If Arthur Brakob of St. Louis Park was ever to be elected to public office (and he says, “don’t worry; this is highly unlikely”), he has a whole raft of books that he would like to be sworn in on, depending on which office he is elected to. He writes:
“City level office (school board up to mayor): For this I would choose something that would remind me of the patience I might need to deal with folks who ask the office for crazy requests. Probably ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ or ‘Catch-22.’
“State office (state senator or governor): I would have to have something that imparts the gravity of the office. A tome that looks impressive and gives a sense of my feelings about government. There’s really only one choice here. And I’d need a Vikings linebacker to hold the book for me. Nobody else would have the upper-body strength to hold it long enough. It would be David Foster Wallace’s dystopian masterpiece ‘Infinite Jest.’
“Federal office (Congress or president): An office such as this deserves the Great American Novel. I know there is much debate as to what that is. Some would say ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Fine books, for sure. But I think I’d have to go with ‘Moby-Dick.’ I believe that something allegorical would be most appropriate.”
I wrote a few weeks ago about books that people have been sworn in on — other than the Bible, the traditional choice. I asked for your suggestions, and I cannot tell you how delightful they have been, far superseding anything that anyone has ever actually done.
Carol Cochran of Minneapolis would choose several: “Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet,’ ‘The Prayer of St. Francis,’ Carl Rogers’ ‘On Becoming a Person,’ and topped with a tall stack of all the novels and stories by Kurt Vonnegut,” she wrote. “Let the protests begin. I may not be in office long.”
Milly Schiemo of Edina would be guided by love, her stomach and her Norwegian heritage, putting her hand on a book that her granddaughter wrote, “Lefse, a Labor of Love.”
Reader Doug Voerding took the question seriously. “Although I understand the importance of conducting one’s work guided by the Bible, I would swear on the collected works of Abraham Lincoln. He had a great understanding of the wisdom found in the Bible and a great understanding of the human condition and how all human life can be made better through caring for each other.”
Reader Anita Alexander had no idea that it wasn’t a requirement to use the Bible. That said, she “would still utilize my Bible. Easy, lightweight and purposeful.” (Several other readers also said they’d stick with the Bible.)
Patsy Ramberg chose the recent novel “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles. In the book, “In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol for writing a poem,” she writes. But he “turns his confinement into a celebration of freedom and the universe itself. A triumph of the human spirit.”
Deborah Polzin would also choose a novel. “I would use ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen because just about anything by Jane Austen is sublime,” she writes. “Others’ suggestion of using the Constitution for official swearing-in purposes is the absolute best answer. Not that I am anti-religion, but I do agree absolutely about separation of church and state.”
But perhaps my favorite answer came from David Balestri of Minneapolis. He chose “Franny and Zooey,” by J.D. Salinger. “Love. Family. Spirituality,” he wrote.
“But mostly love.”
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks