Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush and Books

Some people seem to think it implausible that President Bush really reads as many books as this list would suggest. I don't find it that implausible. A few years ago, I read a library book: Frank Bruni's Ambling Into History. Bruni was a New York Times reporter, and the book was mostly an account of the 2000 campaign. As I recalled, Bruni was very impressed with the amount of reading that Bush did, behind the scenes and without any fanfare. Not having the book immediately at hand, I found a webpage that describes Bruni's account as I remembered it:
Bruni now knows that Bush was a reader of books. He cites innumerable examples to prove this. Bush not only reads serious books like One Nation, Two Cultures and April 1865 but also many novels, detective yarns and mysteries. They have not only exchanged books of favored authors, but have had good and lengthy conversations about them. Bruni says: "Bush was, in fact, a pretty steady consumer of books." And Bruni admits that he had been wrong in discounting that possibility in articles he had written before he knew the truth.
UPDATE: Ezra Klein is a skeptic:
Reading books, particularly nonfiction books, takes a really long time. It's hard, and it's boring, and I say this all as an effete liberal intellectual who likes reading long, boring books but can't, like everyone else I know, seem to finish them. I'm pleased to get through one or two a month, and you're telling me Bush, in his time off from running the country, doing a couple hours of exercise a day, and going to bed early, has read sixty?
1. Reading non-fiction books doesn't take a "really long time," unless one is a very slow reader.

2. One or two books a month? I've read at least 180 non-fiction books over the past two years -- and those are merely the ones that I can list. I know there are quite a few more that I borrowed from the library. And while I don't read that much fiction, I'd guess that I've read maybe 40 or 50 novels in that time as well. Also, since I have a busy job and a family, that number represents what I managed to read in not-very-much spare time -- i.e., at night when everyone else is in bed, sitting in the car at stoplights or waiting at the pharmacy drive-thru, using the bathroom, holding the book in one hand while watering my garden with the other, etc. If I had an "intellectual" job at a magazine, where reading books as research would be part of my work, I'd expect to have several hours a day to read, which would roughly quadruple my book consumption.

3. Maybe Bush is able to read more books because he apparently doesn't waste much time with email or television. I've noticed that my book consumption has increased since I cancelled my cable subscription a few months ago.

SECOND UPDATE: What's alarming is not that Ezra Klein thinks it's reasonable for an "intellectual" to read merely one or two books a month, or to find reading boring and difficult. What's alarming is that he evidently has seen no behavior from his "intellectual" colleagues that would make him embarrassed to publish such sentiments.

3 Comments:

Blogger Serenity Now said...

It takes you about three hours to finish an average book? Out of curiosity, what did you read in July and August?

1:53 PM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Depends on the book. If it's a 200-page book written in a Malcolm Gladwell style, then I'd give it maybe 1.5 hours. If it's a 400-page academic book, then quite a bit longer.

As for July and August . . . hmmm . . . as best as I can recall:

The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler.

The Bottomless Well, by Peter Huber and Mark Mills.

Multiple Regression : A Primer, by Paul Allison

Real Food, by Nina Planck

Get a Life!, by David Burke and Jean Lotus

Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity, and Success at Capital High, by Signithia Fordham

Bridging the Achievement Gap, edited by John Chubb and Tom Loveless

Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood, by Jay MacLeod

Law's Quandary, by Steven D. Smith

The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools, by William Howell and Paul Peterson

Forging Links: African American Children Clinical Developmental Perspectives, edited by Angela M. Neal-Barnett

Constructing School Success : The Consequences of Untracking Low Achieving, by Hugh Mehan and several others

Taught by America : A Story of Struggle and Hope in Compton, by Sarah Sentilles

Rappin' and stylin' out;: Communication in urban Black America, edited by Thomas Kochman

Kwanzaa and Me: A Teachers Story, by Vivian Gussin Paley

Black Resistance in High School: Forging a Separatist Culture, by R. Patrick Solomon

Our children's burden; studies of desegregation in nine American communities, by Raymond W. Mack

Saving Our Environment from Washington, by David Schoenbrod

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi

Politics, Markets and America's Schools, by John E. Chubb, Terry M. Moe

On Christian Truth, by Harry Blamires

When I Can Read My Title Clear: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South, by Janet Duitsman Cornelius

Chasing the Wind: Regulating Air Pollution in the Common Law State, by Noga Morag-Levine

The Politics of School Desegreation, by Robert L. Crain

Beyond Acting White: Reframing the Debate on Black Student Achievement, edited by Erin Horvat and Carla O'Connor

Anyway, that's all that I can remember right now.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

The problem with many intellectuals, at least ones in academia, is that they're constantly reading journal articles, chapters in anthologies, and parts of books relevant to their research while ignoring the rest. Academics read a lot more than their list of finished books would show. I don't finish that many complete books, but I read an awful lot despite that.

7:35 AM  

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