NY Times Goo: Obama Book List Shows He's 'Really Searched His Soul In the Way Writers Do'

The New York Times could only devote 53 words in the Business section on Thursday to Martin Bashir resigning from MSNBC, but swooned over Barack Obama’s latest list of book purchases in a story headlined “In Obama’s Book List, Glimpses of His Journey.”

Reporter Peter Baker explained “A reading list offers a rare window into the presidential mind, a peek at what a commander in chief may be thinking about beyond the prosaic and repetitive briefings that dominate his days.” But Obama stands out for his literary taste and his spending part of his childhood abroad:

Unlike many of his predecessors, who devoured American history and biographies, Mr. Obama’s tastes lean toward the literary, in keeping with a man whose first memoir deeply explored issues of race and self...

One of Mr. Obama's more intriguing choices was Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Lowland," about two brothers from India, one who comes to build a new life in America and the other who becomes ensnared in politics back home. Ms. Lahiri said Mr. Obama may relate to his own conflicting paths as the son of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas.

"He has a sort of double vision of America as I do, as many people do, many people who have been both brought up and bred within America but also have a different perspective of the country," Ms. Lahiri said. "In a sense, part of him comes from outside America and he embodies both that contradiction and that richness."

Another presidential choice, Julie Otsuka's novel "The Buddha in the Attic," explores issues of immigrants and America as she chronicles the tale of Japanese women brought to the United States as "picture brides" for migrant workers, only to have their families wind up in World War II internment camps.

"If anyone knows what it's like to be an outsider from very, very difficult circumstances and someone who had to go back and forth between cultures," it is Mr. Obama, Ms. Otsuka said...

The story ended on that same gooey note:

...In selecting Cheryl Strayed's "Wild," her memoir of losing her mother, her marriage and almost herself until she takes a thousand-mile backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail, Mr. Obama may identify with her interior journey.

"I think President Obama has really searched his soul in the way that writers do," Ms. Strayed said. "I certainly, like many people, identify with Obama's journey. He's really had a lot of people who loved him well, who had a lot of teachers. But he's really a self-made man. So much of `Wild' is about how we ultimately have to make ourselves."

Baker reports George W. Bush was a voracious reader in office, since the Times doesn’t have to pretend he’s incurious or unintelligent like they did while he was in office. The Bashir update was this short and remarkably vague:


After a firestorm over comments about Sarah Palin, the MSNBC host Martin Bashir resigned. Last month, Mr. Bashir compared Ms. Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, toa slave subjected to humiliatinig and degrading treatment, saying she deserved the same for her statements comparing American debt to slavery. Mr. Bashir later apologized.  – BILL CARTER

New York Times Jhumpa Lahiri Julie Otsuka Cheryl Strayed Peter Baker Martin Bashir Barack Obama
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