Come Tuesday, we will have a president who is not only an avid reader but a bestselling, critically praised author. It's enough to warm the hearts of writers everywhere. Barack Obama probably already has quite a reading list, but we asked authors who live in the Tampa Bay area to choose one book that they think he should read as he steps into his new job. .
"I would tell Obama to read The Turnaround by George Pelecanos. I think it would be good for the president to know about what happens in Washington, D.C., outside the zone of politics and power. Pelecanos brings us to the real people and real problems found just blocks from the White House. These are the neighborhoods where the change Obama promised is so well needed."
Michael Connelly, (The Brass Verdict), bestselling crime novelist
"I think it would have to be Powershift, by Alvin Toffler. His perspective of how the world works is not only necessary but crucial for anyone who intends to be a world leader. … One thing Toffler championed is a blip democracy, a democracy on the Internet. He talks about people being able to respond to the issues in real time. That's what 21st century democracy is leading to."
James Tokley (The Ladies of Brick), poet laureate of Tampa
"I thought and thought and decided that since he is already well-read my wish for him would be to read a really good comic novel, something he enjoys completely and is not policy-related or 'good' for him. So, my suggestion is Michael Frayn's novel Headlong. Frayn is also a playwright who wrote among many others, the plays Copenhagen and Noises Off."
Enid Shomer (Tourist Season), fiction writer and poet
"War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges, is the best book I know about how the universal need for a clear-cut sense of identity can seduce entire nations into pointless wars."
Dennis Lehane (The Given Day), bestselling novelist and co-founder of Eckerd College's Writers in Paradise
"Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome through war, famine and plague. His private notes to himself remind us all that 'While you live, while it is in your power, be good.’ "
Rita Ciresi (Remind Me Again Why I Married You),novelist, director of creative writing at the University of South Florida, Tampa
"Giants in the Earth, Ole Rolvaag's 1927 book about Norwegian emigrants in the Dakota Territory, is one of the great American novels. The story is timeless: individuals confronting a strange, new land; a soaring optimism founded on immigrants' faith in the American Dream; and the saga of pioneers on the American frontier."
Gary R. Mormino (Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams), historian, professor of Florida studies at USF St. Petersburg
"I think President Obama should try to find time to read poetry in general — anything that appeals to him — because poetry will jog his mind away from the stale language of committees and politicians. In particular, he could read Here, Bullet, by Brian Turner, a prize-winning collection of vivid poems about the Iraq war written by a soldier poet, in the tradition of Wilfred Owen. Turner's poems are unflinching and unsentimental, and would help keep the damage of the Iraq war in clear focus."
Peter Meinke (The Shape of Poetry), professor emeritus of creative writing at Eckerd College
"I'd like to recommend Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen, so the president will know what makes the nation's oddest state tick, and why, if every idiot in the news isn't already in Florida, just be patient: They're genetically required to end up here. Which might qualify us for a 'weirdness bailout.' "
Tim Dorsey (Nuclear Jellyfish), author of 11 wacky Florida novels
"Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, was the first book I thought of, and despite my best efforts I couldn't get it out of my head. Though this haunting novel about a group of cloned children growing to adulthood is often read as science fiction, or a comment on the extremes of scientific advancement, it is foremost a book about humanity — one defined by the selfless, life-affirming way the characters accept their roles in serving and caring for others."
Karen Brown (Pins and Needles), award- winning fiction writer and professor in the USF creative writing program
"The book I would choose is The People Could Fly (by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon). But it's not about giving President Barack Obama one of the things he should do prescriptively. It's about metaphor. The oldest known bones of humankind were found in the dirt of Africa. This collection of African-American folk tales is about when all of the people could fly — the people in the Middle Passage, the people who brought them over. So we can say, that man who was a slave owner, he is my brother. That man who owned slaves by the hundreds, he is my uncle. The people could fly: It's metaphor writ large. We all need to do something in the 21st century to make this a better country, in our personal ways. Somewhere in that metaphor, there might be some nutrition for him."
Bob Devin Jones (Uncle Bends: A Home-Cooked Negro Narrative), playwright, director, actor and co-artistic director of the [email protected]