Peripatetic, itinerant, eclectic musings about books, politics, history, language, culture, and anything else that interests me.
Did you know that Christopher Lasch’s book The Culture of Narcissism may have nudged Pres. Jimmy Carter toward making one of the worst political mistakes of his presidential career: his “malaise” speech? Or that some Washington observers blame Robert Kaplan, the author of Balkan Ghosts, for Pres. Clinton’s resistance to intervening to stop the genocidal violence in the Balkan wars until very late in the conflict?
These morsels are but two of many in a fascinating Washington Post article written by Tevi Troy about the way past presidents’ (as well as the current one’s) book choices have influenced and shaped their world views and beliefs about domestic and international policy.
Here is a taste:
In a historical sense, Obama follows a long line of ardent presidential readers, paging all the way back to the founders. John Adams’s library had more than 3,000 volumes — including Cicero, Plutarch and Thucydides — heavily inscribed with the president’s marginalia. Thomas Jefferson’s massive book collection launched him into debt and later became the backbone for the Library of Congress. “I cannot live without books,” he confessed to Adams. And it’s likely that no president will ever match the Rough Rider himself, who charged through multiple books in a single day and wrote more than a dozen well-regarded works, on topics ranging from the War of 1812 to the American West.