Summer is the season for exploration and discovery, and readers of all ages, interests, and tastes would love to visit the American Writers Museum—if only such a place existed. Although we have national museums celebrating the luminaries of baseball, rock and roll, the visual arts, various ethnic traditions, and science and technology, to categorize but a few of the 17,500 museums in the country, America does not have a national museum that recognizes writers and the essential role writers and readers have played in the nation’s founding, evolution, diversity, and vitality.
But that is set to change. The American Writers Museum Foundation, in consultation with many writers, librarians, educators, and other literary mavens, including yours truly, has been developing a plan for a museum, according to its mission statement, “dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives.” For much more on the American Writers Museum, and to experience an exciting literary website, visit: http://www.americanwritersmuseum.org/.
After establishing this inspiring website, the American Writers Museum decided there was no reason to wait for a brick-and-mortar building to launch its first exhibition. With an eye to a future location in Chicago, and high interest in the NATO summit, which is fast arriving in Booklist’s hometown, the foundation has launched its first online exhibit:
Succinctly, the online exhibit is a three-part inquiry. It explores the reading habits of world leaders—among them Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Dilma Rousseff, Yoshihiko Noda, and Wen Jiabao.
Power of the Word provides a forum for American writers to share their passion for reading and their memories of books that have nurtured their imaginations, and, more boldly, recommend books by American authors that they think will help world leaders gain a better understanding of American culture. The “Writers Gallery” includes T.C. Boyle, Rosellen Brown, Ana Castillo, Billy Collins, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Dagoberto Gilb, Nikki Giovanni, Pete Hamill, Oscar Hijuelos, Maxine Hong Kingston, Erica Jong, Alex Kotlowitz, Jonathan Lethem, Rick Moody, Nami Mun, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, Chuck Palahniuk, Sara Paretsky, Ann Patchett, Jodi Picoult, Steven Pinker, Robert Pinsky, Curtis Sittenfeld, Scott Turow, and Isabel Wilkerson.) And their suggested books cover a radiant spectrum of beloved classics and some provocative surprises.
Finally, Power of the Word provides an interactive gallery where the public can participate by recommending books they think world leaders should read, saying, “Leaders: Read this!”