What is Stephen Harper Reading? — The BookCrossing Edition

On March 28, 2007, Yann Martel, the author of The Life of Pi was in Ottawa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council for the Arts. He and his fellow artists got short shrift from the Conservative government (and, in fact, from most of the MPs sent to that place to represent Canadians). At that time the parliamentary appropriation for the Canada Council for the Arts was $182 million, which worked out to $5.50 per Canadian per year. (This year it is a whopping $105.5 million, or about $3.10 per Canadian per year. This for a major element of a sector that accounts for $84.6 billion of Canada’s economy.)

Mr Martel decided that

“For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.”

Since then, Stephen Harper has received seventy-six books from Mr Martel (and one from fellow writer, Steve Galloway). He has not personally responded to any of the letters accompanying them (there have been a few responses from correspondents in the PMO and one from Tony Clement concerning the government’s decision to divert SSHRC (the body that provides research grants to academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities) money to students in business-related fields.

In the spirit of Yann Martel’s project, some BookCrossers have decided to get together and each send the Prime Minister a controlled release of a book, accompanied by a letter which expresses support of Mr Martel’s intention and the value of the arts, science, culture, the environment, or human rights in our society. You don’t have to be Canadian to participate. After all, the world is enriched when any part of it is enriched with these things.

These books will be sent so as to arrive the week before Parliament recesses for the summer on June 23rd (i.e. June 14th-18th). Come back here for updates in the event the calendar changes due to another prorogation or election.

We don’t want to send duplicates, so I’ll be keeping a list here.


  1. Sign up to participate on the Release Challenge Forum on BookCrossing.com.

  2. Choose a book.
    • It shouldn’t be too long, since the idea is that he might actually find the time to read it.
    • It shouldn’t be vulgar or obscene. We don’t want to give BookCrossing a bad name.
    • It should be thoughtful and civilised. Please don’t send something insulting or vitriolic.
    • If you’re in doubt whether your book meets these guidelines, feel free to ask me. If I’m not sure, I’ll ask for others’ opinions.
  3. Check the list to make sure it’s not a duplicate
  4. Send me the title of the book (and the BCID if it has one already) so I can add it to the list
  5. Register the book if it’s not already registered & send me the BCID if you haven’t already done so.
  6. Slap a special What is Stephen Harper Reading? label inside. (Either design your own or download one from here). You might also want to include a dedication:

    To Stephen Harper,
    Prime Minister of Canada,
    From [a Canadian citizen—or whatever is suitable in your case],
    With best wishes,
    [Your Name]

  7. Write your letter. If you’re looking for inspiration, Yann Martel’s might help you out.
  8. Make a journal entry with the text of your letter
  9. Send your book in the mail to:

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa ON K1A 0A2

  10. Let everyone know you’ve sent your book by posting on the Release Challenges Forum on BookCrossing.
  11. Note: Books sent for this release challenge will count towards your total in gypsysmom’s Canada Day Release Challenge.

List of Books Being Sent (or Already Sent) to Stephen Harper
(alphabetically by author)

If you design your own label it should include a reference to Yann Martel’s project and should give standard general info about BookCrossing (as you would in a wild release).

Label 1

Suggested text:

Inspired by novelist Yann Martel’s project of sending Prime Minister Stephen Harper a book every other week to remind him “of the life-shaping marvel contained within books,” some BookCrossers have decided to each send a book of their own to Mr. Harper to highlight the value of the arts, science, the environment, or human rights to our society.
If you have found this book, please go to bookcrossing.com where you can use the BookCrossing ID number below to share how it came into your hands and where it is going next.