Michelle Obama's Gardening Book vs. Other First Lady Literary Efforts

A survey of books written by presidential spouses reveals some winners, lots of dogs

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Michelle Obama has agreed to write a book about her experience setting up that infamous White House garden. Due out April 2012, Obama's will not be the first book written by a first lady still occupying the White House. Here are some of the more notable literary efforts from presidential spouses.

Rose Cleveland, George Eliot's Poetry and Other Studies (1885)

The first book to be published by an acting first lady, the title produced more than $15,000 in sales, according to Our White House, an unofficial White House history blog. Cleveland published another book the next year, the provocatively titled You and I: Or Moral, Intellectual and Social Culture.

Eleanor Roosevelt, A Trip to Washington with Bobby and Betty (1935)

Most of Roosevelt's literary output during her husband's years in office was dense and policy-driven, with imposing titles like This Troubled World (1937) and The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940). This children's book (Roosevelt's first work of fiction, notes the National First Ladies' Library) was a change of pace, and was a precursor to the lighter tone struck in future first ladies' literary efforts.

Nancy Reagan, To Love a Child (1982)

The "Just Say No" campaign was Reagan's most visible advocacy issue, but it wasn't the only cause she backed while in Washington. She authored this book outlining her support for the Foster Grandparents program. The backing didn't stop there: Reagan and Frank Sinatra co-wrote a song (also called To Love a Child) that listed the program's various good deeds.

Barbara Bush, Millie's Book (1992)

As second lady, Bush enjoyed success with C. Fred's Story, in which she ghostwrote the memoirs of the Bush's dog, C. Fred. Eight years and one dog later, she used the same formula to write about new dog, Millie. But the magic was gone. Six weeks after this follow-up hit shelves, the American public voted the springer spaniel's master out of office.

Hillary Clinton, It Takes a Village (1996)

With a title taken from a proverb (of course) and an awkward book tour that coincided with new Whitewater revelations, the book has become reminder of the more groan-inducing aspects of the Clinton years, overshadowing the thoughtful observations Clinton makes about the American way of raising children. For conservatives, the title remains a viable applause line. The audiobook version, however, is the only title on this list to win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album.

Hillary Clinton, Dear Socks, Dear Buddy (1998)

For her second book, Clinton opted for warmer, fuzzier subjects--the First Family's special relationship with their pets. Considering the president was facing impeachment over his special relationship with a  female intern at the time of the book's release, one wonders if the timing was ideal for this domestic slice of life.

(Images via Royal Books and Amazon)

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