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.