Obama's Summer Reading: The Literary President

Obama's vacation reading list suggests a troubling fanciful streak

By Sara K. Smith
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 4:44 AM EDT
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Obama Family Vacations in Photos: Martha's Vineyard

AP

President Obama plans to read some very un-presidential books while on vacation.

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Most intelligent men, as they approach middle age, begin to consider more their place in the world and cease to trouble themselves with the sorts of frivolity found in fiction writing. They get serious.

They decide that reading, even leisure reading, must have a purpose. They want to learn. They want to learn about real things, things that actually happened, people who actually lived, events that are transpiring right now in the real world.

You will not find your average 48-year-old male reader thumbing through a Jane Austen novel or one of those newfangled vampire books. You just won't.

And while it's true that Ronald Reagan read Louis L'Amour, that just goes to show you what a very exceptional man he was in every way.

All of which is to say that when a president goes on vacation and tells people what he'll be reading, you expect that he'll include a well-regarded Founding Fathers biography/door-stopper and whatever collection of flatulent brain-emissions the New York Times' resident globalist pundit has recently bundled into a book.

You do not expect that he might consider a couple of crime thrillers or a piece of bona fide literary fiction. And yet, President Obama has flatly stated (via a spokesperson, Bill Burton) that he intends to read books by two crime novelists who also wrote for the TV show The Wire, as well as a "A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver."

Here's the list:

The Way Home by George Pelecanos
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
Lush Life by Richard Price
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
John Adams by David McCullough

So we must ask ourselves a very important question: what exactly is wrong with President Obama, that he would read trashy genre fiction and "heartstrong" stories instead of something instructive, such as the congressional health care bill? Is this guy some sort of drippy dreamer? Because we already had one of those in the White House, and it didn't work out so well.

Hopefully Obama will just concentrate on the John Adams book, which -- at 752 pages in paperback -- may be all he has time for anyway.

The literary critic Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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