Trump’s selling his ‘favourite book’ – But what are former US presidents' best-loved reads?

Trump’s selling his ‘favourite book’ – But what are former US presidents' favourite books (that they’ve definitely read)
Trump’s selling his ‘favourite book’ – But what are former US presidents' favourite books (that they’ve definitely read) Copyright X - Truth Social
By David Mouriquand
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Donald Trump is now selling Bibles. No, this isn't a joke. He says it's his favourite book. (Make of that what you will.) To steer back towards a sense of sanity, here are the favourite books of former US presidents - the ones that have actually cracked a book.

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Donald Trump is about to become the first ex-US president to face a criminal trial, and a New York judge overseeing his upcoming hush money trial has hit him with a gag order.

Indeed, New York judge Juan Merchan has barred Trump from attacking – or directing others to attack – potential witnesses, jurors, prosecutors or court staff. Which is going to be a tall order, for anyone familiar with Trump’s particular brand of... well, being.

This comes as Trump has faced a serious money woes amid mounting legal bills while he fights four criminal indictments along with a series of civil charges. He was given a reprieve earlier this week when a New York appeals court agreed to hold off on collecting the more than $454 million he owes following a civil fraud judgment - if he puts up $175 million within 10 days. And let’s not forget that Trump has already posted a $92 million bond in connection with defamation cases brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexual assault.

So desperate for cash, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee has adopted the on-brand persona of a snake oil salesman, selling various items including digital trading cards that portrayed him in cartoon-like images (including as an astronaut, a cowboy and a superhero) and, most recently, a line of Trump-branded footwear, including $399 (€370) gold “Never Surrender High-Tops.”

And now, he’s selling Bibles.

Seriously. 

You couldn’t make this up.

He released a video on his social media platform, Truth Social, this week, and it’s... It’s the death of satire.

He’s charging $59.99 (€55.50) per copy of the "God Bless the USA Bible" - named after country singer Lee Greenwood's 1984 patriotic ballad.

And because it’s Trump, it’s not just any version of the King James Bible. His version of includes a handwritten chorus to 'God Bless the USA' by Greenwood, as well as copies of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance.

If your eyes have rolled so far back into your skull at the sheer lunacy of all of this and you've accepted blindness, no one would blame you.

The licensing deal means that Trump will collect royalties from this scam and that the proceeds from the sales will go directly to his pockets. It's less religious outreach – not that anyone was under any illusions, mind you – and more a slimy moneymaking venture.

“This Bible is a reminder that the biggest thing we have to bring back to America and to make America great again is our religion,” states Trump in the video. “Religion is so important. It’s so missing. But it’s going to come back and it’s going to come back strong, just like our country is going to come back strong.”

“All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many,” he continued. “It’s my favourite book.”

He then concluded: “I’m proud to endorse and encourage you to get this Bible. We must make America pray again.”

Yes, that’s right. The man whose behaviour has... how to put this politely... often seemed at odds with the teachings found in the Gospels, and who is about to go on trial for paying hush money to cover up an affair with a porn star, is encouraging the purchase of the Good Book.

Rather than get bogged down in outrage and demoan how the world is as mad as a wax banana, let's opt for sanity by looking back at some of the books recommended by previous US presidents – ones we know have actually cracked a book.

John F. Kennedy - "From Russia, With Love" by Ian Fleming

John F. Kennedy - From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
John F. Kennedy - From Russia with Love by Ian FlemingAP Photo - GREAT PAN

JFK had a soft spot for James Bond novels. He reportedly got into the Bond series after a friend gave him a copy of "Casino Royale" while recovering from back problems. A 1961 Life magazine article, “The President’s Voracious Reading Habits,” listed Fleming’s 1957 novel (the fifth 007 adventure and Fleming’s strongest book) as one of Kennedy’s favourites due to his “weakness for detective stories.” Kennedy even said that he wished James Bond was on his staff when he was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. As if the Kennedy-Bond connection wasn’t established enough, the last film that the president ever saw was a private screening at the White House of the film version of "From Russia, With Love" in 1963, shortly leaving for Dallas...

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Richard M. Nixon – The works of Leo Tolstoy

Richard M. Nixon – The works of Leo Tolstoy
Richard M. Nixon – The works of Leo TolstoyAP Photo

Nixon said in his farewell speech to the White House staff: "I am not educated, but I do read books." And he meant it. Tricky Dick was an avid reader and a huge fan of Russian writer Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy - usually referred to as Leo Tolstoy. In his memoir, Nixon wrote that he’d read a significant amount of the novelist’s work when he was younger and referred to himself as a “Tolstoyan.” He’s not the only president - In a 1995 interview, George H. W. Bush was asked to name a book that had inspired him. He namechecked "Catcher in the Rye" but dwelled on Tolstoy’s "War and Peace", saying that it was “an inspiring, lengthy treatise. I read it twice. It taught me a lot about life.”

Jimmy Carter - "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" by James Agee and Walker Evans

Jimmy Carter - Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans
Jimmy Carter - Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker EvansAP Photo - Mariner Books

Jimmy Carter cited the book by James Agee and Walker Evans, which documents the plight of depression-era sharecroppers in the South during the Dust Bowl, in many interviews, saying that it had been influential in his life. “What impressed me with that book,” he said in a 1991 interview, “was a tremendous chasm between people who have everything, who have a house and a job and education and adequate diets, and a sense of success or security, who want to do good things, and the vast array of people still in our country who don't have any of these things, and whom we seldom, if ever, know."

Ronald Reagan - "The Hunt for Red October" by Tom Clancy

Ronald Reagan - The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Ronald Reagan - The Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyAP Photo - Naval Institute Press

President Ronald Reagan described Tom Clancy's first novel, the 1984 Soviet-era spy thriller "The Hunt for Red October", as "unputdownable." This praise helped launch Clancy’s career, as Clancy wrote his novel while working as an insurance agent. The book depicts Soviet submarine captain as he seemingly goes rogue with his country's ballistic missile submarine. It marks the first appearance of Clancy's most popular fictional character, Jack Ryan, an analyst working for the CIA, as he must prove his theory that the Soviet captain is intending to defect to the US. Reagan also reportedly read Clancy's 1986 novel "Red Storm Rising" before a key Cold War summit that same year, in order to gain insight into the Soviet mindset.

Bill Clinton - "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius

Bill Clinton - Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Bill Clinton - Meditations by Marcus AureliusAP Photo - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Bill Clinton has released several compilations of his favourite books over the years, which include non-fiction heavyweights and genre thrillers. However, the one book that always pops up is Marcus Aurelius’s "Meditations", a series of writings by the Roman Emperor from AD 161 TO 180. Divided into 12 books that chronicle different periods of Aurelius' life, the Emperor recorded his private notes and ideas on Stoic philosophy - including the virtues of everyday life that lead to a well-lived life: wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, and living in accordance with nature. Elsewhere, in a New York Times interview from 2018, Clinton namechecked Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Denial of Death” as one that has “had a profound impact on my thinking.” For those of you who are curious, Becker discusses the psychological and philosophical implications of how people have reacted to the concept of death across time and cultures. The author argues that the most human action is to avoid the inevitability of death. Cheery existentialist stuff, but a great read nonetheless. 

Barack Obama - "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison

Barack Obama - Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Barack Obama - Song of Solomon by Toni MorrisonAP Photo - Alfred Knopf, Inc.

Barack Obama is quite the reader (which has earned him the title of “reader in chief”), and as you can tell from his yearly compilations of book, film and music recommendations, he keeps curious about current culture. However, whenever he has been asked about his all-time favorite books, he often cites "Song of Solomon", Toni Morrison’s 1977 coming-of-age novel about Macon "Milkman" Dead III, an African-American boy in search of his identity. The novel was cited by the Swedish Academy in awarding Morrison the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and, in 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course named it the 25th best English-language novel of the 20th century. Obama awarded Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

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Joe Biden - Irish literature and poetry

Joe Biden – Irish literature and poetry
Joe Biden – Irish literature and poetryAP Photo - Shakespeare & Co

The current president hasn’t recommended his favourite books in the way Barack Obama has, but when he's asked about his reading habits, one oft-cited title is James Joyce’s notoriously difficult to read stream-of-consciousness epic "Ulysses". He also seems to be an admirer of Irish literature, specifically poetry. Biden has often referenced Seamus Heaney, and several of his speeches have quoted “The Cure at Troy,” a play which Heaney adapted from Sophocles’ "Philoctetes".

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