Opinion: Barack Obama and John McCain share a favorite author


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Barack Obama and John McCain may differ on everything from U.S. policy in Iraq to how many town hall debates they should schedule but -- who would have thought? -- they share reading tastes.

McCain long has pinpointed Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ as his favorite book (for more on the presumptive Republican nominee’s favorite things, see this profile).


Obama, in a just-published interview with Rolling Stone co-founder and publisher Jann Wenner, names ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ as one of the three books that have inspired him.

The two others -- Toni Morrison’s ‘Song of Solomon’ and, in an answer that deftly expanded the scope of the question, the tragedies of William Shakespeare.

The interview is teased here, with readers advised to read it all in the magazine’s new issue. But the full text was e-mailed to the media, and Wenner sure wasn’t trying to put Obama on the spot, as the final exchange illustrates:

Wenner: ‘Good luck. We are following you daily with great hope and admiration.’ Obama: ‘We’re going to get this done.’

Ben Smith at notes that Wenner also publishes US Weekly, which recently featured Obama and his wife on its cover (see this post on the Chicago Tribune’s Swamp blog). That prompts Smith to predict an Obama-related cover next on the ‘Wenner-owned Men’s Journal.’

A fair amount of the interview focused on the candidate’s musical tastes and what’s on his iPod, prompting items on our own sisterly Technology blog here at and over at the Swamp.

We were also struck by Obama’s answer when Wenner asked what he had learned about himself during the campaign, a response that can be seen as self-serving or self-revelatory (probably it’s a mixture of both). Said the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:


‘I’ve learned two things, and I think these two things are connected. One is that the older I get, the less important feeding my vanity becomes. I’ve discovered that I don’t get a lot of satisfaction from being the center of attention, but I do get a lot of satisfaction about getting work done.

‘And that, in turn, has led to a confirmation that I have a very steady temper. I don’t get too high when things are high, I don’t get too low when things are low, which has been very helpful during this campaign and is reflected in the people I hire and how we run our organization.’

-- Don Frederick