From John Dickerson at Slate, way back in 2007:
What books did Romney claim as his favorites? The Bible is his favorite book. His favorite novel is Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer and Scientology founder. The first we would have expected, but the second is so wacky, it breathes new life into the tired old reporter's trope: There must be something we can learn about Romney by examining this answer.Considering that both Scientology and Mormonism are considered cults by some - and I'd bet that Scientology likely ranks far below Mormonism in terms of public acceptance as an actual "religion" - it's beyond bizarre that Mitt Romney would pick this book as his favorite novel, and worse, admit it.
For those of you who didn't study it in school, Battlefield Earth takes place in the year 3000, when the human race is nearly extinct and the planet stripped of its natural resources. Mankind has been enslaved by evil aliens with very bad breath that explodes when it comes into contact with radioactive material. A young slave wielding lasers and draped in a tennis cardigan leads a rebellion and retakes Earth, only to be attacked again by a series of foes including a race of interstellar bankers trying to collect on bad debts. (There may be kung-fu fights and a championship football game, too; I confess that I haven't read it all.)
Everything about the book is bad. Just a few sentences into the first page, you're confronted by this sentence: "Terl could not have produced a more profound effect had he thrown a meat-girl naked into the middle of the room." (A clothed meat-girl apparently gets a big yawn.) Hubbard's soundtrack for the book, when played, either attracts mice or repels dogs, or both. The movie, which starred John Travolta, is what therapists show to the producers of Ishtar and Glitter to help them feel good.
The whole tumbling horror of the Battlefield Earth experience is so profound it nearly comes out the other side and achieves a kind of perfection of awfulness. Is Romney being ironic, then, like those people who buy clown art? Unlikely. There's not a big irony bloc in the GOP and Battlefield Earth is a thousand-page book. No one can sustain irony for that long. (At 13,000 words per dollar it is a great value, though, which might appeal to notoriously frugal New Hampshire voters.) Romney was quick to point out that he disagreed with Scientology, so he wasn't going for that vote, or the smaller, untapped, creepy-Hubbard- ascot- fetish vote. Is Romney trying to act like he's a regular guy? Only 8 percent of the words in the book are considered "complex," so he can't be labeled an elitist, but no one trying to look like a common Joe would pick this book. You simply need a deep level of weird to like Battlefield Earth. The speed with which some of his aides tried to distance the governor from his remarks suggests they think he now looks a little too weird.
Does Romney have Scientology sympathies?