Literary Taste Litmus Test – Election 2008 by the Books Just In Case You’re Still Undecided


Remember when President Bush mentioned he was reading THE STRANGER while on vacation in Texas? The media had a heyday with the book’s subject matter — a self-indulgent Frenchman shoots and kills an Arab, and, even after he’s sentenced to execution, never feels remorse.

While it’s hard to picture Dubs actually reading CAMUS (or any work of French Existentialism for that matter), the book’s shamelessly calculated selection is what sparked scrutiny.

So what do BARACK OBAMA and JOHN MCCAIN’s favorite books say about them? Click through to get our take on the candidates’ alleged book preferences.

For a self-proclaimed maverick, McCain’s selection is pretty straight arrow — to say nothing of its backward-glancing nostalgia. At the top of the list, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS — in which an American runs off to fight Fascists during the Spanish Civil War — expresses McCain’s ideological zeal without touching upon Hemingway’s fatalistic outlook. That McCain claims protagonist Robert Jordan “is what [he] always thought a man should be,” echoes the Vietnam vet’s own war cry, while Jordan’s young lover evokes the nearly 20-year age gap between McCain and his beer heiress wife, Cindy.

Other similar picks include WWI classic ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, historical adventure novel THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, and high school English fave THE GREAT GATSBY.

Final verdict: War-obsessed man-child likes to read about self.

While Obama’s selection is almost as boring (we’re not even counting the Bible), he includes more international and temporal breadth as well as gender diversity. From GRAHAM GREENE to GANDHI, MARK TWAIN to TONI MORRISON, JOHN ADAMS to JOHN STEINBECK, here is a man who wants everyone to know that he’s read everything — and then some. Obama has been influenced by so many novelists, essayists, activists, and economists that his equally varied supporters will have no problem finding at least one selection with which they can identify.

Our only qualm: Can you really trust a man who hasn’t read HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE?

Final verdict: Eclectic reading list for an eclectic party.

– Chelsea Bauch