January 19, 2009

"We're wrapping up a presidency led me a man his own team has described as 'not a big reader.'"

And we're reading a post by a blogger — Steve Benen — who is not a big proof-reader.

Let's put aside the issue of whether George Bush is a big reader or not. (Karl Rove says he is. Richard Clarke said he's not.) I'd like to talk about the front-page NYT article that Benen links to, about what a different kind of reader Barack Obama is. Michiko Kakutani writes:
Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry.

His predecessor, George W. Bush, in contrast, tended to race through books in competitions with Karl Rove.... or passionately embrace an author’s thesis as an idée fixe. Mr. Bush and many of his aides favored prescriptive books — Natan Sharansky’s “Case for Democracy,” which pressed the case for promoting democracy around the world, say, or Eliot A. Cohen’s “Supreme Command,” which argued that political strategy should drive military strategy. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has tended to look to non-ideological histories and philosophical works that address complex problems without any easy solutions, like Reinhold Niebuhr’s writings, which emphasize the ambivalent nature of human beings and the dangers of willful innocence and infallibility.

What’s more, Mr. Obama’s love of fiction and poetry — Shakespeare’s plays, Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” and Marilynne Robinson‘s “Gilead” are mentioned on his Facebook page, along with the Bible, Lincoln’s collected writings and Emerson’s “Self Reliance“ — has not only given him a heightened awareness of language. It has also imbued him with a tragic sense of history and a sense of the ambiguities of the human condition quite unlike the Manichean view of the world so often invoked by Mr. Bush.
Is reading to pick out the parts that fit your pre-existing vision more impressive than reading to grasp the author's vision? And, more importantly, since her writing oozes with preference for Barack Obama, why should we believe Kakutani's representation that Bush's books are ideological and Obama's are not?

Finally, there's this notion that fiction reading is what really develops your mind, which, I've long suspected is a pet belief of fiction readers. Immersed in their stories, they imagine — they're so imaginative — that they are better than people who read history and biography and so forth. In any case, Bush did read novels — notably "The Stranger."

But Bush just can't get credit for anything these days, can he?


AllenS said...

For some people, the next thing they want Bush to read, are the charges filed against him.

Anonymous said...

Is this all based on the info from a Facebook page? He could put anything down as his favorites, and there would be folks out there willing to lap it up.

J said...

"Mr. Obama’s love of fiction and poetry... has also imbued him with a tragic sense of history and a sense of the ambiguities of the human condition quite unlike the Manichean view of the world so often invoked by Mr. Bush"

Bush, on the other hand, actually has a degree in history from Yale.

Cedarford said...

I think the difference between the men is profound.

Bush did reading for instruction manual sake - his onerous but necessary pilots manuals, the biographies of Presidents in which he hoped to find a gimmick he could use, or his suddenly seeing a Right-Wing Zionist's vision (Sharansky) as a template of Noble Purple-Fingered Democracy that would supplant Islam with hero Freedom Lovers just like us and women would shed their burquas..When not reading to "get the answers he needed for the test", he had his odd "speed reading competition"...reminescent of his nice, but fairly incurious Dad and him with their odd approach to golf - no heed of score, attention to shot-making, enjoying reflection and conversation of friends on the links - but only concerned with how many holes they could finish in a certain amount of time as they ran about with few thoughts in their heads..
(My guess is that when Obama plays, and he does apparantly play golf now and then, he plays methodically and may savor a certain shot, a view, or a conversation he had over his final score...sorta like his bowling..)

Obama read not for "how to" guidance, but for insight. I read "Dreams of My Father" and I was very impressed with how good an observor Obama was, and how much thought he put into trying to make sense of what he observed then tie the insight to everyday situations he might encounter or to problem resolution of unrelated matters. He is also broadly read..

We know that Jefferson, Hamilton and Lincoln were highly intelligent & great lovers of literature and a broad number of topics. Cleveland & Taft were great readers. Nixon was voracious, brilliant, and driven like Lincoln was in his learning and again like Lincoln, sought to use his reading to prepare him to understand and lead on broader problems. Nixon read Camus...then invited him to dinner at the White House to discuss what he thought Nixon needed to know about Algeria, France..

I welcome Obama's approach to learning, his broad tastes, his intellectual curiosity. I think it will help him considerably.

TMink said...

Let me see if I can distill this down: Obama - good, Bush - bad.

What a novel premise!

Seriously, now the game is just to find some new aspect of humanity by which to show Obama's complete superiority over Bush in every way.

What moron wants to keep reading that?


TMink said...

News flash!

Obama is a folder. Ohhhhhh!

Bush is a crumpler. Ewwwwwww!


Michael Haz said...

Good grief, what next?

Obama prefers the unconstrained joy and free-thinking of slip-on shoes, while Bush inherited and struggled with his father's preference for the constraining and stifling lace-up shoes.

Anonymous said...

It has also imbued him with a tragic sense of history

"No, We Can't"?

and a sense of the ambiguities of the human condition

"Maybe We Can"?

traditionalguy said...

This is shallow BS. How does a President's own team know what he reads? You could Ask Monica what had most of Bill Clinton"s attention. But you must ask Laura Bush what was on W's mind after bedtime at the Bush Ranch, north.Reading must be done when the team of worker-bees has gone away for awhile. And who knows whether the I-Pod was playing music or Audio-books?

Bob said...

Bush and Rove's favorites included the Travis McGee novels of the late John D. MacDonald. Anyone who's a fan of McGee can't be all bad.

Jason said...

Now I think I understand why Hitler rounded up the intellectuals.

Rich B said...

I wonder how much longer BO will be able to read the NYT.

Unknown said...

Something tells me that if this blogger had been present at this event his head would have exploded.

Chip Ahoy said...

Hurry! Get in those pathetic last jabs before it's all outdated.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

"Shakespeare’s plays, Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” and Marilynne Robinson‘s “Gilead” are mentioned on his Facebook page"

Seriously? Where I come from, a Facebook page along those lines translates as "douchebag." (Not so much Gilead, but the other stuff.)

Obama's choice in literature also reminds me of why I think so many people responded so passionately to him. His books suggest a very spiritual/religious/theologocial background, and a lot of people who drank deepest of the Kool-Aid are people undergoing a spiritual crisis, godless overeducated yuppies desperate for something to believe in. Obama picked up the resonance from those theological works and provided them something to cling to, which is why we're seeing such bizarre responses to his election from many quarters.

This inauguration is not, for some, the transfer of power from one president to another. It's not even the transfer of power to our first black president, marking major progress toward a brighter future and away from America's tragic racist past. It's a religious event, a coronation of the One, the dawn of a new spiritual age where our man-god travels the world on a unicorn while ejaculating roses and making everything all right.

I am quite happy with most of Obama's transition thus far (apart from the constant Lincoln comparisons), but I do fear this breakdown of the separation of church and state. Obama's tried to play down the religious stuff some since it really started getting out of hand during the campaign, but he still feeds it more than he should (again, the constant Lincoln comparisons, and his whole Organizing for America deal). Some of the same people who bitch when a Christian president says "God bless you" after someone sneezes seem, at least subconsciously, raring to establish the Universal Church of Barack as the one true religion of the United States. That's just not healthy for a democracy.

TosaGuy said...

if Obama actually uses the blackberry he proposes to carry as president, he will not have time to read books.

If it's on Facebook, it HAS to be true!!

I'm Full of Soup said...

Does anyone actually know what the last six book read by Obama are?

Is there a chance we are going to learn Obama is not much of a reader?? The horror!

Host with the Most said...

Since I actually brought this article up in the comments 4 posts previous to this one, I'll restate what is most bothersome about it:

This is journalism?

This person is paid to write shit like this? At this level?

Oh, my country! When the "paper of record" hires idiots and incompetents like this - someone who would have been told as recently as the 90's in high school that "journalism is not your strong point sweety" - and then also PUBLISHES tripe written like this . . . Can you now believe that our nation's students are below average among nations in writing and math?


KCFleming said...

The press has been obsequious throughout the campaign, and is now nearing a state of ecstasy with the coronation tomorrow.

It ought to be embarrassing, like young girls reading Tiger Beat.

I hope Obama has the mettle to steer us through the next few years. I think Warren Buffet is trying to cover up what he knows, that the coming depression is going to be very mean and very hard.

It is the stuff of social upheaval and even war. What he has read is of marginal concern, and I have little or no confidence he is a man and not just a Clintonian politico.

Diamondhead said...

Obama reads the right books the right way, right?

Anonymous said...

'normblog' (Norman Geras) talks about this - that fiction and art lovers like to think the humanities, er, humanize people, but there is plenty of proof against that. Lots of baddies love art, too!

*I am a fiction lover, and gain a lot fron reading, but, someone else could say the same about playing tennis or something like that.

**As for the new president, I hope I'm wrong about him. I am grumpy about local chitown politics and I can't seem to separate my feelings about him from that essential grumpiness. He wasn't the corruption-dragon-slayer, locally, that I would have loved to support! We don't really have any of those, sadly....

Host with the Most said...

The talent-challenged twat-in-training who wrote this tripe for the NYT - a paper that has no end of defenders claiming it has no leftward bias - actually got her complete idea for this article from an NYT review of a book she did about Lincoln:

Although Fred Kaplan, the author of “Lincoln,” never mentions Mr. Obama by name, it’s hard to read this volume without thinking of the current president-elect — who turns out to share a startling array of philosophical and literary qualities with his predecessor, as well as an equanimity of demeanor — and this book’s focus on the role that language and writing played in one president’s life promises to shed light on the role they may play in another’s.

So - the Times pays people to pump up the Obama myth without question - for a living! And they don't have to actually do any real digging themselves!

This is your American journalism, folks! No need for paid government propaganda about our glorious leader (shades of the stuff written about Mao in the 60's) - the free-market press does it for free (well, for twat wages)!

Tibore said...

Anyone remember what Clinton read? And if anyone made a big deal about his book selection?

Tibore said...

One other observation, obvious as it may be: Is Bush going to go down as the Rorschach president? Because well over half the "observations" I read about him tell me more about the observer than they do about the observed.

Host with the Most said...


It gets better! The more one digs into the life of this pre-pubescent-writng-level author of this FRONT-PAGE New York Times article that Ann has quoted above, one finds:

She won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism! - in 1998!

Here's some interesting tidbits on her wiki:

Salman Rushdie has called her "a weird woman who seems to feel the need to alternately praise and spank." In a June 2005 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, author Norman Mailer criticized Kakutani as a "one-woman kamikaze" (Kakutani is of Japanese descent) who "disdains white male authors" and deliberately "bring(s) out your review two weeks in advance of publication. She trashes it just to hurt sales and embarrass the author." Mailer also said that New York Times editors were "terrified" of Kakutani, and "can't fire her" because she's "a token," "an Asiatic, a feminist." Moreover, in recent years, Kakutani's particularly harsh reviews of books by famous authors (e.g., Updike, The Widows of Eastwick) are followed by (usually milder or openly positive) reviews of the same titles by other NYT reviewers.

And also:

Her harsh critiques of some prominent authors have garnered both attention and, on occasion, criticism. She has been known to write reviews in the voice of movie or book characters, including Austin Powers, Holden Caulfield, Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, and Truman Capote's character Holly Golightly.

rcocean said...

There's a big correlation between "Big Reader" Presidents and Wars:

Nixon - Vietnam
Truman - Korea (HST loved History)
Lincoln - Civil War
Madison - War of 1812
Wilson - WWI
Polk - ?
Bush I - Iraq (per Karl Rove)

McKinley wasn't a "big reader" but was pushed into war by T.R. who WAS a very "big reader".

OTOH, Ike liked cowboy stories and Reagan preferred to ride horses. All the sex made it impossible for JFK & Clinton to be "Big Readers".

John Christopher said...

I read more fiction that anyone I know and I think it has mostly left me ill-equipped for normal day-to-day life.

It was only after I accepted fiction reading as nothing more than a hobby (akin to pinewood derby or birdfeeders) that I excelled in my career, got married, made a little money had a family, etc.

Unknown said...

Oh yes - If Karl Rove says that Bush reads books then it must be true.

Sorry Ann - but how gullible are you?

Bush shows zero intellectual curiosity. I would bet a lot of money that he hasn't read one book since he was President.

KCFleming said...

I would bet a lot of money that there are no conditions offered which DTL would accept as proof of the fact of a single book having been read.


Anonymous said...

Nothing says "intellectual curiosity" quite like reading an article that challenges your preconceptions and concluding that it must be a big lie.

PatCA said...

I'm not surprised Obama prefers fiction and poetry. I think it appeals to people who have fractured life histories like Obama's. His own fiction is "who am I" fiction. In a way, reading of fictional lives is a search for that "development of the mind" never completed in childhood. Whatever it's ultimate worth, Bush's growing up was solid, and imparted a (some might say) too solid sense of self.

Just my theory.

paul a'barge said...

Kakutani is a notorious liberal mutt.

Who cares what she thinks?

TMink said...

Pogo opined: "It ought to be embarrassing, like young girls reading Tiger Beat."

Exactly. I have heard the sound bite where Chris Matthews talks about listening to Obama and a thrill going up his leg. He presented that as an objective response to Obama!

It is not embarassing for pre-teen girls to like Tiger Beat, but Chris Matthews and other supposed grown up journalists should indeed feel embarassment at their lack of professionalism and actual objectivity.


KCFleming said...

The Onion already did a Tiger beat cover with Obama on it.

""Barack is sooooo hot!" said 12-year-old Tiger Beat subscriber Beth Majors upon reading the issue, which included a "supercute" poster of Obama leaning against the Lincoln Memorial and an interview in which he revealed that his most inspirational hero is "you." "He so totally has my support. Obama in '08!"

Obama is expected to remain a solid favorite with the giggling-and-talking-until-4 a.m. voting bloc, as hunky war hero John McCain, his closest contender, is widely considered by the slumber party demographic to be a gross dork."

Hey, they write just like Michiko Kakutani!!

KCFleming said...

Don't tell Chris Matthews, but that issue had a Giant Obama Poster Inside!

Ann Althouse said...

"Anyone remember what Clinton read?"

Vox. And The Leaves of Grass. Right?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Bush shows zero intellectual curiosity. I would bet a lot of money that he hasn't read one book since he was President.

Jesus, what a clown. Don't you ever give up? What a freaking one song band you are. Actually two songs. Waaaahhhhh I'm gay.....no one likes me and everyone is mean to the gays.. Waaaaahhh Bush is bad.

No wonder that no one takes you seriously. You are tedious and boring. If you are going to be a fanatic, try at least to be interesting

KCFleming said...

I recall that Clinton gave Monica a copy of "Leaves of Grass", presumably so she would Sing the Body Electric.

I don't think that meant he read it in office. Unless, unless.... he read it while.... ugh.

Jeff Gee said...

And Monica gave Bill a copy of "Vox." He told her he read the first chapter and liked it so far. But "Vox" isn't divided into chapters. For some reason I keep thinking of the Onion headline "Area Man Actually Reads Book He Gets As Gift."

Anonymous said...

Comparisons are usually somewhat stupid, though. It's kinda like being compared to other siblings and coming out the dumb one who doesn't have a job.

Anyway, who remembers the picture of Bush on the cover of a magazine somewhere showing him as a jogger. Then recall the Clinton running to the fast food place, was it? Now it was noted somewhere, too, Obama doing pullups the hard way.

When these men come out of office, look how their bodies age, not just their minds. It's interesting to note that a thinking man's job can be so ravaging on someone physicallly. Maybe somebody ought to apply this to the current health situation in this nation, too.

I wish for Bush some healthy relaxation and get back up to par with his jogging again. It will do him good. He was pretty much a picture of health eight years ago. (To me at least.)

Palladian said...

CNN is getting all damply Kakutani today:

"President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural address is one of the most anticipated speeches in decades, with many expecting his words to be chiseled into marble some day."


Jason said...

Why is it that folks writing about how well-read and intellectual and such Obama is always name drop Reinhold Niebuhr?

KCFleming said...

They're actually thinking of Judge Reinhold in Beverly Hills Cop III.

Trooper York said...

I would much rather have a President who liked to throw back a few Reingolds and read Travis Megee or Spencer novels. I bet that is what Obama really does too when he isn't trying to win over the elites with mindless pandering to their stupidity.

Ok he might read Walter Mosely but you get what I mean.

Ralph L said...

If Clinton and O are so bright and well-read, why can't they give a speech that isn't banal platitudes? Reagan liked to bore us with statistics, but at least he was coming from an angle no one else was.

blake said...

I'm disturbed by the pre-ordained nature of all things Obama.

I've seen some--lots, actually--dampening of expectations, but I have to wonder if it's enough.

He's just a man. And one with no clearly expressed philosophy that can actually help him in the coming months.

I always feel sorry for the President by the end of his term; I'm feeling sorry for BHO before he even starts.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I always feel sorry for the President by the end of his term; I'm feeling sorry for BHO before he even starts.

I'm not. Be careful of what you wish for; you might just get it.

traditionalguy said...

I want to know what Gov. Blago.. reads. And what does he watch on TV? The Sopranos? Antiques Roads Show? He sure knows alot about the value at auction of various collectable usufructs incident to the Running of an All-american political conspiracy. On the other hand Bush must watch Clint Eastwood re-runs for war strategy, CSI Washington for Former aides autopsies, and famous all time videos of rides by Rodeo Riders for his political popularity.

Christy said...

Arnold Bennett, a novelist of prodigious output whose Old Wives Tale may well last the ages, says in his advice to anyone intending to do serious reading, "...bad novels ought not to be read, and ... good novels never demand any appreciable mental application on the part of the reader.... A good novel rushes you forward like a skiff down a stream, and you arrive at the end, perhaps breathless, but unexhausted.

I predict that the widely read Obama will suffer from analysis paralysis. Was it John Foster or Allen Dulles who said that the more he learned about issues the less clear the answers were?

Richard Dolan said...

Reading this post reminded me of Ann's post a couple of years ago about Kakutani's review of Obama's second book. There, too, MK strived mightily to say something nice, even as the substance of her review suggested that the second book was a warmed over version of the first, with some outtakes from campaign speeches and the like thrown in for good measure.

In all events, Kakutani starts with a theme and uses only the evidence that fits with it. That's not history, even of the journalistic kind, but only propaganda. To take a small example, MK thinks that it is a good sign that Obama reads the Bible and Lincoln's collected writings. Bush reads the Bible in its entirety annually; among the books he read in '08 was McPherson's bio of Lincoln. The list of books he "race[d] through in competition with Karl Rove" was an eclectic mix, and for a man with other responsibilities (a point he made in response to Rove's self-congratulory puffing) very impressive. But it is the NYT and it is a Kakutani column, and so there was plainly no point in letting anything like evidence get in the way now.

After all, we are on the eve of the Great Investiture, when the oceans will begin to recede, the universe will again respect the US and all will be right with the world.

the triumphalism on display in Kakutani's review is likely to be self-defeating. Peter Beinert had a piece a few days ago urging Dems to admit (finally) that the Surge had been a success despite their constant nay-saying. His point was that, especially now, Dems (particularly the Dem-in-chief) need to be reminded of their own fallibility, lest they be tempted to confuse political domination as proof of infallibility and superior virtue. Beinert's piece had a lot of triumphalism in it, too, but at least he was able to see the danger. Evidently not so the NYT and Ms. Kakutani.

Joe said...

I've long been puzzled why reading books is perceived as such a great and noble thing.

A far more important issue is; what gaming platform does Obama use and what's his favorite game?

Chennaul said...


I hope Obama has the mettle to steer us through the next few years. I think Warren Buffet is trying to cover up what he knows, that the coming depression is going to be very mean and very hard.

Well the media has been describing the Bush Era as the worst of times-and they got America to believe it.

Truth is it could get a lot worse and the media would be out of words...well we're probably not that lucky. They'll be busy telling us it's all roses-somehow I think that might be a harder sell. Who knows though with everyone glued to the Stupid Box and voting that reality....

Ah...the Information Age-only they hold the keys to the kingdom-everything else fades away.

traditionalguy said...

Reading books allows our ancestors to pass along their thoughts for so long as a witten copy can be found. That also creates historical leverage for a culture.It has been said that Anglo-American culture up to 1930's was taken from the King James Bible and William Shakespere. We've come a long way baby. But those two writers[If I can call Tyndale the bible's writer]still stir the drink.

Elmer Stoup said...

Some things, such as really believing these reading lists are true, are so stupid that only a leftwing intellectual would believe them. [Apologies to Orwell]

Kirk Parker said...

"there's this notion that fiction reading is what really develops your mind, which, I've long suspected is a pet belief of fiction readers"

Wouldn't you suspect it even more of fiction writers? :-)

Zach said...

Obama's favorite books, as per facebook:

Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison)
Moby Dick
Shakespeare's Tragedies
Parting the Waters
Gilead (Robinson)
Self-Reliance (Emerson)
The Bible
Lincoln's Collected Writings

Ugh. This is a list compiled by a great reader? I submit that there is no person since the publication of the First Folio who has sincerely listed "Shakespeare's Tragedies" as a favorite book. Hamlet, Titus Andronicus -- who can choose between them? Better to just list the collected works.

The Bible is present (you knew it would be) but it's seventh place, one slot out of last. No Jesus freak he! Here my suspicion is that anybody who sincerely lists the Bible as a favorite book lists it in first place.

Finally, shouldn't any person who reads in any kind of volume have at least one idiosyncratic favorite? My own list, which is a couple of years out of date, reads

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Killer Angels
Pattern Recognition

They're all great books, and I recommend them to anybody, but they're also niche books to some extent. (I also tried to list contemporary books.) It's a list that some particular person could honestly enjoy. Obama's list just sounds like homework.

Zach said...

It's like reading a personals add that talks about an ideal first date as a candlelit dinner followed by a long walk on the beach. Is the correct response to say "Ooh, long walks on the beach! How romantic!" or to note that it's a cliche'ed and manipulative answer?

Patm said...

No, Bush is not permitted to have credit for anything. Not for doing more than anyone ever has for Africa, not for libertating 50 million people, including the women who (before Bush) we were so very concerned about but (during Bush) no one saw any reason to help out.

The more the Over-blown Obama Extravaganza goes on, and the more the press does this "Bush Bad/Obama Amazing" thing, the less enchanted I find myself with Obama, and the more I appreciate Bush.

I guess I'm just contrary like that.

Patm said...

Clinton loved poetry, too. Remember "Leaves of Grass?"

Not loving poetry does not make you a bad person.

And loving it doesn't make you a fucking genius.

Patm said...

""President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural address is one of the most anticipated speeches in decades, with many expecting his words to be chiseled into marble some day.""

Oh, Christ.

Most anticipated speech in decades was the brilliant, moving one Bush gave to the joint houses of congress after 9/11. It was a stunner of a speech, that no one wants to talk about. Remember there was a Philly game going on and they put the president on the jumbotron during halftime, then the crowd made them keep it on til the end of the speech.

Of course Bush had to be destroyed. He helped, of course, but there was no way the left adn the press was going to allow him to succeed if they could help it.

Zach said...

To be an equal opportunity critic, I thought the list of books that Bush read sounded like he had a librarian wife who picked them out for him. It sounded like a good list, an eclectic list, but not one that you would pick out for yourself. Not enough authors were repeated for one thing -- usually when you find an author you like you'll read a lot of other books by the same author. Similarly, there didn't seem to be much followup -- several books about different aspects of the Civil War, say.

Audrey said...

Obama's list just sounds like homework.

Bingo! Sounds like Moby Dick is the kind of torture he can really get behind.

Bush's southern accent forever bars him from being considered anything close to bright, no matter what he ever happens to read, because of the elites' snobby disdain for anything or anyone from the South. Bush will always be an ignorant Southern redneck to the preening, self important "thinkers" who are more impressed with the appearance of intellect from a silly book list on Facebook and the pretty sound of The One's voice than anything of substance.

reader_iam said...

Aargh. Insomnia already! Anyway ... here goes ... : )

I LOVE to read. I love to read. Love it! I was born to read. I taught myself to read at a ridiculously early age, I read greedily from the start, I read or at least at one time have read extensively in almost every genre both fiction and nonfiction, and I plan to die in the act of reading, if I have anything to do with it. (Pry my book from my cold, dead hands, please!)

That said, I have ever and always resisted making a formal list of favorite books, and in fact never, ever have (the one school assignment I ever refused to do throughout my entire schooling involved just that). Not even privately. In my original blogger profile, I put "There's a reason for my handle, you know" as the answer to that list request. (Occasionally I will say "this book would be on my top 10 list of ..." or some such, but that's purely a rhetorical device. I'd never make such a list to begin with.)

The most passionate, prolific readers I have ever met (granted--stricly anecdotal and, of necessity, a limited sample, so FWIW) share a similar, if not as extreme, aversion. Out of this admitted bias and personal aversion, I take ALL such lists with huge grains of salt.**** I figure they're either temporal, shallow, cynical (which contains multiple subcategories), manipulative, misleading or, at least, incomplete pictures, and in any case not very useful.

All that is to say I care not for and generally pay no mind to these sorts of lists, since I don't really believe in, much less believe, them. Who's to know how well people have really read--or, more important, what they got out it--anyway?

***Major exceptions are people who keep a running list of books they've read and/or have really liked, so it's an ongoing, organic growing thing one can track and draw some sort of conclusion from, if one is so inclined (generally speaking, I'm not).

A pox on one-off fave-book lists, I say!

OK, now I'm going to try to go back to the land of nod. Hmmm ... which book from the stack should I try and read myself to sleep by?

: )

Synova said...

OK, now I'm going to try to go back to the land of nod. Hmmm ... which book from the stack should I try and read myself to sleep by?

You tease!

Can you really do that? My version of "read myself to sleep" is generally... "Oh, crap, it's getting light out."

Rich Rostrom said...

downtownlad said...

I would bet a lot of money that he hasn't read one book since he was President.

You lose.

See this essay by John Lewis Gaddis, Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University.

"I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that [Bush] reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the 'first George W.' I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results."

Jim C. said...

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said Some of the same people who bitch when a Christian president says "God bless you" after someone sneezes seem, at least subconsciously, raring to establish the Universal Church of Barack as the one true religion of the United States.

"United States"? More like "People's Theocratic Republic of Our Blessed Obama".