Presidential Reading


I was reading the New York Times online the other day, and Maureen Dowd made a reference to the amount of reading that our president claims to have done so far this year in her column. I searched out the article that she referred to in the American Prospect to find out more. According to this article, the President claims to have read 60 books this year, some of them serious non-fiction books of over 800 pages.

Now, I am a book geek, so I keep track of the books that I read. Actually, I just started at the end of last year, but I have a cool spreadsheet that tells me that I have read 62 books so far this year. Some of them are long (there are seven books over 500 pages, the longest was 897). Some of them were difficult (Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and Ungrateful Daughters by Maureen Waller, for example). At least one was long and difficult (The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova at 642 pages). So I know that it is possible to read a lot of books in one year, even with some weighty books in there.

But I am not the President of the United States. And I don’t work out for two hours every day. And I wasn’t functionally illiterate just last year.

This is a man who talks about how he has his aides read his daily news summaries to him. Who believes he is suddenly a voracious reader? In order to read 62 books so far this year, I had to work at it. I had to ignore my messy house and make difficult decisions about whether I should go to bed or stay up and read just a bit more. I had to read at every possibly opportunity. This was not difficult for me, because I love to do it. But for someone who doesn’t really like to read, it just isn’t credible.

But my big question about this whole thing is, who is his intended audience with this stunt? He wasn’t pulling the “Aw shucks, I’m just a regular guy, not an elitist” routine for fun. He was clearly playing to a large section of voters. So it seems like suddenly claiming to read 60 book in a year might not go over well with them. And people who really do read a lot just don’t believe him. They know how much time reading takes, and how hard it is to fit in a busy life. I would hope that most people have less busy lives than the president of the United States, although with this president it is hard to tell.

What do you think–what is the point of this claim? Do you believe he has read 60 books so far this year?

2 responses »

  1. Yeah, but I just don’t see how this gains him anything. I think it is just another example of his phenomenal hubris–he really thinks he can say whatever he wants and it will just magically become true and people will believe him.

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