Which three books would you give our new president in order to shape our future?

In the 1960 movie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the hero– H.George Wells– returns home from a far-flung future to retrieve three books with which to rebuild humanity.  The movie ends with the question, “Which three would you have taken?”  I have often pondered this question, and come up with everything from The Joy of Cooking to How Things Work  and Gray’s Anatomy.

Over the holidays, I reread Octavia Butler’s groundbreaking Earthseed novel, The Parable of the Sower.  In it, and the sequel, Parable of the Talents, a rising presidential candidate named Senator Andrew Steele Jarret runs on an ultra-conservative platform with the slogan, “Help Us to Make American Great Again.”  Talents, which includes the above slogan, was published in 1998.  The Huffington Post talks about it here.  And if you follow my tweets, you’ll know Ms. Butler had more to say on the subject of governance, as she reads from her work on Democracy Now.


I’ve always thought of science fiction as the moral compass for humanity.  SF writers project the future so we can plan and course correct in the now.  As Lauren Olamina says in the Earthseed  books, God is Change, and Change can be shaped.

Which got me thinking about those three books in The Time Machine.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to give books to each incoming presidential administration?  Story is a powerful way to voice concerns, to share ideas, to explain a point of view.

So, this year, I’m starting a book club for the new administration.  Once a month, I’ll suggest a book for the new cabinet to read.  I’m open to your suggestions.  Tweet me ideas @sherri_l_smith under the hashtag #bookclubfornewadministration, or comment on my  blog, www.sherrilsmith.com. I thought about listing all 12 books here and now, but I think we need to give the future a chance to unfold before we know what books would serve best next.

That said, I’ve got four suggestions to start the year off.

The Book Club Pick for January 2017 is:  Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(While we’re at it, why not order a copy from Octavia Books in New Orleans?  No association to Ms. Butler, but it’s a lovely coincidence and a nice way to support indie bookstores!)

Synopsis:  When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.

Next month, we’ll continue with Parable of the Talents.

Sadly, Ms. Butler passed away before she could write the third book in the series, so her vision of the future only goes so far.  Which, on the bright side, means we get to write our own.

Book Club for the New Administration
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Sherri L. Smith is the multiple award-winning author of YA novels Lucy the Giant, Sparrow, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Flygirl and Orleans. In October 2015, she made her middle grade debut with The Toymaker’s Apprentice. Her books have been listed as Amelia Bloomer, American Library Association Best Books for Young People, Junior Library Guild Selections and appear on multiple state reading lists. Flygirl, a WWII novel about a light-skinned black girl who passes for white in order to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, was the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist and was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post. In 2012, Sherri made her first foray into speculative fiction with the “cli fi” novel, Orleans, a book dedicated to her mother, who survived Hurricane Katrina. The Toymaker’s Apprentice, a vibrant retelling of the story of the Nutcracker, is a Southern California Independent Bookstore bestseller. She has just sold a graphic novel, and is writing her first nonfiction project. Sherri has worked in film, animation, comic books and construction, including stop-motion animation on Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, and spent three years at Disney TV Animation, helping to create stories for animated home video projects. She was a 2014 National Book Awards judge in the Young People’s Literature category. She is a three-time writer-in-resident at Hedgebrook retreat in Washington State, as well as a resident at Wassard Elea retreat, in Ascea, Italy. http://sherrilsmith.com/
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2 thoughts on “Book Club for the New Administration

  • March 23, 2017 at 11:31 pm
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    Hi Jen–This sounds like such fun! I wish your dad was able to attend — but I am going to try to get there (wearing my IRISH hat and (SMILE), and join in the fetHivisies.tugs– Mom

  • January 16, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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    What a great idea! Even though we know the new admin. is unlikely to read the books, we can nourish our own fight-back spirit (and vision) with your suggestions–and our own. Thanks, too, for the thought about supporting an independent bookstore. I recently plugged a big hole in my literary knowledge by reading Butler’s Kindred for the first time, and am so grateful for your pointer about where I should head next in my Butler odyssey.

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