That’s a lot of serious reading. Perhaps he’d be smart to grab a crime novel or thriller for some lighter relief.
The Guardian’s literary editor, Robert McCrum, has put together an interesting article that looks back at the reading choices made by two U.S. presidents, Democrats Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, both of whom enjoyed works from our favorite genre.
When the newly-elected Kennedy was asked at a press conference about his favourite reading when relaxing, he identified Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. All at once, there was a stampede to locate Fleming’s oeuvre.You can read all of McCrum’s piece here.
Fleming, who had been writing Bond books since 1953, became an overnight bestseller, and never looked back.
Ironically, this had more to do with class than literature. Fleming had served in British intelligence during the Second World War, and was well connected in Washington, D.C., In 1960, on a visit to D.C., the raffish, and intriguing thriller writer was invited to a Washington drinks party where he was introduced to JFK. Unabashed by the young senator’s star power, Fleming told Kennedy that he knew a way to get rid of Castro. This was both shrewd and amusing: Castro was a notorious irritant to the Democrats.
Kennedy, amused, asked him how. Fleming, entering into the spirit of the conversation, said that Castro’s beard was his--so to say--Achilles heel. Without the beard he was ordinary. With the beard he was ... Castro. So the U.S. should announce that facial hair attracts radioactivity, and could be fatal. For good measure they should add that radioactivity could make a man sterile. For a Cuban, impotence would be a fate worse than death.
Fleming suggested that if JFK followed this strategy, Castro would shave off his beard, lose his singularity, and fall from power once Cubans saw him as an ordinary person.
Kennedy was apparently greatly entertained by this amusing fantasy, and when he began to inquire into the witty Englishman’s background, discovered the Bond books, and became an avid reader.
READ MORE: “How to Read Like a President,” by Jon Meacham (The New York Times); “The Dreaming Endures,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).