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Saturday, August 20, 2016

American Presidents (and Presidential Candidates) and Reading

Yesterday, I posted about books that might help people understand what is going on in the United States presidential election.  Today I thought I’d mention what those who actually won such an election read. 

Recently, President Barack Obama released his summer reading list.  There are five books on that list, totally over 2,000 pages:  http://time.com/4450367/president-obama-summer-reading-list-2016/.

The Guardian recently had a short article on the reading habits of previous presidents  (https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/aug/19/all-the-presidents-reading-lists?CMP=twt_gu).  For example, JFK enjoyed Bond, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush were Tolstoy fans, Ronald Reagan favoured westerns, and Bill Clinton loved mysteries.   I was surprised to learn that George W. Bush averaged two books per week.

As for the current candidates, Hillary Clinton, a couple of years ago, was interviewed about her reading habits.  She mentioned a number of favourite authors:  “I will read anything by Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carr√©, John Grisham, Hilary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen and Alice Walker. And I love series that follow particular characters over time and through their experiences, so I automatically read the latest installments from Alex Berenson, Linda Fairstein, Sue Grafton, Donna Leon, Katherine Hall Page, Louise Penny, Daniel Silva, Alexander McCall Smith, Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/books/review/hillary-rodham-clinton-by-the-book.html?_r=0).

Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t read, claiming he has no time.  “Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/donald-trump-doesnt-read-much-being-president-probably-wouldnt-change-that/2016/07/17/d2ddf2bc-4932-11e6-90a8-fb84201e0645_story.html).  The Washington Post article goes on:  “Trump said he has mastered the world of books; working with co-writers, he has published more than a dozen, most of them autobiographical or in the business-advice genre.”  And not reading doesn’t keep him from having strong opinions:  “Trump has no shortage of strong opinions even about books he has not read. He told The Washington Post that he has not read four biographies written about him, yet he called three of the authors of those books ‘lowlifes,’ and he sued one of them for libel.”

To the problem of being too busy, Trump might be interested in the response of Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi:  “We’re all busy.  Meditating monks in their cells are busy.  That’s adult life, filled to the ceiling with things that need doing.  (It seems only children and the elderly aren’t plagued by lack of time—and notice how they enjoy their books, how their lives fill their eyes.)  But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table.  In that space, at night, a book can glow.  And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep.”

A President that doesn't read worries me; I believe in what Dr. Seuss said: "The more that you read, the more things you will know."