What Obama Has Read, Should Read

There's been quite a bit of commentary recently over the outgoing chief executive's reading habits, with Karl Rove throwing his dubious credibility behind the notion that President Bush is a "book lover" who read nearly a hundred books last year. Perhaps Rove felt pressure to stick up for his guy, what with the President-elect actually reading books and all.

During the campaign, Senator Obama's literary choices were given great scrutiny, even becoming the subject of the daily pool report. Michiko Kakutani devoted a column this morning to the books in his life:

Much has been made of Mr. Obama's eloquence -- his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

Now as we find ourselves just hours away from the long-awaited inauguration of our next President, pundits of all stripes are offering a deluge of predictions and prescriptions for what lay ahead. The Washington Monthly decided to take a much more interesting approach, and asked for suggestions on what the new President should be reading. I particularly liked David Ignatius' contribution:

I recommend the new president read (or reread) The Quiet American, by Graham Greene. He should do so to remind himself, when the clever, idealistic briefer comes to tell him about the "third way" that will produce a breakthrough in America's tangled relations with the world, that we've been down this road again, and again, and again.

The whole thing is worth a look. Lots of history, political science, and philosophy; kudos to those who offered up fiction. (Via Steve Benen)