The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, hopes that spending some $11 million on book gift boxes for the poor of her country will encourage them to read more. She plans to give poor families gift boxes of up to nine books pulled together from a list of 49 titles that are deemed to be appropriate. Other than the fact that some of her critics declare that she would be better off building a few more libraries for her people instead of throwing this much money down what is potentially a black hole, the biggest controversy has centered on the choice of eligible books.
Chile's official choices include titles by Allende, Salinger, Kafka and others. Here's what I would put into a box if I were trying to create a little enthusiasm for reading in the life of some non-reader:
1. Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtryI would hope that the combination of literary fiction, light reading and history would make my target reader yearn for a little more of each type. These are some of my favorite books, of course, but it would be easy enough for me to come up with other combinations that might serve the purpose even better. What do you think?
2. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
3. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
4. Battle Cry of Freedom - James M. McPherson
5. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler
6. Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin
7. Time and Again - Jack Finney
8. Time on My Hands - Peter Delacorte
9. We Were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates