Slate.com has an article by John Dickerson on the president’s summer reading list. It includes a great trip back through time, reminding us that John Kennedy liked Ian Fleming, (here’s a witty line from the article. President Obama is unlikely to choose Fleming, because “in the heat of this year’s health care debate, the president doesn’t dare read anything by anyone who once wrote a book called Dr. No.”), President George W. Bush read The Stranger by Camus, and President Bill Clinton read everything! (On one visit to a Martha’s Vineyard book store, President Clinton “walked the aisles pointing to books, saying, “Read that, read that, read that,” according to Susan Mercier, the manager”).
Here’s the reading list for President Obama (from the article):
• The Way Home by George Pelecanos, a crime thriller based in Washington, D.C.;
• Lush Life by Richard Price, a story of race and class set in New York’s Lower East Side;
• Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, on the benefits to America of an environmental revolution;
• John Adams by David McCullough;
• Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a drama about the life of eight different characters living in a Colorado prairie community.
Notice that the list includes Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, though, Dickerson writes, “I bet Obama doesn’t finish the Friedman. There’s no book on his list more like his evening briefing books.”
This is the second book that I have presented at the First Friday book Synopsis that has been on a reading list of Mr. Obama. Last summer, in the midst of the campaign, he was reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World. (Here’s a photo of then candidate Obama with a copy The Post-American World).
Both books are worth reading. Here’s a key quote from each:
From Hot, Flat, and Crowded:
Green is the new red, white, and blue because it is a strategy that can help to ease global warming, biodiversity loss, energy poverty, petrodictatorship, and energy supply shortages – and make America stronger at the same time. We solve our own problems by helping the world solve its problems. We help the world solve its problems by solving our own problems.
If climate change is a hoax, it is the most wonderful hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America. Because transforming our economy to clean power and energy efficiency to mitigate global warming and the other challenges of the Energy-Climate Era is the equivalent of training for the Olympic triathlon: If you make it to the Olympics, you have a better chance of winning because you’ve developed every muscle. If you don’t make it to the Olympics, you’re still healthier, stronger, fitter, and more likely to live longer and win every other race in life. And as with the triathlon, you don’t just improve one muscle or skill, but many, which become mutually reinforcing and improve the health of your whole system. (p. 173).
From The Post-American World:
This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else. It is about the great transformation taking place around the world, a transformation that, although often discussed, remains poorly understood… Though we talk about a new era, the world seems to be one with which we are familiar. But in fact, it is very different. (p. 1).
Look around. The tallest building in the world in now in Taipei, and it will soon be overtaken by one being built in Dubai. The world’s richest man is Mexican, and its largest publicly traded corporation is Chinese. The world’s biggest plane is built in Russia and Ukraine, its leading refinery is under construction in India, and its largest factories are all in China. London is becoming the leading financial center, and the United Arab Emirates is home to the most richly endowed investment fund. Once quintessentially American icons have been appropriated by foreigners. The world’s largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. Its number one casino is not in Las Vegas but in Macao, which has also overtaken Vegas in annual gambling revenues. The biggest movie industry, in terms of both movies made and tickets sold, is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Even shopping, America’s greatest sporting activity, has gone global. Of the top ten malls in the world, only one is in the United States: the world’s biggest is in Beijing. Such lists are arbitrary, but it is striking that only ten years ago, American was at the top in many, if not most, of these categories. (pp. 2-3).
What’s on your reading list?