Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adding to the President’s TBR Pile

It’s hardly surprising that a U.S. president who has already written two excellent books of his own should bring his enthusiasm for reading to the Oval Office. Unlike his predecessor, the incurious and poorly spoken George W. Bush, President Barack Obama is already being viewed as “the new Oprah,” able to sell books merely by the fact of their being shown in his hands or reported to be in his traveling bags.

But even the new First Reader can probably use some suggestions on what to page through next--books to entertain, as well as enlighten. At least that seems to be the thinking among editors of The Washington Monthly, a delightfully brainy, solidly liberal magazine out of Washington, D.C., that will celebrate its 40 anniversary next month. For a feature in its latest issue, a few of the mag’s “favorite writers and thinkers ... offer their suggestions on what the new president should have by his bedside.”

Among the 25 recommendations--some obvious, some rather more offbeat--can be found:

The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam. This history of the Korean War “is yet another reminder of the danger that every decisionmaker faces: the arrogant refusal to consider that his or her assumptions may be fatally flawed,” remarks CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

The Quiet American, by Graham Greene. He should [read it] ... to remind himself, when the clever, idealistic briefer comes to tell him about the ‘third way’ that will produce a breakthrough in America’s tangled relations with the world, that we’ve been down this road again, and again, and again.”

A Demon of Our Own Design, by Richard Bookstaber. “Bookstaber, a risk manager, chronicles the rising complexity of Wall Street, through the prism of his own experience,” explains Joseph Nocera, a business columnist for The New York Times (and once an editor of the fondly remembered New England Monthly). “Taking us through such traumatic events as the crash of 1987 and the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in the late 1990s, he makes a powerful case that ‘these breakdowns come about not in spite of our efforts at improving market design but because of them.’”

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. “It’s the greatest long-view provider--ever--of fresh reminders why you cared,” writes Washington Post staff writer Joel Garreau. “Cared about these perverse, ornery, unpredictable, cussed people you chose to lead. It never lets you forget that in the face of unprecedented threats, the ragged human convoy of divergent perceptions, piqued honor, posturing, insecurity, and humor will wend its way to glory.”

Furthermore, Huck’s canniness, native intelligence and determination might all prove to be inspirations for an extraordinarily popular president who, nonetheless, must deal with a recalcitrant opposition that apparently believes it’s better to score political points than solve America’s economic ills.

You’ll find The Washington Monthly’s full rundown of book picks for the new president here.

READ MORE:The Presidential Bond,” by Ali Karim (The Rap Sheet).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very disappointed that you could include a book like Bookstaber's. The first half is a gossip rag based on rehashed rumors and innuendo with no sources (including incorrect descriptions of the market conditions and securities that supposedly cause the problems-of course the casual reader would not know that). The second half is whining about how complex everything is with a solution that we should become financial Luddites. And this is written by a guy who as risk manager never apparently identified any risk.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 10:57:00 PM PST  

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