The NYT Sunday Book Review published a great essay by Jon Meacham this weekend called “How to Read Like a President.” Meacham argues that you can tell a lot about a person based on the books they read, and that presidential candidates are no exception.
So what do the two candidates like to read? John McCain enjoys the character Robert Jordan from For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. He also loves The Great Gatsby, The Last of the Mohicans and other James Feminore Cooper stories, and William Faulkner in small doses. Via an e-mail interview, Barack Obama told Meacham he enjoys books like The Federalist, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Baldwin.
My favorite line from Meacham’s essay was this one:
McCain and Obama are so different in so many ways, but they do share one thing: a kind of tragic sensibility. Judging from the books they cite as most important, they embrace hope but recognize the reality that life is unlikely to conform to our wishes.
I love thinking about the books that have most influenced us, and the idea that a good idea can be timeless. If I could make the next president read any book, I think I’d have him read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, if only for this quote by Dumbledore about power:
It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.
If you could make the next president read any book before he takes office, what would it be?