Harper. I'm intrigued to look at the full list of books and find out why he sent each one.

  • Martha Fergusson
    2018-11-20 17:51

    This was a wonderful rekindle of old memories of friends i knew in the past ( books) and looking at them with Yann's comments. There was a handul i had not read but will be adding them to my to do list for reading. Excellent concept I would recommend it to anyone that loves books.

  • Landon
    2018-11-06 15:59

    I really love this collection of letters. Martel's writing is strong, honest, and successfully defends the importance of the arts.

  • Geneviève
    2018-11-19 17:49

    Concept intéressant mais peu passionnant.

  • Zeejay
    2018-11-09 14:12

    looks interesting- yann martel has been mailing a book to harper every 2 weeks...not sure if the H-man is reading them, but Yann has some interesting choices