In his article at The Daily Beast Michael Medved gives us a glimpse of what U.S. President Barack Obama is believed to be reading on his summer vacation.
Medved points out that despite all the information Obama is expected to consume, he is taking the time to indulge in some fiction. And having had a look at the president’s choices – I am convinced he is a closet Packabooker. Mr Obama knows how to choose fiction with a strong sense of place.
If you’d like to join Obama in his summer reading – this is what he is believed to have with him in his Martha’s Vineyard Book Bag.
In The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell Obama is off to Louisiana (or somewhere very nearby). Chief protagonist of these three novels is Detective Rene Shade who takes us deep into the criminal underworld along the steamy shores of a bayou. From the murder of a city councilman to a poker game which goes horribly wrong, Shade walks both sides of the law as he attempts to get to the truth. Filled with authentic dialogue and characters, this is a fine choice for someone wanting to explore America’s deep south with a bit of ‘country noir’. If you saw last year’s Oscar-nominated film Winter’s Bone it is based on another of Woodrell’s novels.
Chicago is Obama’s next stop with Ward Just’s novel Rodin’s Debutante. The story of Lee Goodell who grows up in the 50’s in a town on the outskirts of Chicago. Intending to become a sculptor he rents a basement studio on Chicago’s South Side where he is exposed to crime, violence and death. Chicago itself is one of the characters of this coming-of-age novel, but larger issues around the differences between rural and urban America are among its themes.
The president then travels much further afield with his next choice – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Ethiopia’s internal coups and conflicts in the 50’s and 60’s are the backdrop to this novel in which twin boys are abandoned by their surgeon father after their mother dies in childbirth. They grow up in a missionary hospital in Addis Adaba, until political events eventually force the narrator, one of the twins, to flee. This novel has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, with many describing it as unputdownable and others saying it is the best book they have ever read. Obama seems to be on a winner with this one!
Obama’s final choice takes him to the complex world of the Middle East. To the End of the Land by David Grossman tells of an Israeli mother suffering under the strain of her son’s army conscription. Fearing a knock on her door telling her that her son has been killed, she sets out to walk from the north of Israel to Jerusalem.
Mr President – we salute your decision to include a range of fiction in your holiday reading. As Packabookers well know – while there is much to learn from histories and political biographies, sometimes the most important stories only come to us in a novel.