California Sen. Kamala Harris is a lot of things — Joe Biden’s running mate, the first woman of color on a major party ticket, a SoulCycle devotee — but she’s also a reader. “In choosing Kamala Harris, Biden may have found the anti-Trump,” The Guardian argued Tuesday, an observation that extends beyond just her mixed-race background, her womanhood, and her politics. Were Biden to be elected, Harris’ literary interests would be a refreshing return to the White House at a time when intellectual obstinacy has seemed to, ahem, trump more readerly open-mindedness.
The current president rather famously prefers a single page of bullet points to paragraphs, and has cited his own (ghostwritten) book, The Art of the Deal, as his “second favorite” piece of literature (after the Bible). While Trump will promote political books from time to time, he is hardly the voracious consumer of contemporary literature that his predecessor was. Former President Barack Obama still puts out annual summer reading lists and year-end favorites, having promoted everything from Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People to the memoir Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan to Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano over the years. And while Mike Pence and Joe Biden have both indicated they at least read — the latter being among the swarm of politicians who love to cite James Joyce’s Ulysses — they’re not exactly bookish.
Harris, on the other hand, has “pretty good taste in books,” Literary Hub declared Wednesday. Her favorites include Richard Wright’s Native Son, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and she’s previously observed “National Book Lovers Day” on Facebook. It’s seemingly not just for show: literature was important in her family growing up. Harris’ parents separated when she was 7, with her father taking the bookshelves; she would “later tell young women she mentored that books were the only thing she ever heard her parents fight over,” The New Yorker reports.
Merely being a reader, of course, isn’t everything, and it hardly absolves Harris of her concerning record during her tenure as California’s attorney general. Still, it’s a promising quality in a leader: readers tend to be more empathetic and “score higher in intellectual humility.” Seeing as there’s been a dearth of both traits in the current White House, it’d be nice for someone to finally put its library to use again. Jeva Lange