On the infrequent occasions when President Reagan was asked what he was reading, he typically answered with some lowbrow titles that confirmed the liberal stereotype that he was a lightweight. One time he mentioned he was reading a Zane Grey novel; another time on TV, the memoirs of his old Hollywood friend George Burns. He never mentioned the serious titles he was reading (at the moment of the Burns memoir, he was reading a new book about missile defense and another on Russian history). It was only with great difficulty that the White House press office could get Reagan to release to the press the serious books on his nightstand. Reagan’s public reading choices reflected his democratic character.
By contrast, liberals always have the deep need to come across as the smartest, most literate person in the room, thereby reinforcing their status with the elites. Did you catch the New York Times Book Review interview with Hillary Clinton on Sunday? No wonder she never got round to seeing to the security gaps at Benghazi; she was too busy reading novels and memoirs by Republican presidents (if you believe her account). She manages to mention 50 authors in the course of this short interview. Name-droppers everywhere must be envious at her prodigious ability.
It’s worth suffering through the whole thing, but let’s just go here with the openers:
What books are you reading right now?
I’ve got a pile of books stacked on my night stand that I’m reading — or hoping to get to soon. I’m usually working on more than one at a time. So right now it’s “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt; “Mom & Me & Mom,” by Maya Angelou; and “Missing You,” by Harlan Coben.
What was the last truly great book you read?
I can’t stop thinking about “The Hare With Amber Eyes,” by Edmund de Waal; “The Signature of All Things,” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “Citizens of London,” by Lynne Olson; and “A Suitable Boy,” by Vikram Seth.
Who are your favorite contemporary writers? Are there any writers whose books you automatically read when they come out?
I will read anything by Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carré, John Grisham, Hilary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen and Alice Walker. And I love series that follow particular characters over time and through their experiences, so I automatically read the latest installments from Alex Berenson, Linda Fairstein, Sue Grafton, Donna Leon, Katherine Hall Page, Louise Penny, Daniel Silva, Alexander McCall Smith, Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear.
Really—the entire list of authors and books has the distinct feel of something that was poll-tested and focus-grouped, so as to appeal to every possible audience and voting demographic. Hey—Hillary reads Donna Tartt! Score with the late millennials! Can anyone doubt that the Clintons would do this? Why there’s even something for Bubba:
If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.
Homework assignment: someone scour her speeches and writings and see how often she cites any of the passages she’s memorized.
Out of this entirely preposterous exercise, one answer especially stands out:
What are your favorite novels? Your favorite short stories? Poems you hold especially dear?
“The Brothers Karamazov” made a lasting impression on me when I read it as a young woman; I intend to reread it this summer to see what I now think about it.
Ah—now perhaps we start to understand where she got her Grand Inquisitor demeanor.