10 Contemporary Politicians’ Favorite Books


After it was revealed that Paul Ryan was a longtime Ayn Rand fanboy, reporters, critics, and the general public had a literary field day. Out came in-depth analyses of how Ryan’s fiscal policies were akin to Randian philosophies, and what character he would play in Atlas Shrugged. It all got us thinking about other political candidates and their literary preferences. Usually politicians are the ones who are being written about in books, not talking about them. So is Obama still as big of a fan of poetry as he was in his college days? Which classic novel for young ladies has a beloved spot on Hillary’s bookshelf? After the jump, we take a stroll through some contemporary politicos’ favorite reads.

Paul Ryan – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

“I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff… But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” – via Atlas Society

Does he or doesn’t he? After being thrust in the spotlight as a vice presidential candidate, Ryan has since tried to downplay his earlier praises of Rand’s philosophies. Rand’s atheism and view of abortion as a “moral right” don’t really jive with Ryan’s conservative stance, but he can’t exactly take back the impassioned speech he gave only a few years back. Once a Randian always a Randian?

Hillary Clinton – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Like many women of my generation who read this novel growing up, I really felt like I lived in Jo’s family. This book was one of the first literary explorations of how women balance the demands of their daily lives, from raising families to pursuing outside goals. The book was written more than a century ago, but its message resonates today.” – [via O Magazine]

The Secretary of State has a professed penchant for novels chronicling the joys and struggles of American life. Her other favorites include The Color Purple and The Joy Luck Club.

Barack Obama – Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Known as quite the literary connoisseur, President Obama’s reading habits have been a topic of public interest ever since he was elected president, and there have been numerous roundups of his current reading lists. Among works by Emerson, Twain and Lincoln, Obama frequently cites Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon as one of his favorite novels.

Sarah Palin – the works of C.S. Lewis

“I’m reading the best book right now — Dean Karnazes’s book about being an ultra-marathoner. I read a lot of C.S. Lewis when I want some divine inspiration. … I read Newsmax and The Wall Street Journal. I read all of our local papers, of course, in Alaska because that’s where my heart is.” — [via ABC News]

When Sarah Palin was picked by Barbara Walters as one of her “10 Most Fascinating People of 2010,” the former vice presidential candidate wanted to set the record straight that — contrary to what that infamous Katie Couric interview might have led you to believe — she has always been a voracious reader. “I read anything and everything that I can get my hands on, as I have since I was a little girl,” she claimed.

John McCain – For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

“Robert Jordan is what I always thought a man ought to be.” – [via The New York Times]

A POW during the Vietnam War, McCain has often talked about his love for Robert Jordan, the protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. In the novel Jordan is a young American in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.

Mitt Romney – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Mitt Romney has gone on record saying he enjoyed the Twilight series. But his all-time favorites are Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and East of Eden, at least according to his Facebook page.

Bill Clinton – Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

“The thing about Marcus Aurelius is that he was deeply spiritual and he understood that life required balance. And what that meant is really important in the world we live in today. As an emperor he had absolute power and this book is in part about the things he wouldn’t do. And that’s really important.” – [via Today]

Former President Bill Clinton is as an avid reader, known for his love of heavy philosophical musings and lighter crime fiction. On this list of his favorite books he includes Invisible Man, Macbeth, and Non Zero. But one book that is frequently on the tip of his tongue is Meditations by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Clinton says he used the book’s philosophies, which discuss how to practice restraint in power, as a blueprint for his own presidency.

Joe Biden – American Gospel by Jon Meacham

Biden’s reading preferences don’t get much attention, but his Facebook page cites Jon Meacham’s chronicle of how spiritual and religious values have shaped the foundations of America as one of the veep’s favorites to curl up with.

Michele Bachmann – Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins

One of the most controversial books on the former presidential candidate’s list of favorites, Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee is seen by many critics as a strong argument for pro-slavery. Her stated preference for the book was one of many slavery-related missteps in her brief campaign.

George W. Bush – The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement by Robert J. Samuelson

Though there has been much skepticism around whether George W. Bush is actually an avid reader, he has consistently proclaimed his love of reading. He refers to The Good Life and Its Discontents, a book that analyzes the American psyche, as one of his favorite reads.