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Obama’s beach reading revealed!

August 25, 2009

obamareadingWe all know President Barack Obama’s a brainy guy, especially compared with his predecessor, who famously could not name a single book he’d read. Now comes word of the volumes the president is taking on vacation, an eclectic list that includes neither The Communist Manifesto nor The Koran.

As Obama left with his family for Martha’s Vineyard, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton–without being asked — volunteered the titles the president chose for beach reading, according to the Los Angeles Times. It’s an impressive and somewhat surprising list, but I wish Obama had thought to ask me for a few suggestions.

For fun, Obama will be reading The Way Home, by George Pelecanos, and Richard Price’s Lush Life. Pelecanos started out as a crime novelist, Price as crafter of literary fiction, but each ended up at very close points on the spectrum. These choices show the president to be a pleasure reader of taste. No James Patterson or Dan Brown for him.

The third novel on the list, Kent Harouf’s spare and delicate Plainsong, is a tale of a Colorado family in crisis. Nominated for the National Book Award, it may help the president understand all those angry people at town hall meetings.

Obama is also toting Hot, Flat and Crowded, by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and John Adams, by David MucCulough. Friedman isn’t my favorite MSM pundit, but maybe I just envy the way he travels all over the world on the Times‘ dime, poking around into whatever catches his eye. McCullough is one of the best popular historians of his generation, and a supremely graceful writer. He always delivers value.

Now my suggestions. Given the trouble his administration is having with its health care reform agenda, he might consider some good recent books on how Franklin Roosevelt pushed Social Security through Congress. Start with: The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience, by Kirstin Downey; and Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940, by William E. Leuchtenburg.

If the notoriously wonky president wants a homework assignment, he could read — or reread, as the case may be–John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Theory. Keynesianism was the dominant economic theory until the 1970s, after which an increasing trend toward deregulation took hold. If Obama chooses the edition prefaced by Paul Krugman, the most persistent liberal critic of administration policy, so much the better.

Finally, if Obama zips through Pelecanos and Price and finds himself at loose ends for something entertaining but substantial, he could do worse than the Baltimore-based crime novels of Laura Lippman.

Mr. President, enjoy your vacation.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rachel permalink
    August 25, 2009 12:39 pm

    It’s funny to imagine Obama being on vacation, in the same way it was impossible to imagine your teachers having real lives outside of school.

    I’m surprised and pleased to hear he’s reading Pelecanos. I like your suggestions and would like to give him some of my own, you think he’d take them?

    Funny about Plainsong helping him understand the angry people at town hall meetings. I’m amused.

  2. August 25, 2009 1:08 pm

    I hope he reads some Poe, Lovecraft and Poppy Bright, because health care negotiations with Congress will be a horror.

  3. anonymous permalink
    August 25, 2009 2:44 pm

    Yes, President Obama goes on vacation just like the rest of us, maybe even more so. I would love to know what reading material he brought with him on his most recent campout at the Bohemian Grove.

  4. August 27, 2009 2:06 pm

    what’s the definition of “wonky?”

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