Most of my book reading since I became a blogger back in 2004 has been of the non-fiction variety, not only because I love the subject, but it helps me with my work here on C&L. I think studying history is essential in politics and in researching my own book with David Neiwert, I discovered works that I would never probably have read like The Gang of Five, written by current Fox News contributor Nina Easton of all people. I bring this up because The LA Times has picked up on some Obama family book purchases while The Daily Beast posted the list of books our reader in chief has read since the last campaign. I love Pelecanos and have read Alter, Kearns, McCullough, Le Carre and Cannon on his list. As you might imagine, Obama's Book Club will lead to some over the top form of conservative outrage---kinda like this.
But speaking of Obama's reading habits, apparently some wingnuts are very, very unhappy because he's not seriously boning up on important issues while he's on vacation and reading all the wrong books. Alyssa Rosenberg writes:
Tevi Troy’s insistence that the president’s reading list “constitute the oddest assortment of presidential reading material ever disclosed” because “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,” merits singling out for how uniquely grasping and bizarre it is, and how simultaneously snobbish and anti-intellectual.
Aside from "sending the wrong message about reality" he's reading a novel that might give some people the wrong idea about his stance on Israel and one about claustrophobia that can only lead to the conclusion that he's "trapped in the White House." Seriously.
Rosenberg makes all the right points about this nonsense but I think her conclusion absolutely nails it:
Finally, it’s pretty depressing that Troy can look at a reading list that includes novels about the victims of horrible crimes, the parents of war victims, and people who give their lives to healing others, all experiences that the President hasn’t had directly but that have implications for his job, and see only Troy’s own paranoia about Obama’s mindset. People need to read fiction precisely as a tool to expand their moral imaginations, certainly a quality I think most of us would hope for in presidents, or columnists.
That's exactly right.
I find myself reading so much non-fiction these days that I forget sometimes that reading good fiction is the way I get out of my head and into the head of someone else (which, believe me, is a vacation in itself.) It's one of the ways we expand our empathy toward other people. I used to argue with a religious pal over the idea that the Bible should be taught in school. She felt it was the only way that children could get a moral education. My argument was that they could get the same moral education by reading great plays and novels. It's all there.
And anyway, who the hell are these people telling the President what he can and cannot read? Clearly the only thing they don't consider their business is how much money wealthy people are cheating from the government. Talk about busy bodies...
I just finished George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons and loved it. The Game of Thrones series has gotten me back into reading fiction again. I'm sure AM hate radio and Fox News will be all over Obama's book list so link up conservative criticism that you find in the comments along with some good books recommendations.