Terry Teachout recently posted an article about Kalima, a translation project that is funding the translation, publication and distribution of high quality foreign writing into Arabic. The project has posted a list of the first 100 titles that are scheduled for translation, including 8 genres and many languages. American books on the list include Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom , Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Edward Said's The Word, the Text and the Critic, Isaac Bashevis Singer's Collected Stories, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. There are a lot of heavy tomes on the list.
Mr. Teachout has made up his own list of titles that he feels would inform a reader about what America and its people were like; his list includes The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.
This would make a good parlor game - what would you suggest translating into Arabic that would give non-Americans a true sense of our culture? Are there books in the law library? I might add our Constitution (annotated?), the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address; The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes... maybe Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons ...
Mr. Teachout ends his article by saying "In the long run, I doubt that we could do more to help shape Middle Eastern perceptions about America for the better than by translating these books into Arabic (his list), publishing them in pocket-size paperback editions, and distributing them throughout the Arab world by hook, crook, camel, backpack or parachute."