George W. Bush: Book-reader in chief

December 26, 2008

Just when you get your mind all made up about President George W. Bush, along comes Karl Rove trying to unsettle things.
The president is far from being the uncultured book-burner often portrayed by his critics, his former deputy chief of staff wrote in The Wall Street Journal Friday.
In fact, Bush is a voracious reader and lover of books, Rove insisted.
The president has gone through 40 tomes so far this year. That follows 51 in 2007 and 95 in 2006. Plus the Bible from cover to cover each year.
History, fiction, biography. You name it, he’s read it.
“Team of Rivals,” the book about Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet that is shaping President-elect Barack Obama’s thinking about his own administration?
Bush has been there, done that. Read it back in ’06. Along with a Mao biography, Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower,” eight Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.
He went through “Khrushchev’s Cold War,” “Rogue Regime” and “The Shia Revival” in ’07. That plus his daughter Jenna’s book “Ana’s Story.” And many others.
This year there’s been U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs,” Hugh Thomas’ “Spanish Civil War” and James McPherson’s “Tried by war: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief.”
“There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one,” Rove wrote.
“Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic,” he said.
If the reading part wasn’t shock enough for Bush naysayers, Rove has more.
“Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them and is intellectually engaged by them,” he wrote.
How, you may ask, would Rove know so much about Bush’s reading habits?
It seems they have been engaged in friendly competition to see who could read the greatest number of books each year. 

And who won? 
Not the president. Rove mopped the floor with him every year. He read 110 in 2006, 76 in 2007 and has 64 to his credit so far in 2008.

Bush’s excuse? Too busy with his day job.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, prepare to board Air Force One en route to Texas Dec. 26); Reuters/Fred Prouser (Rove takes part in a panel discussion on Fox TV July 14)


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I do not for an instant believe that W Bush has ever read a single book in his entire life. He has undoubtedly read Cliff’s Notes or Monarch Review Notes and similar references in order to get through schools, but is it utterly and patently absurd to believe this anti-intellectual oaf has ever taken the time or interest to read an entire book. To listen to his excruciating mangling of the English language, and to hear his miniscule vocabulary make it clear the man is marginally literate at all. Besides, who would believe anything Karl Rove said!

Posted by Doug White | Report as abusive

I don’t believe Bush read a book all the way through school or after.
Who in the world would believe Karl Rove anyway?

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Revisionist history to burnish Dubya’s tarnished “legacy”. The Right Wing Spin Machine lives.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

I have worked on two documentaries about Air Force One during the last year.
On two long trips, one to the Mid East and one two Africa, not once did I see Bush Junior hold a book. I just know what I saw. Karl Rove? Check your wallet…

Posted by Jman | Report as abusive

A courageous leader who chose to do what is right vs. popular. In time these ungrateful fools will beg for an intelligent leader such as George W. Bush.

Posted by jill Nolte | Report as abusive

Ahh, small minded critics do abound.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

yes winstone churchill was the same,but like bush plenty of backbone,collectively clinton,gore and kerry minnows.(small fish).

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Really? If you have to give me a count of books someone is reading I’m pretty sure your lying.

No one cares anymore Karl. You Bush and Cheney can lie until your blue in the face on your way out the door.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

The only time I’ve seen a picture of Bush with a book in his hand he was holding it upside down.

Posted by Eric Hopkins | Report as abusive

Robert, your words betray you. As to lying, Billy Clinton remains a lying fool to this day.

Posted by cr | Report as abusive

I did not know that there were so many “Dick and Jane” books!

Posted by Eloise | Report as abusive

He can read? Most be a miracle happen.

Posted by mbakaity | Report as abusive

The comments here serve only to prove the bitter derangement of liberals.The man has a business degree,was Governor of Texas and president of the USA for 2 terms.I assure you he’s probably brighter than all of you loonies,combined.Comments like “I do not for an instant believe that W Bush has ever read a single book in his entire life” and “I don’t believe Bush read a book all the way through school or after” or “The only time I’ve seen a picture of Bush with a book in his hand he was holding it upside down” are beyond childish…they’re psychotic.But I hold one axiom to be true:Never be surprised by the lunatic rantings of the disturbed and hate-filled liberal mind.

Posted by Global Warmness | Report as abusive

To the comments that Bill Clinton lied. Yes he did. But that is where conservatives stop thinking.

What did Bill lie about and what did Bush and Cheney lie about? What were the consequences of each set of lies?What were the reactions of conservatives to both sets of lies?

Conservatives that support Bush and Cheney are supporting traitors. Bush and Cheney are guilty of treason. Feel free to read the constitution sometime if you can fit it in between memorizing Republican talking points.

Republicans and Conservatives love their party more then our country. Liberals and democrats put their party before their country. It takes a country full of like minded Republicans for fascism to take root whether it was Germany in the 30’s or our fascism lite under Bush.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

I have a little trouble speaking so I can identify with George W. Bush. I think I will list some of the books he has read and see if I can get them read in a year.
I am sure it won’t make me a better speaker.
My thoughts and words sometimes come out wrong but no one who knows me hasn’t said I can’t read. I didn’t know that Daughter Jenna had written a book other than Laura and Jenna’s “Read All About It” a clever book posted encouraging children to read.

Posted by Marie Eier | Report as abusive

It’s hard to believe that after hearing Bush himself declare early in his Presidency that he didn’t bother to read newspapers that he would find much to read about in books either. We all now pay, no matter how responsible and well read people are in their own lives, for the lack of leadership from someone who lives in a bubble and refuses to look at the bother of the whole picture.

Posted by Helen | Report as abusive

Lots of opinions about Bush and his reading habits. I guess those who don’t believe he has ever read a book must know him personally.

For eight years he has endured the rantings of the liberal left with grace. Not once has he attacked his critics like his critics have attacked him. He should be applauded for withstanding the constant criticisms.

Wow. You don’t believe he has ever read a book. So what. Big deal.

What makes you so perfect?

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

One more thing. Fascism is about control. Our most fascistic moments in this country come during progressive democratic control, not republican. Wilson, FDR, Johnson are a few progressive presidents who promoted that control. Read your history and learn what fascism really is. It isn’t conservative.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I would much rather be a liberal who is aware of my surroundings than a conservative with blinders on. (and, by the way, I am the most conservative liberal, or is it liberal conservative, that breathes!)

Posted by Eloise | Report as abusive

My guess, those totals include all the childrens books he read to the school children. Hey! technically he read a book. Leave it to Karl Rove to spin? Me thinks we will hear a great whirring sound for the next several years as the Rove spin machine kicks into high gear.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Fascism: any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible suppression of opposition. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, (c) 1956. So how exactly was Clinton like a fascist, and how wasn’t Bush like a fascist with his disdain for the 4th Amendment, excitement for beginning a war on false pretenses over resolving the dispute diplomatically, and love of centralized media concentration and dissemination like Fox and Clear Channel? I could also bring up the love of guns that so many conservatives seem to have and the fact that the term Fascist derives from an Italian word coined to refer to Mussolini’s party that was part of the Axis of WW II, but that would be inconsiderate of the weak-minded, a.k.a. “politically correct”, so I’ll let that slide for now.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

What’s so courageous about making war against a weak country unable to defend itself against “the last remaining superpower” as its leaders billed it at the time?

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

George Bush can read? I thought he was only good for being stupid looking…

Posted by Bill Withers | Report as abusive

Not one thing you said has anything to do with what fascism really is.

As I was saying, and as a case in point, those on the left who say Bush is a fascist do not understand fascism. Again, read about Wilson, FDR and Johnson and you will see three administrations who used big government in an attempt to control the lives of the people they governed. For instance, Wilson used a civlian security force “goon squads” who arrested people who spoke out against government policies and WWI. The “Brain Trust” in the FDR administration looked at Stalin and communism as a model that should be used in this country. Look it up.

Again, fascism comes out during progressive democratic administrations, not conservative.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive