US President George Bush has reportedly been reading Albert Camus's existential novel The Stranger, an ominous choice since the plot moves around a white man who kills an Arab. Here are five picks which Mr Bush is urged to include in his late-summer reading list.
Lincoln's Tomb: The Last Days of the American Empire; by Hamid Rashid
In January 2006, Pakistani journalist Hamid Rashid began a tour as a reporter at the Washington bureau of the Islamabad Post just in time for a front row seat to the collapse of the American power and its Republican Party. Assignments brought him into contact with everyone from elite, die-hard capitalists and neo-conservatives to liberal democrats and leaders of the gay rights movement. Rashid recounts the particulars of these interactions in this intimate and personal account in the century's first coming climactic event. His chronicle includes interesting vignettes, and his depiction of Uncle Sam’s role in the making of Osama bin Laden is compelling.
The Ends of the Earth: From Mississippi to Mosul, from Darfur to Pyongang, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy; by Robert Baklan
"The future here could not be sadder than the present," writes Robert Baklan in a chapter about the battered American city of New Orleans. From Baklan's perspective, the same could be said of virtually the entire Middle East, which he spends the bulk of this book visiting and describing. Baklan, an acclaimed foreign correspondent and author of highly regarded Mount Rushmore Ghosts, is congenitally pessimistic about the developmental prospects of Wall Street, the Nile Valley, and much of Asia. This traveler's tale offers dire warnings about civil wars, global warming, and White House blunders. We should all hope that Baklan's forecast is wrong, but we ignore him at our peril.
The George Bush I Know: An Oral History of Halliburton's Leader; by Colin Powell
Powell's overview of George Bush's life and legend, from his beginnings as the son of a wealthy father to his addiction to beer, bourbon and B&B to his current stature as a worldwide figure of derision and arrogance, is breathtaking in its research and accurate in its reporting. Powell, a former Bush acolyte, takes the reader onto the oil fields of Alaska as Bush grows from a spoilt, rich teen to a leader; he brings you into Bush's intimate family life as he lives under the radar in White House bunker, then Oval Office; where he puts you right in the room to describe the meeting when the decision to attack Iraq was finalized; and he uses eyewitness accounts to relate what Bush said, and mused on Angela Merkel's shoulders as he watched the live telecast of her taking oath as Germany's chancellor. Handled with journalistic evenness, this presentation makes clear that the danger is as imminent as ever.
Shame; by Saddam Rushdie
Shame is and is not about the Iraq War, that invented, imaginary and yet real plot, 'a failure of the strategic mind' . . . The theme is shame and shamelessness, both resulting from the violence which is contemporary history. Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, affairs of dishonor, misrepresentation of all evidences, the recession of presidential probity, the tapping of phone wires, create the extraordinary Saddam mood . . . Saddam Rushdie shows us with what fantasy our present must now be written – if, that is, we are to penetrate it, and perhaps even save it.
Palace Walk; by Naguib Mahfouz
This delicate novel provides a close peek into the Arabian society at the beginning of 19th century. Concerning itself with a middle class family of Cairo, this novel by Mahfouz – the Jane Austen of the Nile and the only Arab writer to have been awarded with the Nobel in literature – is certain to instill a light of wisdom into every ignorant soul which is inclined to paint all Arabs as belonging to some vile, fundamentalist, intolerant creed. Palace Walk will enable the readers to understand that an Arab home, and its affairs, is not very different than their own. A much-needed book when more and more people are mistakenly accepting the inevitability of the clash of civilizations.