George W. Bush's Reading List

It seems fitting, with all this talk of Obama's favorite books, to mark the 2,922nd and final full day of the presidency of George W. Bush by listing his own recent reading. A few weeks ago, Karl Rove mounted a spirited defense from the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages of his former boss's reading habits, although it's pitched less as a story of intellectual curiosity and growth than a boys-will-be-boys competition, complete with an ironic "junior bowling finals" trophy for the winner. According to Rove, for the past three years, he and W. competed to see who could read the most books. Rove won each time, but some of the totals they put up (Rove won 110 to 95 in 2006), well: that's as many books as I could hope to read in a year, and that--in theory--is my job. (Though anyone who asks me, "So what do you do, read books all day?", has been sorely disabused of that idea...) It does make one wonder how he found the time, unless he was able somehow to read while mountain biking.

Rove listed many of the books on Bush's list for each year. For some of the biographies he just listed a subject, so I'm speculating--with a "(?)"--on which one he read:




Rove closes with some gripes at the "small-minded critics" who dismissed Bush as a man who'd never cracked a book, when of course he had graduated from Yale and Harvard, although it should be said that the whole construction of Bush as a brush-clearin' good ol' boy from Midland was an inside job. Perhaps it's only now, with his client no longer running for office, and reading made cool again, that W. can be revealed as that most suspect of political men: an intellectual. --Tom

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Comments (3)

"Revealed" by *whom*? Are the nation's journalists so simple-minded that they can't see past a folksy manner? More likely it's a consequence of their own intellectual laziness.

Posted by: clazy | Wednesday January 21, 2009 at 6:16 AM

A fast reader can quite easily read one hundred pages an hour (integral reading, more in selective reading) so provided you don't spend too much time in front of TV, surfing Internet or commuting (eg you live at the White House), doing menial tasks like putting the dishes on the table or cooking (eg you are the President and there people who do that for you) you can read a book everly four days and still have plenty of time for working.

Posted by: JFM | Friday January 23, 2009 at 3:14 AM

I agree with JFM. A typical President spends 80 hours a week at his job, which carries a lot of stress along with it. As many avid readers know, books can be quite relaxing and are excellent for those times when life just plain has you down - you can always read Transformation by Carol Berg and know that your life isn't quite as bad as it could be, or read a good biography like that of Louis Braille and be inspired, or read something completely random like Harry Potter or Keys to the Kingdom or Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small just to be taken to another world.

I'd be mildly surprised if President Obama doesn't start reading even more (compared to how many books he reads annually now) as the years go by, just because books are so good at reducing stress.

Posted by: Shepherd | Sunday January 25, 2009 at 12:18 PM

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