Think 24 hours isn’t enough time in your busy day? Try being a world leader. Yet even the most powerful people in the world sometimes need to relax and temporarily get away from it all. Reading is a source of pleasure for many of us – world leaders included – whether it be educational, inspirational or merely a fictional escape.
A week before he left office, Barack Obama explained to The New York Times the pivotal role that books played during his presidency and how they enabled him to “maintain my balance during the course of eight years,” “slow down and get perspective” and “get in somebody else’s shoes.”
Obama, a lover of the written word since his youth, said he found the works of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., particularly compelling when “what you wanted was a sense of solidarity.”
Most world leaders are passionate readers, their interests ranging from the classics to best-selling novels. According to BuzzFeed, Lincoln was a huge Shakespeare fan, especially Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, Henry VIII and his favorite, Hamlet. “Some of Shakespeare’s plays I have never read; while others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader,” Lincoln once said.
Richard Nixon greatly admired Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, and Franklin D. Roosevelt loved the poems of Rudyard Kipling. Ronald Reagan’s hearty endorsement of The Hunt for Red October did wonders for the career of an aspiring novelist named Tom Clancy. Reagan received Clancy’s first novel as a present and called it “unputdownable” when referencing the book during a press conference, said BuzzFeed.
John F. Kennedy got hooked on Ian Fleming’s James Bond series after reading Casino Royale while recuperating from back problems. Before his ill-fated trip to Dallas, Kennedy watched From Russia with Love at the White House – the last movie he ever saw.
According to The Guardian, George W. Bush and Karl Rove, his policy adviser, staged a yearly reading competition. Bush read more than a dozen Lincoln biographies during his presidency and also enjoyed fiction such as Camus’ The Stranger.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it is that reading – whether for pleasure, inspiration or knowledge – is fundamental. So, read a novel, a business book or a getAbstract summary, just keep reading.