Just like that guy at a party who wants to talk to you about Infinite Jest to show how intellectual he is, some prospective presidential candidates are sharing what's on their shelves. Although there are reasons to doubt this will be a particularly potent political strategy in an age of diminishing readership, it's interesting to know what Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are reading—or perhaps more importantly, what they want voters to know they're reading.
First, here's Bush, whose list came in an article portraying him as the Republican Party's chief nerd and is accordingly heavy on policy:
- Polk, Walter R. Borneman
- The World America Made, Robert Kagan
- Knowledge and Power, George Gilder
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
- Abraham Lincoln, Lord Charnwood
- The Rule of Nobody, Philip K. Howard
- The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel
- The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky
- A Message to Garcia, Elbert Hubbard
- The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley
- The Magnificent Masters, Gil Capps
- Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
To tally, there are two presidential biographies, then a clutch of political and economics books that show the catholicity of Bush's reading: the neoconservative icon Kagan; Reagan favorite Gilder; bien pensant centrist Howard; compassionate conservative Olasky; and libertarian Postrel. But there's also Ripley, a fellow at the left-leaning New America Foundation (and an Atlantic contributor); her book is about improving education. Rounding out the list, showing that Bush is rounded, there's Hurston's classic of black literature, a golf book, and—a nod to both the religious right and the Fox News complex—O'Reilly's pop history. Bush chooses two old books, Hubbard's 1899 Message and Charnwood's 1917 life of Lincoln, suggesting he's not just chasing the latest bestseller. Polk may seem like a odd choice, but he's actually a quiet GOP hero for his fiscal conservativism and expansion of American prestige.