President Obama spoke to students at Washington library on Thursday about his favorite books growing up.
(He also said when he was 12, he wanted to be either an architect, basketball player or lawyer. Architect? Really!?)
His list was pretty tame. No "Communist Manifesto" or even "Animal Farm" (sorry, people who don't think Obama's frequent jokes about being a socialist aren't actually jokes). But as a politician, how much can we read into Obama's picks?
Here are the books he mentioned:
Obama said he's still a "big Dr. Seuss fan." That's actually a pretty progressive choice, since Seuss was a known leftist and subtly inserted political issues like the environment and race into his books. Obama is clearly making a subtle base play here.
The Hardy Boys
"I was into adventure stories," Obama said. A mystery-solving duo that cracks cases and brings down the bad guys? Sounds like something Joe Biden has planned for his and Obama's post-presidency.
The Great Gatsby
A great American classic. Safe pick -- except for the fact that it is widely viewed as an indictment of the American dream, the excess of wealth and capitalism.
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
Saying you actually read these books instead of just watching the movies shows you're a person of action. When a politician says he or she reads J.R.R. Tolkien, what they're saying is they won't cut corners. But he also opens himself up to nerds quizzing him on obscure details of the books, which isn't an advisable political strategy.
Obama said he read the series to Malia when she was 5 to when she was about 12 or 13. In other words: He's an American father.
Pirate books aren't advisable for politicians to say they like, even the timeless classic "Treasure Island." Pirates are far too morally ambiguous.
Of Mice and Men
Another classic, but not necessarily a book that evokes the type of feelings politicians usually want voters to have about them. Like Gatsby, it's seen as something of an indictment of the American dream and, while a classic, is among the most banned and challenged books in American libraries. It's almost like he knows he doesn't have to run for reelection again.
Conclusion: Obama's literary picks were a mix of safe and semi-bold choices, but even the bolder choices are broadly popular books. They show a president in his final years in office who can afford to say they like more than biographies of beloved historical Americans or John Grisham novels.