Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Importance of Reading...

I recently discovered a blog called Texas Liberal, which makes for interesting reading.

One of the posts was about the Houston Chronicle publishing the answer to a question Texas Liberal had sent in - what were the last three books the presidential hopefuls had read?

The answers were quite interesting.

"Republican Mike Huckabee didn’t respond when asked by a newspaper reader, Neil Aquino of Houston, to list the last three books he has read."

Quelle surprise... It's such a bad cliché that evangelicals don't read (or, if they do, they limit themselves to books related to scriptural topics.) But by furthering that stereotype, I think it's a pretty poor showing for Mike Huckabee. He couldn't think of a single book he'd read recently? Jeeze, the guy could have at least thrown The Bible in there!

"But Republican John McCain said he had recently reread A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and read, presumably for the first time, The Age of Turbulence by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Spirit of Churchill by Deborah Davis Brezina."

A Hemingway book? And a book about Winston Churchill? And then Greenspan's new book? If you ask me, these are clearly well rehearsed answers. Hemingway was the rough, tough, man's man. Churchill was the legendary warrior statesman. Greenspan is a legendary Republican policyman. If you were trying to reach out to a cynically targeted audience, I can think of no better answers than the ones John McCain gave!

But then again, McCain's only a little older than my father and he enjoys a good historical biography every now and then (I think he recently completed one about Horatio Nelson.)

"Clinton listed Ike: An American Hero by Michael Korda, The Bourne Betrayal by Robert Ludlum and The Appeal by John Grisham."

Even though Clinton comes across as a devious and cold political Machiavelli, I found her answer surprisingly earnest. Two of the three books she mentioned are populist and sniffed at by the literati, but would make very entertaining reading.

Even more so than John McCain, Hillary appears to actually be a reader and although snobs might disapprove of her choice of 'best selling schlock' it appeals to me because they're the kind of books I enjoy myself (nobody writes a courtroom drama like Grisham.)

"My 9-year-old, Malia, and I read all the Harry Potter books together,” Obama said.

Obama's answer was a bit too twee for me. Obama is a charming statesman, but even he can lay it on a bit thick. This seems like another answer specifically designed to appeal to his audience.

"Aww!" the potential voters gush. "He reads with his little girl! And he reads Harry Potter, just like me! Awww!"

And, besides, the billion-dollar bestsellers of JK Rowling hardly need a potential-presidential endorsement to sell more copies!

Reading Rocks

The importance of what presidents read can't be underestimated. Even back in the sixties, people were peering into the White House bookcases with surprising curiosity. The fact that John F. Kennedy listed From Russia With Love as one of his favourite paperbacks helped significantly boost author Ian Fleming's career - and made Kennedy seem that much cooler.

The books a president reads are important for various reasons.

Firstly, it's just important that a president does read. Somebody who enjoys reading will generally have a broader base of knowledge than somebody who doesn't. That's why Mike Huckabee ducking the question gave me another reason to distrust him.

Secondly, people express a lot of their own personality in the choice of books they enjoy. John F. Kennedy appealed to the original Playboy generation with his choice of a James Bond book. Clinton's choice of a Grisham novel suggests she enjoys taut pacing, a well detailed and beautifully researched 'real world' setting and difficult, thought provoking moral questions to ponder. McCain's choices indicate a man who's interested in history and economics and not too arrogant to pick up a book and learn more about them.

The Texas Liberal's question was brilliant because it stripped away a lot of the media hype and gave us a genuine peek into these politician's lives.

It also made me think about what the books I've been reading say about me.

Because Tina gets Advanced Reading Copies of upcoming books, I tend to read them as and when they arrive (making my choice of reading material rather random.)

The last three books I read were The Justice Riders by Chuck Norris (who endorsed Huckabee... The least Mike could have done in return was read Chuck's book.) Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger (the book that's simply too complex to describe in one sentence) and Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen.

They don't really say much about my personality (my preferred diet of adventure stories and thrillers probably does) but I certainly feel reading those three books broadened my horizons.

What were the last three books you read? ...and if you were standing for President, what do you think they'd say about you?


Kitty said...

I find it amazing that some of the questions the presidential hopefuls get asked are so ... non-political. Can you imagine anyone asking Gordon Brown and David Cameron about the last three books they read? Our politicians in the UK seem much less in touch.

Cool post. x

Reverse_Vampyr said...

I don't read nearly as often as I'd like. But I'm doing better in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 17 (when I was married).

My most recent 3 are:
* Gates of Fire:An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

* The Truth About Muhammad by Robert Spencer

* Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly

As to what these book choices say about me, I can only imagine the red meat it'd provide for the political left.

Texas Liberal said...

Thanks for the link. I've added your fine blog to my blogroll.