For some reason the President is obligated to choose books to read during his "summer vacation" and those choices are widely critiqued and pundits try to decipher any Dan Brown style clues the books may have about what the President is currently thinking. This year, Obama brought three books with him to Martha's Vineyard and then stopped by a local shop to pick up five more. So what's Obama reading?
He brought Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone and David Grossman's To the End of the Land - both novels and Isabel Wilkerson's nonfiction work The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. During a visit to Bunch of Grapes bookstore, he picked up Ward Just's Rodin's Debutante, Daniel Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy, Marianna Baer's Frost, Emma Donoghue's Room, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
The criticisms and tea leaf readings have already started:
Assuming that Brave New World and Frost are for his daughters, this leaves six books that are presumably for presidential consumption, and they may constitute the oddest assortment of presidential reading material ever disclosed, for a number of reasons. First, 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.
More after the break.
Real Presidents don't read novels? Seriously?
The author of the National Review whine goes on to complain that The Bayou Trilogy is a mystery series. How demeaning for a man in charge of America to read one of the best selling American genres, am I right?
But is that the best they've got this year? Castigating mystery novels as pulp trash? Oh, of course not. There's got to be a conspiracy theory in here somewhere...
Room is another well-received novel, but it is about a mother and child trapped in an 11-by-11-foot room. This claustrophobic adventure does not strike me as the right choice for someone trying to escape the perception that he is trapped in a White House bubble.
The Grossman novel, which is about an Israeli woman who hikes to avoid hearing bad news about her soldier son, could create complications for Obama on the Israel front. Grossman is a well-known critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, so reading this novel will likely not assuage those concerned about Obama's views on the Middle East.
God forbid that our President read fiction - especially any "claustrophobic adventures" or something that will cause war in the Middle East! The article goes on to condemn Obama for being "incurious" for not reading non-fiction and then says that the bookstore he visited is too liberal. No, seriously.
How does the author confirm his suspicions? Not by going to the store - he readily admits he's never stepped foot in the place - but by visiting their website. Apparently when he clicked over, none of the featured books were by Ann Coulter or Ayn Rand. All the books he searched for in their catalog were available to order online, but, dammit, there's got to be a conspiracy in here somewhere!
Everyone keep it quiet that George Bush's best known summer book was Albert Camus' novel The Stranger - a fictional story of an Algerian who kills an Arab man. The book is usually read in college literature classes.