Washington: US President Barack Obama has recently read more and more books by liberal authors but precious few by conservative writers, says a former White House aide.
"If you look at President Obama`s reading list over the years, it has a clear ideological tilt. He has read a host of books by such liberal authors as Thomas Friedman, but precious few books by conservative ones," writes Tevi Troy, a visiting senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in the National Review magazine.
"George Bush, on the other hand, often mixed liberal authors, including Kurlansky and even Camus, in with his Natan Sharansky (`The Case for Democracy`) and Eliot Cohen (`Supreme Command`)."
Troy feels Obama the reader is very much like Obama the politician and suggests the President should reconsider this approach, if not in politics then at least when it comes to his library.
"Reading conservative authors is a low-cost way to demonstrate outreach to the other side of the aisle in our far-too polarised society. And who knows? It might even serve reading`s original purpose - he might learn something," he says.
According to Troy, there are a number of reasons for the mystique of presidential reading.
"The first and most obvious is economic -- when a president reads a particular book, it helps that book, in terms of both publicity and sales. Obama is a master of this, being called a second Oprah Winfrey as far as his ability to move book sales is concerned."
A president`s reading is also believed to help him shape his policy decisions.
John F Kennedy got the idea for a `war on poverty` after being handed a review of Michael Harrington`s `The Other America`.
Bill Clinton`s decision to intervene in the Balkans was delayed for a while after he read Robert Kaplan`s harrowing `Balkan Ghosts`. After Richard Nixon read in Robert Blake`s `Disraeli` that Gladstone had kept his staff around for too long, he was inspired after re-election to fire his first-term cabinet.
Further, presidential reading is also part of any White House`s efforts at intellectual outreach.
"(Bill) Clinton recognised that by flattering intellectuals and highlighting their books, he could often gain their support...Carter`s book got the expected press mentions...," Troy writes.