A president’s or candidate’s reading list does reveal something about his leadership style, and way of thinking about the world.
Donald Trump’s list of favorite books makes his mind seem almost as shallow as his public persona. Aside from the books by him or about him, hack jobs against Obama or the Clintons, schemes on “how to make it rich,” and self-help books, there are only a few real books of substance or histories on his list. He recommended “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which most people read in ninth grade. More impressive, he did list 20 books on China off the top of his head, according to the LA Times. He has recommended 19 books, according to Goodreads. But I truly hope he’s not wasting presidential time reading some books on his list, such as The Autobiography of Trump’s Hair; his own book, The Art of the Deal (actually written by a ghostwriter who excoriates him now); Trump’s Christmas Carol (America post-Trump), and some of the other trivial bs on his list.
His readings in history include just one book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, one book on Lincoln, one book on Churchill, and the autobiography of Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca. On leading and governing, he offers only Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Bill Clinton’s 21 Favorite Books: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Maya Angelou. “Meditations,” Marcus Aurelius. “The Denial of Death,” Ernest Becker. “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963,” Taylor Branch. “Living History,” Hillary Rodham Clinton.”Lincoln,” David Herbert Donald. “The Four Quartets,” T.S. Eliot. “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison. “The Way of the World: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the Twenty-First Century,” David Fromkin. “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes,” Seamus Heaney. “King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa,” Adam Hochschild. “The Imitation of Christ,” Thomas a Kempis. “Homage to Catalonia,” George Orwell. “The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis,” Carroll Quigley. “Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics,” Reinhold Niebuhr. “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” William Styron. “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber. “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Thomas Wolfe. “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny,” Robert Wright. “The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats,” William Butler Yeats.
George W. Bush: 16 book recommendations, including four on Lincoln and the Civil War, one on Andrew Jackson, the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, one on WWII battles in Italy, one on the conquerors of Napolean in 1814, historian Jay Winik’s masterful The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800. He offers two more recommendations that justify the war in Iraq.
A female leader’s reading list may be different from a male leader’s reading list.
- 12 Books That Influenced Hillary Clinton
- Hillary Clinton’s Summer Reading List
- Books She Mentions in “What Happened.”
Dueling book reading lists: Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton, 2014.
Bush’s list includes several books popular with libertarians. Ironically, his 2014 reading list makes the case for a conservative agenda better than Trump’s (non) list.
- The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. Philip K. Howard.
- The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, Virginia Postrel.
- The Tragedy of American Compassion, Martin Olasky. Argues for compassionate conservatism.
- Knowledge and Power, George Gilder. An argument for supply-side economics.
And Bush was reading a book by a liberal.
- The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley