Opinion Brief

Obama's summer reading list: What it says about him

In an atypical move for vacationing presidents, Obama bought a stack of novels for his vacation on the seashore. Let the psychoanalyzing begin

President Obama started his Martha's Vineyard vacation this week with a stop at a local bookstore where he picked up a trio of novels: An advance copy of Jonathan Franzen's latest, Freedom, along with Tinkers by Paul Harding and A Few Corrections by Brad Leithauser. (For his daughters, Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, the president selected To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Red Pony by John Steinbeck.) What do Obama's choices say about him? (Watch a local report about Obama's book stop)

He's in an escapist mood: "Fiction is a bold statement for a president," says Julie Mason at the Washington Examiner. Generally, when our leaders hit the seashore for a break from the Oval Office, they gravitate towards conspicuously weighty fare: "Historical tomes, books about other presidents and the plague, whatnot." Obama, facing a bad economy and a tough midterm election year, clearly walked into that bookstore seeking an escape."Book scandal rocks Obama vacation!"

If that's so, Obama's still a glutton for punishment: It's true that Obama's 2009 picks were more traditionally presidential, says Alison Flood in the Guardian, including New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's best-seller on globalization, Hot, Flat and Crowded, and David McCullough's biography of John Adams. But if this summer's list is supposed to be a mood lifter, Obama must be in a gloomy place indeed. "Franzen's tale of an American family in meltdown, and Harding's story of death from cancer and kidney failure, are hardly the cheeriest of fare.""Barack Obama goes shopping for holiday reading"

Father issues, maybe?: Anyone "wishing to psychoanalyze" will find "plenty of material" here, says Toby Harnden in Britain's Telegraph. Leithauser's A Few Corrections — about a son who gradually uncovers how his father, a respected traveling salesman, neglected his family — has obvious overlaps with Obama's past; his own father abandoned the family when the future president was a toddler."Obama book reading hints at continued opposition to Iraq war"

Franzen might help Obama weather his current storms: The choice of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, about a dysfunctional family, is particularly "apt," says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Obama "is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age." So with the country in the throes of "some weird mass nervous breakdown" — over the "Ground Zero mosque," among other things — maybe this book will help the president cope."Going mad in herds"

Recommended

Biden PAC warns swing state supporters know little about accomplishments
Joe Biden.
back to square one?

Biden PAC warns swing state supporters know little about accomplishments

How the far-right's call to remove Pelosi could affect McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy.
'multi-level chess'

How the far-right's call to remove Pelosi could affect McCarthy

Pelosi's savvy Jan. 6 outreach
Nancy Pelosi.
Picture of Joel MathisJoel Mathis

Pelosi's savvy Jan. 6 outreach

Mandatory vaccinations?
Uncle Sam.
Picture of Ryan CooperRyan Cooper

Mandatory vaccinations?

Most Popular

Rapinoe addresses resounding Olympic loss to Sweden
Megan Rapinoe
'dumb stuff'

Rapinoe addresses resounding Olympic loss to Sweden

Tom Brady's 'gentle' roast of Trump at Biden's White House: 'Deeply vicious'?
Tom Brady, Joe Biden
Quotables

Tom Brady's 'gentle' roast of Trump at Biden's White House: 'Deeply vicious'?

America's shared smoke blanket
The Statue of Liberty.
Picture of Joel MathisJoel Mathis

America's shared smoke blanket