in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Oprah: A Biography, by Kitty Kelley. Oprah spoke at my college graduation in 1998. Her theme: “How did I get from there [pointing to slovenly crowd of dredlocked, screwed/tattooed, hungover/still high graduating seniors] to here [pointing toward herself, one of the most successful women on Planet Earth]?” Well, I’ve been trying for 12 years, but I’m still not one of the most successful women on Planet Earth, so I guess I wasn’t really listening to Oprah on that sunny, warm May day in Connecticut before all my youthful idealism had turned into sciatica and poison Twitters.
2. Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Text and Documents (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek), by F. A. Hayek, edited by Bruce Caldwell. All right, cocktail-party economists: If you want to impress me, you’re going to have to get beyond those superficial, non sequiturish references to Adam Smith‘s Wealth of Nations or Karl Marx‘s Capital Vol II, dig a little deeper, and get down-and-dirty Fred Hayek-style. If you get intimidated, just think of that scene in Over the Top where it looks like truckdriver Sly Stallone is going to lose the arm-wrestling match to that dude with a handlebar mustache, but then Sly gets all inside himself and, inspired by his love for his son, finds the inner strength to push back against adversity and win the luxury semi, much to the chagrin of Robert Loggia, who plays his son’s evil grandfather. That scene inspires me, like, 95 percent as much as Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech, and 89 percent as much as The Right Stuff, that movie about astronauts.
3. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, by Carol Burnett. Carol Burnett was the star of The Carol Burnett Show, which was supposedly very funny, but I was born in 1977, so I’ve never seen it, not even in syndication, so I’m not exactly sure what all the Carol Burnett-related fuss is about. Oh, right—-Burnett was also in Annie as the mean lady who ran the orphanage, and in Clue, as the…ah, shit. I guess it turns out she wasn’t in Clue at all. I got confused because Madeline Kahn is in Clue, but she’s also in Annie, just like Carol Burnett…but, in Annie, Madeline Kahn plays the girlfriend of Tim Curry, who, in turn, plays the brother of the mean lady who runs the orphanage. I mean, anybody could make that mistake, right?
4. Who Cares?: Public Ambivalence and Government Activism from the New Deal to the Second Gilded Age, by Katherine S. Newman. You know how homeless dudes in San Francisco ask you for money, but, when you don’t give it to them, they yell at you? Why can’t they be polite, compliant, and invisible like the friendly homeless here on the East Coast instead of all obnoxious and entitled-seeming?
5. The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel, by Paolo Giordano. I don’t know anything about Paolo Giordano. I assume he’s Italian, but I don’t know where in Italy he lives, or whether he prefers linguini to gnocchi. Maybe he’s Sicilian, and spends summer mornings idly swimming in the Mediterranean before flopping back on the beach for a light lunch and taking a nap in the sun while his skin turns from light bronze to deep bronze. Or maybe he’s from Milan, wears tailored three-piece white suits to fashion shows, drinks three to five espressos each day, and shows up at Berlusconi rallies before heading to the club to bump and grind to Italo Disco all night. Hell, I don’t even know if he likes boys or girls. But I do know that, with a name like “Paolo Giordano” and a talent for writing novels with titles like The Solitude of Prime Numbers, there’s no way he’s not getting laid tonight.