Pale Wire (Popscene)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Who Reads What?

Last week The Gardner Library released their annual Who Reads What list, a sampling of the favorite books from a wide variety of celebrities, political figures and literary types. This year's list includes Laura Bush, Jonathan Franzen, Jeri Ryan and R.L.Stine, among others.

A look through the archives reveals that both of our presidential candidates have previously participated. Last year John Kerry selected Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers, Shackleton (author not provided), and Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.

In 1999 George W. listed a startling 10 books (I'm expecting some good jokes about this one in the comments section). There are a couple Texas history books, two conservative sounding political history tomes (The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, 1945-1995 by Robert J. Samuelson & The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties Legacy to the Underclass by Myron Magnet), and a pair children's books, including two of my favorites, James and The Giant Peach & The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Nearly all these selections feel contrived and politically calculated but sometimes they can still be unintentionally telling. Billy Graham lists only The Bible (big shock, right?) and Bill Cosby picked, well, nothing. There are a couple suprises; did you know that Johnny Cash was a big fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry or that Hugh Hefner claims Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead had a "profound effect on him?"