What the President Should Read (Pundits Pronounce Edition)

So we all clapped over George W. Bush's vacation reading list when it was revealed a while back. The books included a history of Salt (as a solo act, sans -n-Pepa), something about The Great Influenza (we all cried when he fell off the high wire) and a hardcover sleep aid dubbed The Last Great Tsar (funny, we can't recall the first great czar--Bill Bennett?).

As if those tomes--which clock in at over 1,500 pages--aren't enough to keep Dubya's lips moving until his third inaugural, the Washington Examiner has helped various DC-based pundits to suggest other titles the prez should peruse. Some suggestions:

"The Killer Inside Me," by Jim Thompson. It's the story of a homily-spouting small-town Texas sheriff who practices a kind of water-torture-by-cliche, driving citizens mad with his aggravatingly bland blather....Also, he kills people." - Ana Marie Cox, aka "Wonkette," www.wonkette.com....

"'Five Little Peppers and How They Grew' by Margaret Sidney (Bush may think it's the follow-up to his book on salt)." - Christy Harvey, Center for American Progress; co-host of the "Bill Press" radio show

"I'm a fan of George W. Bush, but while he's impressively sticking to his guns on the war on terror, he has largely abandoned principles of small government. Here are a few books worth reading to remind him what the conservatism in compassionate conservatism means:

" 'The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945,' by George H. Nash. Still the definitive intellectual history of the most succesful intellectual movement of the last half century, at least.

" 'The Fatal Conceit' by Friedrich Hayek. Everyone likes to recommend Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," but that's not nearly as useful as this short explanation of why social engineering is a fool's errand.

" 'Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary,' by Robert Nisbet. The best Cliffs Notes on history, science and ideology ever published from a conservative perspective. Perfect reading for the thinking man on the go...." - Jonah Goldberg, Examiner columnist and editor at large at the National Review Online...

" 'The Berenstain Bears And The Bully,' by Stan and Jan Berenstain. It seems to me that the unilateralist policy adopted by President Bush is basically the global equivalent of schoolyard bullying. As a child I loved the 'Berenstain Bears' books and their practical life lessons. I'm pretty sure Mama Bear wouldn't authorize an attack on a foreign country until she was sure her intelligence was correct, but I'd ask the president to take a look at this book and make up his own mind." - Rob Goodspeed, editor, DCist.com...

" 'The River War,' by Winston Churchill. It's Churchill's first literary effort and it's about the attempt to reconquer the Sudan by the British. As an account of the clash between Western arms and Arab culture, it's a pretty good primer for the morass the president finds himself in today. And it's a great read." - Andrew Sullivan, AndrewSullivan.com; senior editor, The New Republic; columnist, Time magazine

And then there's this godawful pick:

"Bush might take a pass at Nathaniel Hawthorne's great but generally underappreciated 1852 masterpiece, 'The Blithedale Romance,' which is set at a utopian community where everything goes awry. Each of the main characters has a very specific, monomaniacal way of viewing the world and, as the story's disastrous events unfold in death and destruction, each realizes that the world is a much more complex place than they ever allowed. It's a dark allegory about American exuberance and optimism that, when you think about it, should be required reading for not just the president but elected officials everywhere." - Nick Gillespie, editor, Reason magazine

Whole list, including a pick by Reason Online regular Jonathan Rauch, here.

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  • gaius marius||

    could i suggest for him dostoevsky's "the devils" -- seeing as his speechwriters have him all but quoting from it, maybe we could enlighten him on what exactly it is that he's advocating.

  • ||

    I might have to check out that Beerstein Bears book. Thanks!

  • ||

    I would recommend The Revenge of My Pet Goat.

  • ||

    I just finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He might like it. It's kind of funny.

  • ||

    "Recommended Reading Lists" as a form of debate are just about as lame as "open letters". We're all impressed with how witty you are; I don't want to read what you think I should read, I want to read whatever gave y'all such a wonderful sense of self-satisfaction.

  • ||

    I just finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

    Oh man, I started that book like last summer. I have an awful habit of starting books and not finishing them. That is on my lengthy list of books whose beginnings I have read but have not plowed through.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I want to read whatever gave y'all such a wonderful sense of self-satisfaction.

    I can't speak for Nick, but personally I picked it up posting comments to blogs.

  • ||

    Dynamist-

    I wasn't trying to score any points. I just think Fear and Loathing is a cool book and he should read it. I'd recommend it to you as well.

    Other things the President (or you) might like: The Barmaid's Brain is a collection of snippets from different areas of science. The title chapter is about the way that waitresses in bars can train their brains to perform feats of memory that mere mortals might deem impossible, and the efforts of neuroscientists trying to understand this. Lots of cool stuff in there. My wife got it for me as a graduation gift.

  • ||

    Dynamist,

    You are absolutely right. The worst one on the list is the Berenstein Bears book reccomended by Rob Goodspeed. The "its all just bullying" is lamer than no war for oil. What an idiot.

  • ||

    We're all impressed with how witty you are

    Not half as impressed as I am by the man with such sublime self-confidence that he has no problem with posting on a blog for the sole purpose of pointing out how stupid it is to post on a blog.

  • ||

    How is it that no Curious George books made the list?

    (and this is just for you John) President Chimpy McChimperson could learn a lot from "Curious George Rides a Bike"

  • ||

    How about the Bill of Rights? I don't think he's ever read that one.

    On a serious note he might read George Washington's farewell address.

  • ||

    I'm surprised that nobody has made the obligatory plug and suggested that he put Choice: The Best of Reason on his reading list.

  • ||

    Of course reading and comprehension are two different things.

  • ||

    I'm just surprised that noone gave in to the point-scoring temptation of saying that he should read a Umberto Eco book.
    BTW, I loved Baudolino

  • ||

    And I'm surprised the theme of this thread hasn't devolved into, "Books The President Will Have Read To Him, Or At Least Given The Gist Of By A Trusted Advisor."

  • ||

    Jennifer: The trouble is not blogs in general, but the ratio of information to noise.

    thoreau: I see a difference between your posting, "I read a book you might like," and the implied, "if you were as smart as me, you would read book x." Or worse, "I know you're a moron, so I'll suggest My Pet Goat," wittily tying bushmoron to iraqwarwrong without actually making a point.

    Jesse: I'm pretty sure you're trying to snark me, but maybe I'm wrong. Why don't you write an open letter to blog posters who complain about about blog posts?

  • ||

    Instead of reading books, why doesn't Bush write one? (insert crayon joke here).

  • ||

    "I'm surprised that nobody has made the obligatory plug and suggested that he put Choice: The Best of Reason on his reading list."

    What's that? Never heard of it.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Shouldn't a guy supposedly aiming to read 1,500 pages while on vacation be packing a copy of Wade E. Cutler's Triple Your Reading Speed? Seriously, who reads 1,500 pages about salt and the flu while on vacation?

  • ||

    The trouble is not blogs in general, but the ratio of information to noise.

    So a couple days ago there's this post about how even some Republican lawmakers are saying this Iraq thing's going pretty badly, and this one guy, who coincidentally also made the complaint above, posted in all sincerity the following explanation for why I (and, presumably, those who agreed with me on the topic) criticized the way things were going in Iraq and blamed our current president for the mess we're in over there And bear in mind, there had been NO previous mention of the President's religion or religious habits in this thread:

    you can't engage any more sophisticated analysis than simply blaming somebody who goes to church regulary. After all, that's proof of how completely stupid a person is. There's certainly no responsibilty to be shared by the previous pagan president for the world situation today. Bubba gets a pass, but somehow previous righty administrations do manage to get some demerits for their meddling in the middle east.

    Comment by: Dynamist at August 23, 2005 12:17 PM

    And later explained himself (again in all sincerity) in a vague paragraph ending with the following:

    I wonder why the lefties are always so pissed off? Jesus envy? (joe, certainly a lefty, is an exception to my above stereotype.)

    Comment by: Dynamist at August 23, 2005 10:36 PM

    So, you know, you're totally right and there's nothing hypocritical in your complaining about how the discourse is here is nothing but lame 'noise,' but don't forget to also mention that we're the blackest kettles you ever did see.

  • ||

    "...aren't enough to keep Dubya's lips moving until his third inaugural, "
    Jealous Nick! Its this petty bullshit that repels people from the Libertarian party.

    What the fuck makes you think your so goddam smart?
    Bush is more, far more successful in his chosen field then you are in yours.
    Your such a pathetic, schmuck.

  • ||

    "The Barmaid's Brain . . ."

    All this time, I was focusing on the wrong part of the barmaid's body. Don't I feel stupid!

  • ||

    Note to self: Never cross Jennifer again. She remembers shit.

  • ||

    Terry,

    What is Bush's chosen field? Politics? World conquest? World liberation? There are a lot of us who would say that he's doing a crappy job at all of those. Is it enough just to attain the office of president to be counted as a success? I mean, I'm sure his mother is proud of him, but that's not necessarily to say that he's actually good at anything he does.

  • ||

    Its this petty bullshit that repels people from the Libertarian party.

    Can we go through the archives and compile a list of all these? It's like all the "last acceptable prejudices."

    What the fuck makes you think your so goddam smart?

    Knowing the difference between "your" and "you're" is a good start. (As is proper comma placement; cf. "Your such a pathetic, schmuck.") There's also, you know, being editor-in-chief of a 37-year-old publication and holding a Ph.D. They don't generally let dumb people do either of those things.

    I used to think the Reagan personality cult was bad, but it at least seemed to be motivated by a genuine affection for the man. The Bush personality cult is ugly, aggressive and defense. Insulting Bush in front of them is like telling them their mothers fucked the whole fleet or something.

  • ||

    I used to think the Reagan personality cult was bad, but it at least seemed to be motivated by a genuine affection for the man. The Bush personality cult is ugly, aggressive and defense. Insulting Bush in front of them is like telling them their mothers fucked the whole fleet or something.

    What is it with Republicans and the personality cults for allegedly conservative Presidents? Can we have Bush1.0 back? I don't remember any personality cult for him.

  • ||

    Well, actually having a personality is a prerequisite.

    Thank you! I'm here all week!

    In his defense, Bush I was a good actor.

  • ||

    Anonymous Coward(more like Anonymous shithead), yes Bush is a success at politics. Twice elected governor of the second largest state, Texas, and twice elected President means he is a success in politics.
    As for "World liberation", Iraq and Afghanistan were better off under Hussien and the Taliban?
    If your answer is yes, explain it.

    Phil, some of the biggest shitheads I have meant are PHds and how big and influential is Reason magazine?

  • ||

    Phil, some of the biggest shitheads I have meant are PHds and how big and influential is Reason magazine?

    I'm sorry, neither of those were your original question. Which was, to wit: What the fuck makes [Nick Gillespie] think [he'] so goddam smart? If you're going to start changing the parameters, I only give the first one away for free. I do take PayPal, though.

  • ||

    Some of the biggest shitheads I haven't met (or "meant") were Presidents of the United States of America. So what?

  • ||

    "The Barmaid's Brain is a collection of snippets from different areas of science."

    I happen to be reading that book at this very moment as well, which is a fascinating bit of coincidence given that it came out 5 years ago and was not exactly a NYT best-seller.

  • ||

    Phil, some of the biggest shitheads I have meant are PHds and how big and influential is Reason magazine?

    First, how big and influential are you?

    Second, having gone through a Ph.D. program myself, I can assure you that the shitheads were already shitheads even before they entered the program.

  • ||

    SR-

    Funny thing, I finished reading it recently, and then over the weekend I went to a conference and met a guy studying Volvox.

  • ||

    I, for one, would like to stand up for Nick Gillespie for participating in the time honored tradition of recycling your Ph.D. work whenever the opportunity arises. As one Ph.D. to another, I salute you.

    Anon

  • ||

    Terry has a point. I mean, agree with Bush or not, he is the President. ...and if he didn't know what he was doing, then he wouldn't be in charge.

    ...So anyway, instead of telling him what he should read, I think we should all go out and read whatever he's reading. I mean, after all, his wife was a librarian.

  • ||

    Terry,

    Since it seems ninety-nine percent of people are either anti-capitalist, super christian or insanely jingoistic, it is not surprising that Reason is not so 'big and influential.' If Reason were influential, there would have to be significantly fewer idiots such as yourself.

  • ||

    ...and you gotta respect that. ...Laura Bush having been a librarian, I mean. That's what I like about her, she's so down to fucking earth.

  • ||

    He should read the Bible. I'm surprised no one suggested this. He should read it every day on his vacation unitl he finishes it.

  • ||

    One of the smartest people I know is a barmaid.

  • ||

    complexisomorphism write, "Since it seems ninety-nine percent of people are either anti-capitalist, super christian or insanely jingoistic, it is not surprising that Reason is not so 'big and influential.'"
    What? And what planet are you on?
    Its more like 99 percent of the people are apathetic when it comes politics or religion.

    Stevo wrote, "One of the smartest people I know is a barmaid."
    What is her bra size? I believe there is a study that men think barmaids with large breasts are smarter than ones with less.
    Do you have a picture(preferebly pictures) proving or disproving this? If so, please post.
    Thank you.

    PS There is also a correlation with free drinks too. Is this a factor in your judgement?

  • ||

    Kurlansky reads like a breeze. I bet most of you could read SALT in an afternoon. I read COD while waiting for my microwave popcorn to finish.

  • ||

    Leaving aside the snarkiness for a moment, John Barry's The Great Influenza is actually a very good read. He did considerable research into the nature of influenza and pandemics, and meticulously reconstructed the history and progress of the 1918-19 outbreak. I learned a lot about the "Spanish" influenza and was left with food for thought about the potential for future influenza pandemics.

    I second the comment about Kurlansky's breeziness - Cod and A Basque History of the World were both fun-'n-easy reads, and a Kurlansky text makes for a good summer book.

  • ||

    Jennifer: I think you're trying to insult me, but it's not clear how. You don't crticize "the way things are going", you make personal attacks on Bush and occasionally other wackjobs in the administration, while curiously ignoring congress and basically anything else that might have contributed to the situation. I wonder why. That's information. Repeating the same ad hominems against Bush is noise.

    It is an honor to have inspired you to search the archives. Thanks for adding to the profile (which you elected to ignore in your cutting and pasting). Maybe you aren't more than anger and cigarets.

  • ||

    some of the biggest shitheads I have meant are PHds

    Whoa, did you go to the same college I did? :)

  • ||

    Mark: The Great Influenza was recommended to me by a trusted acquaintance. USA used to have many major diseases that killed multitudes. Damn those profit-hungry corporations for finding cures and treatments.

    Tim: Why do you assume Bush reads with his finger? I suppose his proficiency is documented somwhere. Because it is popular to attack him with 3rd Grade insults is not proof that he's got a 3rd Grade intellect. He did do better than Kerry at college, right?

  • ||

    He did do better than Kerry at college, right?

    Just so we're clear, is it now considered an accomplishment to be smarter than a Democrat?

    Runs counter to the "no brains/no hearts" jokes.

  • ||

    As far as the "Bush did better than Kerry in college" statement goes, do we know if they took the exact same courses? I'm stating that if we base it strictly on grade point average then the numbers speak for themselves, but if Kerry got a C in Advanced Legal Theory, while Bush got a B- in Political Science 101, I think the comparison loses a bit of credibility.

    Transcripts, people! I demand transcripts!

  • ||

    (I consider this recreational noisemaking...)

    It just an ordinary Democrat that GWB out-achieved. He bested a self-styled multilingual master of nuance and refinement. I think the transcripts are available, since now after the election, JFK has revealed his. Bush's grades have been out for years.

  • ||

    (I consider this recreational noisemaking...)

    It's not just an ordinary Democrat that GWB out-achieved. He bested a self-styled multilingual master of nuance and refinement. I think the transcripts are available, since now after the election, JFK has revealed his. Bush's grades have been out for years.

  • ||

    It is an honor to have inspired you to search the archives.

    Seeing as how the thread in question vanished off the main page only a few hours beforehand, it wasn't that difficult.

  • ||

    It is an honor to have inspired you to search the archives.

    Seeing as how the thread in question vanished off the main page only a few hours beforehand, it wasn't that difficult.

    By the way, this may be a double posting; I think the server's having problems again.

  • ||

    What could be noisier than a double post off topic? Nice.

  • ||

    What could be noisier than a double post off topic?

    The accusation that the only reason a person could find fault with the way things are going in Iraq is because the Commander in Chief goes to church?

  • ||

    Stevo wrote, "One of the smartest people I know is a barmaid."

    What is her bra size? I believe there is a study that men think barmaids with large breasts are smarter than ones with less.

    The example I have in mind supports this study. I'm guessing 34D or 36C, something like that -- although, as established on another thread, I am not an expert.

    Do you have a picture(preferebly pictures) proving or disproving this? If so, please post. Thank you.

    Alas, just a few blurry phonecam shots, and I have no way to share them with you. Mental picture: Face is roughly a cross between Alyson Hannigan and Lisa Kudrow, with maybe a bit of the latter-day Laura . Prepon. But rather petite, maybe 5' 4" and a tad skinny, except where previously noted. A surprisingly bony little butt (it actually kinda hurts if she sits on your hand). English major. She actually reads and stuff.

    PS There is also a correlation with free drinks too. Is this a factor in your judgement?

    Not a big factor. I don't get that many free drinks. Except the occasional shot of Jagermeister, which I take just to be social. (Jagermeister is OK on occasion, but it's not one of my favorites. It's not good for you. The first time I had Jagermeister shots, I wound up having to have arthroscopic surgery.)

  • ||

    USA used to have many major diseases that killed multitudes.

    Now, of course, we don't have any diseases at all.

  • ||

    Be honest, Phil--you only said that because so many doctors go to church.

  • ||

    And if anyone's still thinking about the thread's original topic, I'd give the President my copy of "Why do People Hate America?" because I think it would be good for us and the world if he realized that things aren't as simple as "If you don't like the United States, it's only because you hate freedom." Different points of view are better understood than dismissed, especially when they lead to wars.

  • ||

    America: The Book

  • ||

    Well, if you really want to know about it, I think the president should read The Catcher in the Rye by this J.D. Salinger guy. The main character, Holden Caulfield, is this kid who's always getting kicked out of exclusive boy's schools. I'm not kidding. He's kind of a whiner and he's spoiled and undisciplined and all -- but you know what? I liked him anyway. He is basically a nice guy trying to find himself and all.

    I forgot to tell you this part. When you read The Catcher in the Rye, you can't help adopting the same voice as the narrator when you do your own writing and all. I mean it. That's the funny thing about The Catcher in the Rye. You always start talking like Holden Caulfield to anybody. But what if the president starting talking like that? It would knock me out. It really would. So maybe Bush should read it. Who the hell knows? I don't.

  • ||

    I'd like to say, just for the record, that I think my comments in this thread are twice as funny as Terry's.

    ...and about fifty percent more funny than everyone else's too.

  • ||

    All my best comments were lost to "server problems". Must be Bushchimp McOilburton's fault.

    Serious book recommendation: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.

  • ||

    I'd like to say, just for the record, that I think my comments in this thread are twice as funny as Terry's. ...and about fifty percent more funny than everyone else's too.

    You are incorrect. I suggest you read Finklestein and Humperdinck's Fundamentals of Elementary Statistics, Volume II, before you embarrass yourself further.

  • rightwingprof||

    If I needed a reason to remember why I no longer subscribe to, or buy, Reason, this is it. You bozos sound like you're on commondreams, or some other leftist site.

  • ||

    If I needed a reason to remember why I no longer subscribe to, or buy, Reason, this is it. You bozos sound like you're on commondreams, or some other leftist site.

    So, you decide whether or not to buy the magazine based on blog comments by people who don't even write for the magazine?

    I have no stake in whether or not you buy the magazine, but it seems kind of silly to come here and say how awful we supposedly are and then punish people who didn't even write the things that bother you so much.

  • ||

    We're gonna see a lot more lashin' out by Bushbot types in the near future. ...It's a sign that the koolaid's wearin' off, and that's a good thing.

    I'm thinkin' the last outstanding disconnect 'll finally push most of 'em over the line. That's when they realize that, rather than negotiating a constitution to unify Iraq, the major parties are negotiating the terms of dissolution. Once they see that that was just a pig in a dress...

    ...We're gonna see a lot of this kind of flailing.

  • ||

    Ken-

    Are the bushbots in their final throes?

    You know, I just realized that joe has never threatened to cancel his subscription after reading right-wing comments on this blog. I'm not going to extrapolate from joe to all lefties, but it certainly says that joe is a classier commenter than certain other people.

  • ||

    That's when they realize that, rather than negotiating a constitution to unify Iraq, the major parties are negotiating the terms of dissolution.

    I am beginning to think you're right.

    I'm also beginning to think that dissolution is the best thing for Iraq. I used to be agnostic on that question, and said that the Iraqis should decide it, but now I'm leaning in favor of it for 2 reasons:

    1) That seems to be what the Iraqis are negotiating amongst themselves.
    2) The hawks themselves have said that most of Iraq is actually quite peaceful, and what the media reports on is the handful of unstable spots. If so, then dissolution makes sense: Isolate the unstable regions so that people elsewhere can get on with their lives. There's no sense tying the fate of an entire country to a handful of troubled areas.

    And it is just a handful of troubled areas, right? That's what the hawks keep telling me.

  • ||

    Thoreau--

    Also, Joe doesn't indulge in surreal non-sequiturs like "the only reason you oppose the Kelo decision is because you hate the Supreme Court members who go to church."

    I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around Dynamists' statement.

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