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Bush and Charlotte officials' summer reading lists

Whatever happened to Dubya's summer reading list? We've gotten so used to hearing about the president's supposed interest in books, this summer has seemed, well, list-less. I mean, how can we be expected to stay attuned to our revered leader's thought processes without some word on what he's reading?

Seriously, it's surprising that White House PR folks haven't told us what's currently on Bush's night table (other than snuff and pretzels), especially since every other politician in America has jumped on the books bandwagon lately.

It all started in 2005 with Bush's "ek-a-lec-tic" reading list. It noticeably left out The Pet Goat, but did include The Stranger by Albert Camus, plus "a couple-a Shakespeares," and other weighty books whose mention made longtime Bush watchers break into uncontrollable laughter. But so far this year, nothing.

Maybe Bush is gun-shy. It was only March, after all, that critics jumped on him when he told the press about the two books he was reading: the blatantly imperialist History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by the self-described "extremely rightwing" British historian Andrew Roberts; and America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, a paranoid, apocalyptic rant by Canadian neo-con columnist Mark Steyn.

Just because Bush's last literate mini-list caused some people to wonder whether he was cracking up, that's no reason for the White House to keep the rest of us waiting for his hot weather hot picks. In an effort to relieve public anxiety, I contacted some friends in the White House, and they graciously leaked a partial list of what the president is reading this summer, along with an unidentified presidential aide's written comments about each book. Here's the list:

1. Fresh Disasters by Stuart Woods. Probably not about a new round of foreign policy initiatives, but I better check.

2. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. Bet this can't beat the dreams from W's father -- golf, fishing, oil and a fat inheritance!

3. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris. Or, Iraq in Four Easy Years.

4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. You sure this isn't by Colin Powell?

5. The Thirty-five Hundred Dead American Soldiers You Meet In Heaven Hey, who put this list together?

STOP THE PRESSES!

Sorry, dear readers, I hate to interrupt a perfectly good column, but this press release just came in, listing local officials' summer reading picks. Cool, huh? It's as if they'd read my mind. Anyhow, here's the text of the announcement.

To: Charlotte area media

From: Fibber McLyington, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Media Relations Dept.

It's summer reading time! When it comes to beach or pool literacy, Charlotte Mecklenburg public officials are right up front. Now, in order to jump on a convenient political trend, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials have announced their reading lists for Summer 2007. Most of the books listed are current or recent bestsellers, but you'll find some surprises, too. The books are being paid for with funds from the city's Literary Slush Fund and the county's Supplementary Budget for Coastal Explorations. The public may comment on the choices, make recommendations of their own, or complain about having to pay for local bigshots' beach reading by calling 1-800-YOU-RANT.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and Five O'Clock Shadow by Genie Davis.

City Manager Pam Syfert: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, and Water For Elephants: the Big Person's Guide to Staying Hydrated.

City Councilman Pat Mumford: Into Thin Air: The Mayoral Race That Never Happened, and Herman! The Life Lessons of Herman Munster by Fred Gwynne.

County Commission Chairperson Jennifer Roberts: Women of Spirit by Judith Orloff, and The Joys of Jheri-Curl by Randy DeBarge.

Mayor Pat McCrory: Where Have All The Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca, and The Reign of the Rat by Gil Smolin.

County Commissioner Dan Bishop: Knot On A Log: Passive Aggressive Leadership by Alberto Gonzales, and Tight-butt Tunnelvision For Dummies.

CATS CEO Ron Tober: Light Rail and Heavy Politics by Jack McCroskey, and Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility by Banks McDowell.

School Board member George Dunlap: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and Not No Way Tired: When Grown-ups Mangle Grammar.

City Councilwoman Susan Burgess: Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson and I Hope They Serve Chardonnay In Hell by Tucker Max.

County Manager Harry Jones: My Way or the Highway: Micromanagement Survival Guide by Harry Chambers.

County Commissioner Bill James: Crazies To The Left of Me, Wimps To The Right by Bernard Goldberg, and He's Just Not That Into Me: Don't Deny Your Gayness by Dan Savage.

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