Required Reading for Candidates

In yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, “a handful of writers” and others who have written were asked “to recommend books for the presidential candidates.” There was little overlap among suggested reading assignments, although both Lorrie Moore and John Irving think that Hillary Clinton should read Shakespeare’s MacBeth and, while Gore Vidal wants the candidates “not to read The New York Times, while subscribing to The Financial Times,” George Packer recommends for McCain the work of a New York Times reporter (Dexter Filkins’ upcoming book, The Forever War, written, Packer says, “not by a defeatist but by a reporter whose every romantic notion of Iraq and war was obliterated by sustained contact with experience.”)

Speaking of reporters having their romantic notions obliterated by sustained contact with experience, wonder what the Times’ crew would recommend the campaign press read?

And, speaking of the campaign press, Francine Prose suggests that all candidates read Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 “as helpful reminders of the fact that someone with a bracing sense of humor and a highly developed consciousness of the absurd is (whether they know it or not) always present, always watching everything they do.”

Come on. Dana Millbank is not “always present.” But someone with an eye for what’s new (hello, trivia!) and an eye on ratings/traffic numbers certainly is. Which, for candidates (not to mention the reading public), should be scarier still.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.