Posted by: Ken Brown | December 29, 2008

And you say you don’t have time to read…

If Karl Rove is to be believed (eh hem), the popular caricature of President Bush as a near-illiterate rube is actually the opposite of the truth. Supposedly, the two have been competing against each other to see who could read the most books. Rove has won each year, but not for lack of effort on the President’s part: In 2006, Bush finished 95 books, in 2007, he finished 51, and in 2008 he finished 40 books, mostly history, biography and current events (from the Wall Street Journal, HT Between Two Worlds):

His reading this year included a heavy dose of history — including David Halberstam’s “The Coldest Winter,” Rick Atkinson’s “Day of Battle,” Hugh Thomas’s “Spanish Civil War,” Stephen W. Sears’s “Gettysburg” and David King’s “Vienna 1814.” There’s also plenty of biography — including U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs”; Jon Meacham’s “American Lion”; James M. McPherson’s “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” and Jacobo Timerman’s “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.”

Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.

The reading competition reveals Mr. Bush’s focus on goals. It’s not about winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy. He reads instead of watching TV. He reads on Air Force One and to relax and because he’s curious. He reads about the tasks at hand, often picking volumes because of the relevance to his challenges. And he’s right: I’ve won because he has a real job with enormous responsibilities.

Well, there goes my last excuse not to read more! Then again, I’m sure my job as manager of a self-storage facility is much more time consuming than being President of the United States…


  1. heh. um, i feel really pathetic now, ack.

  2. The same was true of Reagan. He was called a dunce, but he was well-read. In his interview with Reason magazine, he was pretty familiar with libertarian economists.

  3. Really, that anyone could believe you could become president without being a quick study is beyond me, but political differences do seem to blind people…

    In any case, I’m certainly motivated to read more!

  4. I read 68 books in 2008 and thought I was “all that.” But if the President can read that many books…I am such a loser.

  5. 68 is pretty impressive, regardless.

    I’m honestly not sure how many books I read each year. I tend to do it in bits and pieces, and am often in the middle of several books at once. Thus, one week I might finish 5 or 6 books, and then I might go a whole month without finishing anything.

    Of course, if I can count all the kids’ books I read out loud, I’m sure I’d blow those numbers out of the water! 😉

  6. Really, that anyone could believe you could become president without being a quick study is beyond me, but political differences do seem to blind people…

    If only he bothered to focus his studied eye on an August 2001 intelligence document.

    I sincerely hope that you have an eventful and inspired 2009, Ken.

  7. A bit more economics might not have hurt either, eh? 😉

    I too hope you have a excellent 2009!

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