How much does George Bush read?
Here's the story:
[President George W. Bush] has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50).
- Walsh, Kenneth. Humbled Presidency, U.S. News & World Report. August 20, 2006. Hyperlink.
So how much reading is that, really? It doesn't sound too "humble" to me.
My brief survey of media articles on the subject turned up only 31 titles, published below.
According to listings at Amazon.com, the total page count is 11,647 pages. If you divide that number by 365 you get 31.9, which is how many pages someone would have to read every single day of the year to finish all 31 books.
Impressive enough, right? Does anyone here read more than 30 pages a day?
Yet, remember, the claim isn't that President Bush read 31 books last year. No, the claim is that he read 60 books - and all of them by August 20.
Without knowing the complete list of titles, it's impossible to generate an exact page total. One alternative is to assume that the rest of the books were of approximately the same length as the titles we do know. The average length of the 31 books listed above is just over 375 pages. Since we're 29 books short of our total, let's multiply that by 375, which rounds out to about 10,895 additional pages of reading. That nearly doubles our earlier total of 11,647 up to an estimated 22,543 pages of reading.
A quick run through the calendar shows August 20 to have been the 232nd day of the year. What's 22,543 divided by 232? It's 97. So, according to our calculations, President Bush would have to had to read approximately 97 pages every day for 232 consecutive days to have mowed through a sixty-book reading list.
Without getting into the academic research on reading rates and comprehension, let's just assume that the President proceeded at the straightforward and brisk pace of one page per minute. The simple 1:1 page-to-minute ratio demands more than an hour and a half of reading time each and every day. Two minutes per page? That, of course, doubles the president's daily reading regime to more than three hours every day.
Now, far be it from me to judge anyone here, but assuming my math is right that's a pretty steep hill for anyone to climb. My guess is that it's likely to have been a wee bit of an exaggeration.
For anyone interested, here are the presidential book titles I found from before 2006.
|Unnamed Devotional||Chambers, Oswald||?||NYTimes|
|Alexander Hamilton||Chernow, Ronald C.||832||NYTimes|
|Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar||Radzinsky, Edvard||480||The Book Blog|
|April 1865: The Month That Saved America||Winik, Jay||480||CNN|
|Case for Democracy, The: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror||Sharansky, Natan||303||CNN|
|Great Influenza, The: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History||Barry, John||560||The Book Blog|
|His Excellency: George Washington||Ellis, Joseph J.||352||NYTimes|
|Bible, The (Standard NRSV copy)||?||NYTimes|
|I Am Charlotte Simmons||Wolfe, Tom||688||NYTimes|
|Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground||Kaplan, Robert||448||Znet|
|Salt: A World History||Kurlansky, Mark||496||The Book Blog|
|Supreme Command||Cohen, Eliot A.||288||WashingtonPost|
|When Trumpets Calls: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House||O'Toole, Patricia||512||Znet|