I have a piece up in the Washington Post’s Outlook section about presidential reading selections. You can read the article for the history, but in doing the piece I thought of four tips for presidential reading:
1. Stay in your comfort zone…: History and biography tend to play better than philosophy. Reading Camus, for example, gained Bush no accolades, from friends or enemies.
2. But be willing to read alternative viewpoints: Bush was far more likely to read liberal authors than Clinton or Obama were to read conservatives. Presidential reading should not devolve into selections based on the authors’ political “team.”
3. Drop the schlock: You may love spy novels or mysteries, but partaking of too many “cheap little thrills,” as Clinton admitted he did, could make voters wonder if you have too much free time on your hands. (Clinton, of course, would have been better off getting all of his “thrills” from the printed page.)
4. Read (some) White House memoirs: There are way too many, but the good ones help convey a sense of how the staff perceives things, and how you are perceived by the staff — and by the world at large. George Stephanopoulos’ All Too Human: A Political Education and Martin Anderson’s Revolution: The Reagan Legacy are two of the best, largely because they do not — especially in Stephanopoulos’ case — sugar-coat things.