If Karl Rove is to be believed (eh hem), the popular caricature of President Bush as a near-illiterate rube is actually the opposite of the truth. Supposedly, the two have been competing against each other to see who could read the most books. Rove has won each year, but not for lack of effort on the President's part: In 2006, Bush finished 95 books, in 2007, he finished 51, and in 2008 he finished 40 books, mostly history, biography and current events (from the Wall Street Journal, HT Between Two Worlds):
Well, there goes my last excuse not to read more! Then again, I'm sure my job as manager of a self-storage facility is much more time consuming than being President of the United States...
His reading this year included a heavy dose of history -- including David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle," Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War," Stephen W. Sears's "Gettysburg" and David King's "Vienna 1814." There's also plenty of biography -- including U.S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs"; Jon Meacham's "American Lion"; James M. McPherson's "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" and Jacobo Timerman's "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number."
Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.
The reading competition reveals Mr. Bush's focus on goals. It's not about winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy. He reads instead of watching TV. He reads on Air Force One and to relax and because he's curious. He reads about the tasks at hand, often picking volumes because of the relevance to his challenges. And he's right: I've won because he has a real job with enormous responsibilities.