Does President Donald Trump read books?
He says yes, he “like[s] reading books.” Other evidence suggests no. During interviews on the campaign trail and post-election, he’s never been able to name a book other than the Bible, his own works, and All Quiet on the Western Front unless said other book is directly in front of him.
Still, let us posit that President Trump will read entire books during his term in office. In that case, there’s good news: He need not rely on his own ghostwriters’ output, nor commemorative books sent to him by CNN, for material. The experts are stepping in.
The executive director of the National Book Foundation, Lisa Lucas, offered Time’s Sarah Begley a few reading recommendations for the new POTUS. Appropriately, she suggested books that have recently been honored by her organization, which administers the prestigious National Book Awards:
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen; John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell’s March; Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land; and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning.
All of the books she recommended, whether in poetry (Citizen), graphic memoir for young readers (March), or nonfiction, explore marginalized American peoples. Strangers in Their Own Land is a sociological examination of the white working poor in Louisiana, which seeks to understand why people who need government assistance turn to Tea Party ideologies that reject big government. The others focus on the struggles of black Americans and the long history of American racism.
Though Lucas may be one of the most qualified citizens to suggests useful reads to President Trump, she’s not alone.
In December, Elle’s Sarah M. Broom listed a handful of titles he would benefit from reading, a syllabus which also focused on racial education told through an assortment of fiction and nonfiction. She suggests Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, noting the parallels to Trump’s controversially proposed Muslim registry. Other recs: W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and the first issue of the Marvel series “Black Panther” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin.
An NPR piece by Annie Tomlinson and Vincent Ialenti took a more nuclear approach, compiling scientific reads that would help our new president navigate the current military industrial complex he now oversees. (Their recommendations have comforting titles such as Whole World on Fire by Lynn Eden and Wizards of Armageddon by Fred Kaplan.)
All available evidence suggests that Trump will not go out of his way to read any of these books, and that even if a book is given to him, he will read “passages, I read areas, chapters, I don’t have the time,” as he told Megyn Kelly in an interview last year, when pressed on the last full book he read. He is, of course, busy with other activities. As Politico reported on Sunday, a source close to the president revealed that “He gets bored and likes to watch TV.”
That can only mean one thing. Cable pundits, it’s time to drop everything and start marathon read-alouds from Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Do it for America.