When I become President, I’ll have to retire this blog. I’ve been following the commentary on President Obama’s vacation reading, and I’m not sure that my habits would measure up either.
First, I read a lot of fiction. Of course, everyone knows that serious people do not read fiction.
…five of the six are novels, and the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality.
Second, every year I make a reading resolution to read more books by women. I usually come up short and repeat the vow. This year is probably my best year yet, and my books still aren’t split 50/50. I’m probably also short on a representative number of books by minorities and/or works in translation. I try not to beat myself up about it and look for ways to improve instead. This approach doesn’t work when you’re President. Not reading more books by women is prejudice:
Now the fact that the president of the United States apparently doesn’t read women writers is not the greatest crisis facing the arts, much less the nation — but it’s upsetting nevertheless. As I suspect Obama would agree, matters of prejudice are never entirely minor, even when their manifestations may seem relatively benign.
OK. I’m now President and I’m going on vacation. None of that purchasing books at the local indie bookstore that appeal to me on the spot or I heard something good about on NPR or have pretty covers, like I do. I’d be best served to have an elite commission make sure that they are properly distributed among author sex, nationality, color, religion, and font selection. And go heavy on the lady writer non-fiction, please.
No. If I were President, I think that I would ultimately do what the guy before Mr. Obama did and lie my ass off. Apparently, people will believe you.
George W. Bush boasted an almost exclusive focus on works of history and biography, devoting the summer of 2006 (the White House announced) to reading life stories of Lincoln, Mao, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Tsar Alexander II of Russia, Babe Ruth, and Roberto Clemente—as well as heady accounts on the position of Muslim women and major diseases (polio and influenza) that exerted a profound impact on the United States. His only chosen work of fiction, the existentialist Camus classic The Stranger, might have been part of an effort to repair tattered relations with France, or to make up for assignments he blithely ignored during prep school at Andover.
Sure. Bush may have been wanting to patch up relations with France. Reading Camus would be a sound way to do that. Nice theory. Or you could just watch the tape on how the Camus came to pass:
I ranted about this reading competition a while back. My opinion on the matter stands.