Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover...

--maybe you can judge a reader by the books s/he takes on vacation! Of course I’m referring to the Reader-in-Chief, President Obama.

According to news reports released last night, the list of presidential reading material being taken on vacation, mind you, is as follows:
1. The Way Home by George Pelecanos
2. Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
3. Lush Life by Richard Price
4. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
5. John Adams by David McCullough

Not exactly a lightweight, is he?

I’m not going to be reading numbers 1 or 3, because according to the reviews, they fall into the dark, thriller/crime genre. Thus, I would expect nightmares and/or depression for the duration and some time following the completion of the book. Yes, even some of the best books I’ve ever read (think Anna Quindlen’s compelling and excellent “Black and Blue” or Chris Cleave‘s completely amazing “Little Bee”) depressed the socks off me, and I am learning (I think) not to go there. This realization spills over into the Friedman book, except that since it’s reality, and not even something I can try to mitigate as fiction (It’s a story, Leah—someone made this up!) the effects may be even worse. This leaves us with just numbers 4 and 5.

I confess (because what’s the point of lying about it) that I never got around to reading number 5, John Adams, but it does look really nice on my bookshelf. The HBO series (thanks, Netflix!) brought it to life so beautifully that it sort of permitted me to feel as if I had read the book. At least they didn’t change the ending, as so many movies seem to feel entitled to do.

Which leave is with…ahhhh… number 4. Plainsong. It even sounds wonderful in your mouth, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most warm and pleasing and satisfying novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading. When the book was published in 1999, Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo (Nobody’s Fool, Empire Falls, Straight Man) was quoted as follows: “Kent Haruf's new novel Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don't expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter.” A blurb most aspiring or successful authors can only fantasize about! In fact, it was Russo’s enthusiasm that prompted me to read Plainsong way back then.

President Obama is in for a real treat. I hope Michelle reads it, too. And I’d love to know what books she took with her for the week… If we find that out, we can dissect her list, too!

Since I’m never without at least one book on my nightstand (I have been accused of reading while washing dishes, and I can’t deny it with a straight face) and others in my car (you might get a chance to read a little between appointments), I love sharing titles and getting recommendations about any and all reading material. Bring on your comments! What’s on your nightstand?


  1. My nightstand has the Compleat Gilbert and Sullivan! Great reading on those nights when a) you need something to lull you into a stupor in hopes that you'll soon, then, fall asleep, or b) did not have a chance to get to the gym and figure a few bench presses can't hurt. Great blog!

  2. I haven't even HEARD of those books that President Obama is reading.

    Well, I mean, I HAVE heard of John Adams obviously. I'd probably like that one since I like history.

  3. Very interesting. Thank you so much for visiting my blog - I have a feeling I got the better end of this particular trade. :)

  4. Sounds like I need to get Plainsong from the library! I just had a friend recommend The Elegance of the Hedgehog to me as well and am looking forward to reading it.

  5. reading... well, currently I'm taking your advice Leah and I am reading "There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say". Now to the True Confessions section of the comment, my go to books - ones I've read over and over - are the Twilight books - I know. I just can't help myself. I LOVE them. OK, I'm finished gushing. - and J.D.Robb's "... in Death" series.
    (and call me an idiot, but I don't know what a profile is to select, so I'll probably choose the wrong one and you'll either get nothing or my complete life story and financial history - talk about ugly reading...)

  6. What pressure. The fact that even the books you take along for FUN reading on vacation becomes public knowledge...kinda takes the fun out of fun reading!

    Stopping by from SITS. I like your blog!