Reading Liberally Page Turner: What Book To Give Your Conservative Uncle This Holiday Season

reading.jpg

Well, O'Reilly is getting even more ballistic than usual, so y'know what that means - the holiday season is upon us. With the first night of Hanukkah this evening, with Christmas and Kwanzaa only a few weeks away, some of our minds turn to gift-giving. Namely, what to give to that conservative uncle/aunt/friend who constantly e-mails you conservative spam and  turns every family get-together into a political referendum. Figuring that knowledge is power, we asked some of our favorite activists what book to give our favorite conservative this winter. Happy Holidays!

David Dayen, The Right's Field and Calitics: My conservative uncle would get one book for the holidays - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. After all, if they want to live in a country with an ascendant conservative movement they're going to have to find another planet...

Steve Perez, United Federation of Teachers:  I'll recommend Singularity Sky by Charles Stross. Three reasons: first, it's fiction, and I prefer that to a polemic. Second, it's a good book, funny and smart. Third, there's a lot of progressive science fiction being written, and IMO it doesn't get the attention it deserves.

Elana Levin, Drum Major Institute: That Howard Zinn history book could be a good one to convert him. For your apolitical teenage cousin, though, they should get Jessica Valenti's book, Full Frontal Feminism.

James Adomian, Resident Open Left Bush impersonator and comic: What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank. Judging by its cover, it looks like it could very well be a volume dedicated to gloating over the triumphs of Nixon and Reagan - one of those hateful books advertised in the back of National Review. But start reading it, and you see what a dupe you've been for voting on the culture war all these years, when all along it was the sons-of-bitches in the big corporations and the big banks whom you've been boosting at the expense of your own economic welfare! Throw that yule log on the fire, Uncle Wingnut!

Josh Bolotsky, Living Liberally: If your conservative relative is anything like mine, they're not getting their politics from the books they read - it's from the talk-radio they listen to. So the solution is not to get them a physical book. The solution is an audiobook, to first do triage on the problem and stop them from listening to the thing influencing them in the first place. My suggestion? The most recent Stories From Lake Wobegon collection by Garrison Keillor, Never Better. Filled with midwestern values and tales of small-town life that any social conservative would embrace, and punctuated every so often with gentle paeans to progressive politics (a shout-out to Title IX here, an ode to gay rights there). Showing the relative that being a solid traditional American citizen and holding progressive politics aren't in conflict is the first step.



Jay Hazen, Reading Liberally: Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops, by Ilona Meagher. Often the human costs of war are obscured at the time of conflict and well beyond, and it is happening again. My conservative uncle is a big fan of chain emails with pictures of flashy billion-dollar fighter jets twisting into formation for a tight little bomb pattern. This book is a reminder that for all the rhetoric of movement conservatism, responsible government makes more of a difference than an extra three F-22 Raptors in the lives of our military families.

Lee Camp, Laughing Liberally comic: Give them a fairy tale because they're already cut off from reality. It will make them feel at home.