I don’t vote any more in Illinois elections, but I found this chart in the Chicago Tribute interesting. The Tribune asked sixteen candidates for office to volunteer the titles of their favorite books in the following categories:
What book influenced your life?
The Bible was the most cited book. I would like to think that these politicians picked the Bible because it really did influence their life, but the cynical side of me wonders if this was also a safe political choice.
There is not a lot of history on the list. Andy McKenna chose a few volumes from Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln. This sounds like a smart political move by a Republican candidate for governor in the state of Illinois, but I would guess most voters have never heard of Sandburg.
I don’t think Congressman Mark Kirk can’t be accused of political posturing. He chose Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers as the book that most influenced his life. There is also some classical literature in this category: Orwell, Thoreau, and Homer are all mentioned. Pat Quinn, the incumbent governor, is shoring up the Catholic base with the selection of Joseph Cardinal Bernadin’s The Gift of Peace.
What book would you read to prepare for office?
I am pleased to see that most of the candidates would read American history to prepare for office. Books about Abraham Lincoln rule the day. The most cited book is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Economics and economic history are also well represented. A few candidates would read Amy Shales, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is reading Paul Krugman, while Roger Keats, the Republican Candidate for Cook Country Board president is reading Milton Friedman.
What author would most like to meet?
Republicans: Doris Kearns Goodwin, George Will, Ernest Hemingway Tom Clancy, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe, Milton Friedman, Greg Mortensen, Michael Bulgakov, and Lord John Julius Norwich
Democrats: Diane Scharzbein, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Ellison, and Jane Austen.
Doris Kearns Goodwin makes both lists.
What book would you take to a desert island?
I got a kick out of some of these choices. For example, Bill Brady, a Republican candidate for governor, would bring an encyclopedia. Dan Hynes, a Democratic candidate for governor, would bring Lou Holtz, Wins, Losses and Lessons: An Autobiography. Does Hynes really want to spend the rest of his life on a desert island reading the autobiography of Lou Holtz? This is enough not to vote for him.
At least some of the candidates were smart enough to bring multi-volume works or large tomes such as the Complete Works of Robert Browning and Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking World. Others are more practical. Cheryle Jackson, Democratic candidate for Senate, would bring “any survival guide with a chapter on how to make a raft” and her opponent in the Democratic primary, Jacob Meister, would bring “Boat Building for Dummies.” Gotta love the pragmatism of the Illinois Democratic Party! My favorite in this category is Dorothy Brown, the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board President. If she was stranded on a desert island she would bring along the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Could you imagine spending the rest of your life reading Grant? I hear that he is pretty hot right now, but he can’t be that hot.
How would you answer these questions?