What makes the Founder's reading list so curious, is not so much the inclusion of books Rand liked, but the inclusion of books Rand didn't like. Hence, we find Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which Rand regarded as the most evil novel ever written; and we also find the inclusion of Theodore Dreiser, an author whose writing Rand regarded as no more competent than that of a typical high school student. Why the inclusion of books Rand didn't like? Some might think it's an attempt to give the devil his due; or maybe merely a way of trying to prove that Founder's is not a slavishly Randian institution after all. However, there is a much easier explanation. The reading list includes books Rand didn't like because these are books that Rand mentioned, and the individual who is most likely responsible for that list, Gary Hull, is a notorious intellectual light-weight who probably has never read at least half the books on his list. After all, it was Hull who, at a party some twenty years ago, expressed credulity at the size of von Mises' books, saying, in effect: "How can anyone read books that are so long!" Hull choose books mentioned by Rand because he had no other way of figuring out which books are important and which aren't, since his reading is so limited.
The trouble is, of course, that some of the books Rand mentioned but disliked are not terribly important. Sinclair Lewis is a fine writer, but he's not a major figure worthy of study in a college literature course. Thomas Wolfe was an immensely talented writer, but his work is excessively narcissistic and, if the truth be told, a disaster for American letters. John O'Hara is a minor figure almost entirely forgotten today. As an additional problem, there are all those books that Rand never mentioned yet which certainly are important—or at least more important than the works mentioned above. Rand seems to have confined reading to classics that she like (or happened to read while attending school in Russia) or early 20th century books. She seems to have known very little (or at least she never mentioned) the lion's share of eighteenth and nineteenth century English and American literature. She never mentioned in print Fielding, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thackery, Trollope, Dickens, Melville, James, Crane, Eliot, Meredith, Hardy. Major Twentieth century figures she wrote nothing about include Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, Waugh, Faulkner, and Bellow. She also some gaping holes in French literature: Stendhal, Maupassant, Proust, Gide, Giono, etc. etc.
The real issue we have people who are not well-read trying to set up a Great Books curriculum, and that just doesn't, nor can it ever, work. Worse, such a curriculum is, in a deeper sense, at odds with Objectivism itself, because any student who read and absorbed and understood the best that has been thought and said during the course of Western Civilization could not possibly remain an Objectivist. What makes great books great is their ability to describe and illuminate the great insights into human nature and the human condition. Yet it is precisely these great insights that Objectivism tries so very hard to ignore or deny!