Former President George W. Bush has already written about 30,000 words of a memoir tentatively called “Decision Points” that will cover everything from how he found faith to how he quit drinking to how he chose Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for their jobs.
A contract with Crown, an imprint of Random House, is to be announced Thursday. The same publisher issued both of President Obama’s books.
The first chapter will be about the former president’s early life leading up to his decision to run for president, and the final chapter will be about the financial crisis.
Aides say Bush is taking a disciplined approach, working two to three hours each morning, writing 1,000 to 1,500 words a day. He has been typing on computers at his ranch in Crawford, his home in Dallas and his office in Dallas, and on a laptop he carries on planes and the ride between the ranch and the city. On a trip this week to Calgary, Canada, for his first public speech since leaving office, he edited printouts.
“He wanted to do something different — less conventional and chronological, not an exhaustive history,” an aide said. “He thinks it’ll be more interesting for people to read now, and a more important contribution to history, if he can focus on the big stuff. And he wants to write a book that people will read, not just buy.”
Robert Barnett, the Washington lawyer who negotiated the deal, said the president began writing two days after he left Washington, and spends two to three hours working on the book each morning on his computer at his Dallas office.
Barnett did not hold an auction but instead arranged a secret meeting between Bush and Crown editors and executives at a Dallas restaurant, the Park Cities Club, two weeks ago. The two sides made a deal after a single discussion.
Barnett arranged the deal for former President Bill Clinton’s autobiography the same way, with a single meeting with Knopf in Florida.
The book is due out in the fall of 2010, after Laura Bush has published her book earlier that year. The aide said it will be very different from Bush's first book, "A Charge to Keep," which came out during the presidential campaign.
"His goal in this book is not to position himself politically or settle scores," the aide said. "It is to explain the information he had, the principles he followed, and the decisions he made. He hopes that even those who disagreed with him will want to read – and can decide what they would have done in his shoes."
The chapters include: the terrorist attacks of 9/11; the decisions to send American troops to Afghanistan and Iraq; the response to Hurricane Katrina; his commitment to fight AIDS around the world; the formation of his stem cell research policy; and his relationships with his father, mother, siblings, and wife.
“My goal is to bring the reader inside the Oval Office for the most consequential moments of my personal and political life,” Bush said through his publisher. “I look forward to painting a vivid picture of the information I had, the principles I followed, and the decisions I made. I am spending time on the book every day, and I am thrilled to be working with the team at Crown.”
Chris Michel, Bush’s last director of speechwriting, is working with him on the book, as is a researcher who can access White House material at the Texas repository where it’s being stored until the presidential library is built.
Bush and Michel have been talking to friends and aides like Don Evans, his longtime friend and former secretary of Commerce, to refresh his memory.
The former president often e-mails and calls Michel and people from the White House, including Josh Bolten, his former chief of staff, and Steve Hadley, his former national security adviser.
“He’s having a lot of fun doing it,” the aide said. “He’s reliving some great moments, and thinking about how he can bring the reader into his shoes or put them in his seat for a fascinating period in history.”