Tales of the Erudite Bibliophile

George Bush’s bedstand

When he’s not playing 40 games of chess at once, George Bush likes to unwind with a big thick wonky book. In fact this past summer the White House was kind enough to provide an extraordinarily diverse list of books that Uncurious George was supposedly reading to show that he’s a serious student of the human condition ( The Stranger by Albert Camus) , a man of the people ( Cinnamon Skin: Travis McGee Mysteries by John D. MacDonald), a lover of the Great Books ( Macbeth by William Shakespeare) and a guy you can have a beer with at the corner bar (The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville). Quite the polymath, eh?

And here it is late October and George has finished the 26 books on his Summer list and has moved on to bigger and better things:

Asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday what was the last book he read, President Bush answered: “I’m reading A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900. It’s a great book.” He went on to say that he was taking from it the importance of taking the long historical view.

I think most people listening would have assumed he meant Winston Churchill’s tetralogy – which actually ends in 1900. The President’s “…since 1900” suggests that the book he’s been reading is in fact the new one by Andrew Roberts,

Yes. The first thing I though of was George Bush was reading Churchill’s tetralogy, because that is so him. And just in case you’re didn’t catch George on the Stephanopoulos “programme”, Michael Barone just happened to bring it up again:

On the way out the door, I asked him what he had been reading lately. The answer: Andrew Roberts’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (an advance copy, apparently). Roberts is a friend of mine (and of Mark Steyn), a British history writer who has written the definitive biography of the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury (prime minister 1885, 1886–92, 1895–1902) and a delightful volume of essays on Winston Churchill’s opponents, Eminent Churchillians. Roberts’s English-Speaking Peoples is an extension of Churchill’s multicentury history that ends around 1900, and I expect that it will take Churchill’s view: that the English-speaking peoples have over the centuries taken up the responsibility of expanding freedom and spreading democracy and the rule of law around the world.

That is Bush’s view as well, as I was reminded when I noticed the bust of Churchill as I was leaving the Oval Office.

Fortunately A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 is a scant 752 pages so it shouldn’t conflict with the President’s promise to Victor Davis Hanson to translate his A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War into Greek before the end of the year.

Providing the Clash of Civilizations doesn’t flare up, of course, in which case Hanson will probably have to wait until January 10….January 12th at the latest.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....