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Obama should read these books on the beach

President Barack Obama goes on his summer vacation to Martha's Vineyard this week, so it's time for us to unveil our suggested reading list. • Herewith, by category, is the final list, culled from books suggested by Slate readers: presidential history, fiction, crime novels (based on last year's list, a presidential favorite), and current events. We also asked for a "popular book" that might allow the president to look in touch with the citizenry. Some were chosen because lots of people suggested the same book and some were picked because our readers offered a good reason the president should include them in his beach bag, which we've listed after some of the titles:


Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. If Obama is as big a fan of Lincoln as he says he is, perhaps he's already read this.

1776, by David McCullough: "Portrait of a leader, George Washington, who in the face of every calamity continued to persevere with an iron will and a public persona that never spoke of his private anguish and despair."

Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson "The patron saint of sensible nonpartisanship."


Blindness, Jose Saramago: "This book taps into what is most sacred and fundamental about democracy and human cooperation. It tears down the bureaucracy of everyday life and reminds us how much we rely on one another and our inner sense of goodness to survive."

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. This was a winner in the "transport the president out of his world" category.

Current events or issues

Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew B. Crawford. Obama is your bike repairman.

Last Call, by Dan Okrent. Both conservatives and liberals suggested this Prohibition story. For conservatives, it's about the "folly of government intervention." For liberals, it "shows how we as a country have always been richly endowed in wingnuts."

The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley. "The best antidote to malaise."

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers: "A good reminder of all that government can do wrong."

Crime novels

Savages, by Don Winslow: Crime novel set in Orange County, Calif. Interesting look at Mexican drug cartels. Withering political commentary. Very funny, which would be good for a president with no apparent sense of humor.

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child: "Excellent urban crime drama, with international-politics implications."

The common touch

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson: "Everyone is reading it. It would connect him with a lot of readers. Plus it would be a good transporter for him."

The Bible. "Show the common touch — best-selling book in the world. Symbol of seeking comfort in tough times (economically, politically). Helps deflect conservative attacks and the weird 'closet Muslim' rumors."

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail.

Obama should read these books on the beach 08/14/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 4:30am]
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