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Jared Lee Loughner: seeking insight from his reading list

Jared Lee Loughner's favorite books include many with anti-government themes.

By Husna Haq / January 10, 2011

A man believed to be shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner is pictured in this undated photograph obtained from Loughner's MySpace page.

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Do the books that Jared Lee Loughner was reading tell us anything useful about his state of mind?

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“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,” the great French lawyer and gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said.

In other words, you are what you eat, Brillat-Savarin posited. Are we also what we read? Can an individual’s bookshelf offer a glimpse into his mind? Are we a reflection of what we read – or vice versa?

Investigators, legal aid workers, counselors, and the media are considering these questions as they pore over a revealing piece of evidence in Saturday's grisly Arizona shooting spree: suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s reading list.

Loughner’s YouTube profile page includes a long list of his favorite books. On the list are “Animal Farm,” “Brave New World,” “The Wizard Of Oz,” “Aesop Fables,” “The Odyssey,” “Alice Adventures Into Wonderland,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Peter Pan,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “We The Living,” “Phantom Toll Booth,” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,” “Pulp,” “Through The Looking Glass,” “The Communist Manifesto,” “Siddhartha,” “The Old Man And The Sea,” “Gulliver's Travels,” “Mein Kampf,” “The Republic,” and “Meno.”

Since its discovery, observers have scrutinized the list, straining to find clues about the mysterious 22-year-old suspect. They have attempted to draw correlations between his bookshelf and the impetus that drove him to release an explosion of bullets into Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, ultimately leaving six people dead and 13 wounded or in critical condition, including Rep. Giffords.

What insight does Loughner’s reading list offer?

Anti-government propaganda, for starters. “In examining Loughner’s list of favorite books, which includes Orwell and 'Mein Kampf,' the Southern Poverty Law Center’s [Mark] Potok notes that an anti-government thread runs through all those works," reports Newsweek. In the current climate of political vitriol and venom, particularly regarding health care and immigration, the impassioned political rhetoric may have inspired violence in the mentally-troubled 22-year-old Loughner.

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