‘Atlas Shrugged’ tops chart of readers’ favorite books

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My friends would be happy to say that almost nothing leaves me speechless.

But I’ve got to tell you, the response to our “Favorite Books” poll came pretty close.

Not only were there 143 voters (including me), but it was stunning to note that North Idaho readers have an amazing breadth of reading interests.

I’m a pretty serious reader, and yet you came up with some titles that called for some prolific Googling.

Not only that, but a startling number of emails referenced books that espoused or examined some sort of philosophy.

A lot of you are pretty deep thinkers, if this was a fair sample.

For instance, the book with the most votes was Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Rand’s dismissal of government in favor of individualism is a natural favorite of conservatives and libertarians (no surprise around here), but Rand also was anti-religious, which seems like a contradiction for conservative Christians.

Shall we discuss it later?

SPEAKING of religion, the Bible received only three votes. Editor Mike Patrick and I guessed confidently that it would be tops in a landslide.

Not so.

Moving along, another book with a lot of fans was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig’s story of a trip across the country with his son. That’s merely the backdrop for endless philosophical discussions, particularly the notion that quality defines everything in human existence.

More philosophy: A few of you mentioned “The Alchemist,” by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho — which has a plot too complicated to explain, but essentially points out that things we’re seeking in life are right inside us all the time.

There were plenty of votes for classics, of course, like “Tom Sawyer,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (shout out to my friend Haylie Thompson), along with four different books by John Steinbeck.

One of those votes came from me; more on this in a moment, but I’m a travel junkie and thus in love with Steinbeck’s non-fiction tale, “Travels with Charley.”

BY THE WAY, we received no fewer than 25 votes from librarians — none of whom chose the same book in the serious category, but a couple mentioned the Harry Potter series as vacation reading.

David Harrison of the Athol Library picked “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu.

We’re afraid to ask if he was serious or being a little tongue-in-cheek.

Incidentally, Coeur d’Alene library director Bette Ammon picked “Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle as her absolute favorite.

The book is classified as young adult/science fantasy, but it’s also noteworthy for some other reasons: It was rejected by 26 publishers, it’s been adapted for both TV and the big screen (this year), and it begins with the historically worst lead sentence in literature, “It was a dark and stormy night” — an allusion to the opening words in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel, “Paul Clifford.”

BESIDES all the philosophy and Bette’s journey through fantasyland, we saw plenty of votes for “A Man Called Ove” (Fredrick Backman), which was easily your sentimental favorite, and “Boys in the Boat” (Daniel James Brown).

As for me, I’ve already mentioned I’m addicted to travel, so besides Steinbeck’s journey with his dog Charley, I’ll submit “The Great Railway Bazaar” (Paul Theroux) and at least three books by part-time humorist Bill Bryson: “Notes from a Small Island,” its hilarious sequel, “The Road to Little Dribbling,” and a tale of trekking around Europe that’s so funny, you can’t read it on an airplane without making a fool of yourself, “Neither Here Nor There.”

But hey, there were dozens and dozens of fantastic entries — along with descriptions that make me want to dive into new adventures.

And listen, we’re not done talking about your books.

More on Thursday.


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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