Monday, December 29, 2008

What am I Reading, Presidential Edition

So much attention is being paid to Barack Obama, the reader. The media is reporting every book he likes and even his favorite bookstore has garnered press attention as per this article in the Chicago Tribune.

But The Wall Street Journal had a revelation last Saturday as well. Not only is George Bush a voracious reader, but he has a running bet with Karl Rove as to who can read more books in a calendar year. So notes Rove’s column , with Rove ahead 64 to 40.

I find this revelation to be quite confusing. Politics aside, imagine what a boon it would have been to bookstores (note: many of them small businesses, the backbone of the economy) if Bush’s reading taste had been more public, particularly when his approval rating was high. Was the information suppressed because book-reading is too intellectual for a politician playing populist? Was the revelation now a sort of literary “gotcha?”

I have no clue. But here is a partial reading list for the last three years.
Read by both Bush and Rove:
--Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
--a Mao biography, unnamed, probably Mao, by Jung Chang
--a book on reconstruction’s unhappy end, which I cannot come up with.

Bush 2006
biographies of:
--Abraham Lincoln, too many options here.
--Andrew Carnegie, likely Carnegie, by David Nasaw
--Mark Twain, perhaps Mark Twain, by Ron Powers
--Babe Ruth, which I’m thinking is The Big Bam, by Leigh Montville
--King Leopold, no doubt King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild
--William Jennings Bryan, maybe A Godly Hero, by Michael Kazin
--Huey Long, either Huey Long, by T. Harry Williams or Kingfish, by Richard D. White
--Lyndon Johnson, most likely the first volume of The Path to Power, by Robert Caro
--Genghis Khan, which I’ll guess is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford
--A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900, by Andrew Roberts
--Manhunt, by James L. Swanson
--Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick
--Eight Travis McGee novels, the first of which is The Deep Blue Good-By
--Next, by Michael Crichton
--Excecutive Power, by Vince Flynn
--Point of Impact, by Stephen Hunter (somebody’s watching Glenn Beck!)
--The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Bush 2007
--The Great Upheaval, by Jay Winik
--Khrushchev’s Cold War, by Aleksandr Fursenko
--bio of Dean Acheson, perhaps Dean Acheson, by Robert Beisner
--a bio of Andrew Mellon, likely Mellon, by David Cannadine
--Rogue Regime, by Jasper Backer
--The Shia Revival, by Vali Nasr
--Ana’s Story, by Jenna Bush, his daughter

Bush 2008
--The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam
--The Day of Battle, by Rick Atkinson
--The Spanish Civil War, by Hugh Thomas
--Gettysburg, by Stephen W. Sears
--Vienna 1814, by David King

By the way, I’m at 76 for the year, but I’m not running a country.
Oh, and a note from my coworker Rebecca. Before you make a final judgment on this piece, read Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife.

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