‘Red Ink,’ by David Wessel

July 20, 2012

The media critic Marshall McLuhan famously suggested that people deciding whether to buy a book should turn to page 69, read what's on it, and then make up their minds. It's a technique I've been using for years, and I've been pretty satisfied with the results. (There's also a great blog dedicated to the page 69 test, as well as one dedicated to the page 99 test.)

As it happens, we here at Wonkblog are sent a fair number of books to review. Many more than we can actually read. But I feel badly doing nothing with them. So I'm going to start applying the page 69 test to the ones that look most interesting,

and then posting the best excerpt I can find on that page. First up? David Wessel's 'Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget,' which turns out to have a great paragraph on page 69:

The federal budget is as vast as the government itself: The instructions the White House sends agencies for making and keeping track of annual budget requests run 972 pages. The instructions. The four-volume budget that Obama sent to Congress in February 2012 came to 2,238 pages. Then each agency produced thousands of pages of more detail. The Department of Homeland Security's supplement topped out at 3,134 pages, one page for every $12.6 million it was seeking to spend.

'Red Ink' comes out on July 31. You can pre-order it here.

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