Whenever June comes around, summer reading lists are sure to follow. They appear from a variety of sources, each of which wishes to enlighten us on how to best spend our afternoons at the beach and our lazy summer evenings. Most lists include a popular spy/crime thriller along with other mindless diversions. But this summer, my son and I tackled a more challenging, yet vastly more fulfilling book: Atlas Shrugged.
I have read Atlas twice before. When I proposed the idea to my son, who turned 21 years old in August, I pointed out that it was generally considered to be America’s second most influential book, after the Bible. We sent my old, worn paperback to the recycle store and ordered two beautiful new copies.
The 1,168 page tomes arrived and my boy did not flinch, even though he was staring at the longest book with the smallest type that he had ever attempted to read. Our plan was to read about 100 pages a week, after which we would meet to discuss what we had read and to share particularly moving passages.
Taking on such a challenge can be quite … challenging. As you read through what is generally regarded as Ayn Rand’s manifesto for capitalism, you must wonder how she conceived such a project. While many authors have described the process of writing a 350-page crime novel – usually how they must outline the entire story before they start – Ms. Rand’s sheer brilliance is reflected in the fact that she actually completed this project, which was both her final and her finest novel. The fact that it is written in such clear prose, and covers such essential life concepts, makes you realize why so many people are so consumed by the book.
During the summer I told some friends what my son and I were doing. Everyone had some type of reaction. The people who had not read it spoke of their desire to do so, and the others told me of how many times they had read it. I told everyone that the book is a work of science fiction, an opinion which was generally met with either a quizzical look or a sigh. I explained to them that the book, which was first published in 1957, clearly predicts our society under the Obama Administration. Veteran and virgin readers alike realized that they needed to get their nose into Atlas to gain clarity on what we are all facing as long as Obama remains in office.