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.

Title Author(s) Pages Source
After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader Latell, Brian 288 CSPAN
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Bird, Kai & Sherwin, Martin J. 736 CSPAN
Beach Road Patterson, James & de Jonge, Peter 400 CSPAN
Big Bam, The: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth Montville, Leigh 400 CSPAN
Bridge at Andau, The Michener, James 288 CSPAN
Challenger Park Harrigan, Stephen 416 CSPAN
Cinnamon Skin: Travis McGee Mysteries MacDonald, John D. 336 CSPAN
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero Maraniss, David 416 CSPAN
Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History Symonds, Craig 400 CSPAN
Dreadful Lemon Sky, The MacDonald, John D. 320 CSPAN
Finding Fish: A Memoir Quenton Fisher, Antwone 352 CSPAN
Flashman at the Charge MacDonald Fraser, George 336 CSPAN
Flash for Freedom MacDonald Fraser, George 352 CSPAN
Hamlet Shakespeare, William 208 CSPAN
King Leopold's Ghost Hochschild, Adam 384 Alternet
Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power Carwardine, Richard 416 CSPAN
Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural White Jr., Ronald C. 256 CSPAN
Macbeth Shakespeare, William 256 CSPAN
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer Swanson, James L. 464 CSPAN
Mao: The Unknown Story Chang, Jung & Halliday, Jon 832 US News
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War Philbrick, Nathanial 480 CSPAN
Messenger, The Silva, Daniel 352 CSPAN
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women Brooks, Geraldine 255 US News
Places in Between, The Stewert, Rory 320 CSPAN
Polio: An American Story Oshinsky, David 368 CSPAN
Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 McDougall, Walter 304 CSPAN
Quick Red Fox MacDonald, John D. 320 CSPAN
Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different Wood, Gordon S. 336 CSPAN
A Savage War of Peace Horne, Alistair 624 NYTimes
Stranger, The Camus, Albert 160 CSPAN
Through a Glass Darkly: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Myster Leon, Donna 272 CSPAN

According to listings at, 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.

Title Author(s) Pages Source
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