Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bush Is a Book Lover


Right after Christmas, Karl Rove had an article in the Wall Street Journal about a book reading competition he had in 2006 with the now-soon-to-be-former President Bush. Though Rove won the challenge, Bush, he claims, read 95 books in one year. Seriously? I mean, I know I'm a slow reader, but 95! Doesn't he have, you know, more important things to do?

And it does not appear that the books were all Good Night Moon and Dr. Suess. While many were non-fiction - mostly biographies and history - the surprise was Albert Camus. Yeah - Camus. Can you imagine Bush sitting there, opening that book and reading, "Mother died today"? WTF?

At least his numbers in 2007 and 2008 declined - 51 and 40 respectively. Now, that's a little more reasonable. But Camus? I'm so confused.


Steve Hales said...

I saw your post only today. But I had also seen the ridiculous claims that Rove made in the WSJ. I did a little estimation game on them. First, it is worth noting that Rove’s hagiography was rather clearly part of the end-of-term legacy campaign, meant to show the outgoing President’s intellectual heft and curiosity.
President Bush reputedly read 95 books in 2006, including the Bible, which he is supposed to read cover-to-cover every year. That’s a rate of over 1.8 books per week, every week. Many of the books Rove mentioned are doorstops—fat, prolix tomes. One of the cited titles, Grant’s Memoirs, is two volumes, and my copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is 1300 pages. Let’s very conservatively estimate the average book length at 350 pages. 350 pages times the 1.8 books per week is 630 pages per week. How fast can Bush read? I can read about 70 pages per hour of light reading, like a paperback mystery novel, and perhaps as low as 20 pages per hour of dense technical writing, like journal articles. Bush’s reading list isn’t People magazine, but let’s assume he can read at a rather rapid 60 pages per hour on average. That means he devotes 10.5 hours per week, every week, to uninterrupted reading.
All right, that’s not flatly impossible, given optimistic assumptions. But how probable is it? The President has one of the most demanding jobs in the world, one that surely consumes 15 hours a day. Presumably the President does things in his off hours besides read—exercise, nap, have a meal, see the family. All things considered, what’s the likelihood that Rove’s claims about Bush’s reading habits are true? Well, there’s more than a zero chance, but barely more.

Kristin said...

There are numerous possiblities to explain this:

1. Bush wasn't really "reading"...maybe just turning pages?

2. He took one of those speed reading classes that were popular in the 70s/80s

3. The cocaine helped

4. One word: audiobooks

5. Rove doesn't give the entire list of what he was reading, so maybe it really was Good Night Moon and Dr. Suess. You could read a lot of Dr. Suess books in one day.

5. I can't believe I'm going to suggest this, but maybe Karl Rove, um, stretches the truth sometimes?

6. Dick Cheney really was running everything.