Laura Bush has written two books, her recent best-selling memoir, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Spoken from the Heart,Ã¢â‚¬ and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Read All About It!,Ã¢â‚¬ a childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book co-authored with daughter Jenna. But sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also well known as an avid reader.
I first met Laura Bush when she was still first lady of Texas, when her husband was clearly running for president but had not yet announced. Newsweek had sent me down to do profile of her and I chose the weekend of the Texas Book Festival, the event sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d founded to benefit her stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s public libraries and a cause I knew was dear to the former teacher and librarianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s heart. Since then, the annual October gathering at AustinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s state capital building has become a huge draw for authors and readers alike, and raised more than $2.5 million in grant money. So it was no surprise when, after becoming the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first lady, she took the same model and pioneered the National Book Festival with the Library of Congress. This past fall, when she attended the festival as an author, Librarian of Congress James Billington introduced her as Ã¢â‚¬Å“the reader in chief of the United States of America.Ã¢â‚¬
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true that she read aloud in countless classrooms while her husband was president, but she also found a more concrete way to enhance AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s educational life. Through the Laura Bush Foundation for AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Libraries, she gave millions of dollars to rebuild and restock New Orleans and Gulf Coast school libraries in the aftermath of Katrina, and she continues to give millions to school libraries across the country.
While books are clearly the centerpiece of Laura BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s public life, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always been a central part of her private life as well. And now sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a writer to boot. Click here to buy a signed copy of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Spoken from the HeartÃ¢â‚¬ at Books & Books, and look below for the Fetch exclusive in which she shares whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on her shelves right now. Julia Reed
Received for Christmas:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mark Hampton: An American Decorator,Ã¢â‚¬ by Duane Hampton
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Language of American Design,Ã¢â‚¬ by Alexa Hampton
Both were gifts from Barbara Bush, who knows that her daughter-in-law collects interior design and Ã¢â‚¬Å“houseÃ¢â‚¬ books. These had a special resonance since the late Mark Hampton decorated the family quarters when the George H. W. Bushes were in the White House and also did their house in Houston. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I helped Bar move into the Houston house and got to meet Mark and watch him eyeball pictures and hang them perfectly. He was fun and without pretension, not at all like I would have thought a New York decorator might be.Ã¢â‚¬
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey of the Last Days of Napoleon,Ã¢â‚¬ by Michael OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Brien
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and The Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History,Ã¢â‚¬ by S.C. Gwynne
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Kinky FriedmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s outrageous books. Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhat Would Kinky Do?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ is on my bedside table now. His books are not for the easily offended or the politically correct!Ã¢â‚¬
Books to Reread:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Two old favorites of mine that I reread every once in a while are Katherine Ann Porter’s Ã¢â‚¬ËœShip of FoolsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Willa Cather’s Ã¢â‚¬ËœMy AntoniaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœDeath Comes to the Archbishop.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Book on the list for 2011:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My Reading Life,Ã¢â‚¬ by Pat Conroy
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I always enjoy his fiction so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m interested in his reading.Ã¢â‚¬
Pictured above, left: The National Portrait Gallery portrait of Laura Bush by Aleksander Titovets, a Russian native who now lives in El Paso. Right: The cover of Mrs. BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s memoir Ã¢â‚¬Å“Spoken from the Heart,Ã¢â‚¬Å“ a signed copy of which is available from Books & Books on TAIGAN.