Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.
I have been working hard, with my publisher at Rocky Mountain Books, on the manuscript of my next book “The Secret Marathon – Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan through Sport”, and things are, at last, coming together. So, two weeks ago, I took a break and my wife, Sue and I went on a road trip out to Victoria, BC, to spend some time with friends in their beautiful new beach house. I made the most of my time away relaxing, doing some trail running, exploring the area and catching up with my reading.
Before I left I looked at the pile of books, sitting on my bedside table, trying to select which ones to take with me. I have a wide variety to choose from as I like to read a selection of genres, from business to historical fiction and science fiction to murder mysteries. I decided upon Single and Single by John Le Carre and Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye. I also took The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, recommended by Sue, who knows what I like to read and will often make suggestions.
Talking of recommendations, in the recent July/ August edition of The Atlantic magazine, I spotted an intriguing headline:
What Book or Article Would You Make Required Reading for Everyone on Earth?
I felt this was an interesting question and decided to give it some thought. I began by considering the reason for m my selection. Would it be to impart a particular message? Would it be informative? Would it be because it was a thrilling story? Would it be words of wisdom for a future generation? Might I even choose a picture book for those who do not have the advantage of being able to read? The questions were endless and I could think of books for every answer. In the Atlantic article, the responses were, as one would imagine, very diverse, for example:
Carey Cranston, president, American Writers Museum
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave illustrates the greatest heights and the lowest depths of America’s history and potential, while, better than any other work, showing the power of literacy—that when a person can read and write, he gains the ability to create his own narrative, and to shape his life and the surrounding world.
Michiko Kakutani, literary critic
Shakespeare’s collected plays. Four hundred years after the playwright’s death, his influence spans the planet. He was uncannily modern in his inventiveness and gift for engaging the popular imagination; in his depiction of spirited, independent women; and in his appreciation of the contingencies of life in a chaotic world reeling from accelerating change and loss.
C. W. Gortner, author, The Romanov Empress and Mademoiselle Chanel
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. Though not very sexy, it addresses the most vital and pressing issue we face as a species on our beleaguered Earth. If left unchecked, global warming will have devastating ramifications for every living being on this planet. We simply can’t afford to ignore it in the hope that it’ll go away.
Kevin Kwan, author, Crazy Rich Asians
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is an astoundingly visionary satire published in 1932 that foresaw not just what’s happening today, but where we’re possibly heading next.
C. E. Morgan, author, The Sport of Kings
The Mindbody Prescription, by John E. Sarno, saved my life. It explores how the subconscious mind can create physical pain as a means of avoiding emotional pain. This mind-body approach has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the psychological origins of many ailments. A vital read for anyone suffering from chronic pain.
Esmeralda Santiago, author, Conquistadora
Men speak about peace but prefer war. Men head the majority of governments and control the increasingly lethal weapons, using women and gods as moral shields. Unsparing in its portrayal of men’s nature, The Iliad should be read by everyone who hopes to understand mankind.
There were also contributions by readers which included titles as equally diverse, from books by Dr Seuss to the writings of Maya Angelou.
I gave the question some thought and, quite frankly, struggled to pick one defining answer. I wondered what books my family and friends might choose. As anyone knows who has ever belonged to a book club, passions run high when it comes to what is or is not a worthy read. Also, I go back to the reason behind the selection, which wouldn’t necessarily be based purely on the book being one you personally love.
So, as the dog days of summer continue, I leave the question with you.
Which book, poem, article, short story or other piece of writing would you want everyone to read?
About the Author
Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON, is being released on October 9th 2018.
He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNN, BBC, CBC, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.
In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com and see what he can do for you in the long run.