In my previous post, Empty Mansions: Can Those Who Succeed Us Take Care of Themselves?, I noted a few similarities between W.A. Clark, a Gilded Age copper magnate, and Donald J. Trump. Like Trump, Clark was a businessman-turned-politician who gave little to charity and destroyed the environment. Unlike Trump, as I noted in that post, W.A.’s wealth was self-made.*
Another difference is that W.A. Clark liked to read. As Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. write in their book on W.A. and his daughter Huguette, Empty Mansions:
W. A. chose three books for his journey west [in search of his fortune]: Parsons on Contracts, Hitchcock’s Elements of Geology, and Poems of Robert Burns… He went on to use all three, becoming in the West a sharp negotiator, a prescient judge of the mineral wealth underground, and a lover of the romantic arts.
He read books not only for enjoyment but also for personal improvement. Can you imagine what Donald Trump would be like if he weren’t averse to written words?
The passage on W.A.’s books made me think about what I’d take on my next adventure. With my e-reader, I am able to take a large number of books, but if I had to narrow it down to only three, what would I choose?
A book by Jane Austen is an obvious choice for me. Persuasion has been my favorite for a long time, but after re-reading Prejudice and Prejudice while writing A Case of First Impression, I’d say it’s now a tie. I can repeatedly re-read both of these books without ever getting bored.
I’d also bring The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s book I read for the first time only a few years ago. It contains life lessons that aren’t just for children.
Finally, I’d choose something related to what I might encounter in my adventure. I’m leaning toward a book on foraging for edible plants and mushrooms, but who knows how long these books will be accurate in our era of climate change (thanks to people like W.A. Clark and Donald J. Trump).
*However, as Dedman and Newell explain: “W.A. Clark could honestly say he rose from a log cabin to the most magnificent mansion on Fifth Avenue… Yet [his] beginnings were not so impoverished as he let on.” His family owned 172 acres of land in Pennsylvania, and W.A. received an education when he wasn’t working on his family’s farm. (Chapter Two).