September 25th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #979 'My latest book report'

Reporter's Note: Some presidents seem to spend more time reading than others. I’m not sure what President Obama reads…I mean, other than these daily letters of course.

Dear Mr. President,

Do you have much time for reading these days? Of course, I mean, reading for personal enjoyment or education, not for work. Heaven knows, I have to read such unending reams of material for my job, I can only imagine the pages you must be forced to devour.

You know, Jimmy Carter once told me that when he was president he had his staff take speed reading lessons so that they could process more information each day! I learned the basics of speed reading long ago, and I can burn through hundreds of pages quickly if I must, but I find it far from satisfying.

Reading, for me, has to involve a certain cadence; a pace at which I can not only comprehend the words, but also consider their meaning. And frankly, no offense, but I would not want a job that allowed me no time for reading outside of the office. It just means too much to me.

I think I told you that I recently finished The Museum of Innocence, which is a superb book in every way. I have not said this many times in my life (like, maybe never) but I think the author, Orhan Pamuk, could well be considered a modern master who will be read and studied for many generations, perhaps even centuries.

What else? Let’s see…I’m reading a biographical tale of Françoise Gilot’s life with Picasso called, appropriately, Life with Picasso. I’ve been skipping around in an excellent running book written by the husband of a colleague; Tom Holland’s The Marathon Method. For no apparent reason, I picked up a copy of The Last of the Mohicans. I’ve never read it before, but already I suspect there won’t be many Mohicans left at the end. I’m intuitive that way.

My younger daughter bought an interesting book about Van Gogh’s art dealer for me, and I am pecking at it. I can’t recall the title at the moment. (Btw, have you ever noticed how many books there are about Van Gogh? Van Gogh’s inspiration, Van Gogh’s neighbors, Van Gogh’s bathtub; it’s ridiculous.) And of course she and I read through Thoreau’s Walden together as few weeks back.

I’m rereading an old Richard Brautigan novel called The Hawkline Monster. It could be knocked off in about an hour if I really wanted to try, but I’ve just been having fun with it. And I think I told you that I’m working through Packing for Mars.

I suppose it sounds silly to be reading so many books at once, and in truth if I would just focus on a couple I might find myself making quicker, cleaner work of it. But, as I said, I read enough for work. All this reading is for fun. And I hope you are having some of that kind of fun too. It awakens the mind, and stirs the soul, one page at a time.

That said, this is a good football watching day, so I guess I better get to it. Do you want to come over? Let me know so I can get some extra brats.

And hey…that’s cool about the 1985 Bears coming to the White House! Can I come too? Hey, I always invite you to my place…just saying.