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Taste in Books

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Obama: Doctorow, Shakespeare, and Beach Reads
According to his Facebook page, Obama's favorite works are Song of Solomon, Moby Dick, Shakespeare's tragedies, Parting the Waters, Gilead, “Self-Reliance,” and the Bible. When asked in an interview which books had touched his life, he cited the “wonderful book” Gandhi’s Truth, by Erik Erikson. E.L. Doctorow and William Shakespeare are his favorite authors. As a high schooler seeking to clarify his own racial identity, Obama looked for answers in the works of James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and W.E.B. Du Bois. He also read The Autobiography of Malcolm X at that time, a book now conspicuously absent from his reading lists. On vacation at Martha's Vineyard, Obama has tended to dip into fiction, with a recent reading list that included Freedom, The Bayou Trilogy, a mystery series set in New Orleans; Rodin's Debutante, a coming-of-age story set in Chicago's South Side; Cutting for Stone, about two boys born in Ethiopia, linked by their shared love of medicine and a woman; and To the End of the Land, about an Israeli mother who hikes across the country to save her son’s life. The Warmth of Other Suns was the only nonfiction work Obama took with him — it chronicles the early twentieth-century migration of American blacks from the South.

Romney: That Whole Front Section at Barnes & Noble
Going by Romney's latest reading lists, you'd think he was a fantasy-loving high school girl: the Twilight series, even L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth. Perhaps this was an attempt to make him seem less brainy, like his assertion that his favorite book is the Bible — the man does still have the Bible used to swear in his father as Michigan governor and cabinet secretary, which he plans to use if sworn in as president. But at the end of the day, a read through Romney's 2010 book No Apology uncovers a thoroughly wonkish library of business books, political biographies, and diagnostic bestsellers: Everything from The Innovator's Dilemma, by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, about the rise of new technologies; Thomas Friedman's globalization hit The World Is Flat; Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan, on improbable outlier events — popularized by the economic crash; David McCullough's masterful biography of John Adams and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln; Matt Simmons's Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy (it's all in the title); Jared Diamond's required history-class reading, Guns, Germs, and Steel; as well as David Landes's Wealth and Poverty of Nations and Michael Porter's The Competitive Advantage of Nations. The list goes on and on and would seem right at home on the syllabus of a class titled "The Story of America, What Went Wrong, and How to Fix It … in 50 Books."


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