The White House unveiled the list of six books the president planned to read during his two-week summer vacation. One volume that was conspicuous by its absence from his reading list: “Go Set A Watchman,” Harper Lee’s much-discussed and highly controversial “prequel” to her classic “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
This comes as a surprise given Obama's admiration for Lee and her classic “Mockingbird.”
In 2010, he awarded Lee the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the U.S. government for “outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts.”
Two years later, in a surprise move, the president filmed a special introduction for a televised broadcast of the motion picture “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the 50th anniversary of its release. In a rare public statement, Lee said she was “deeply honored” that Obama participated in celebrating the film that starred Gregory Peck as the heroic Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch (who was loosely based on the author’s lawyer-father).
The manuscript for “Go Set A Watchman” was discovered earlier this year in Lee’s home by the author’s personal manager. The manuscript, submitted to publishers before she wrote “Mockingbird,” is set in the early 1950s (or two decades after the events of Depression-era “Mockingbird”).
Finch, a hero in “Mockingbird” for defending a black man on charges he feels are unjust, is portrayed in “Watchman” as a segregationist who denounces the Supreme Court’s decision ending segregation in “Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.”
According to “Amazon,” “Watchman” is the most pre-ordered book since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2007 and stores arranged all-night openings from midnight to cope with expected demand.
On July 29, Newsmax asked White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz whether the president intended to read “Watchman.”
“I have not spoken to the President about his reading list.,” Shultz told us, “As you know, usually there’s a few weeks in August where he gets a chance to read some books.”
Schultz promised to get back with us to “see if it’s on the reading list this year.”
It wasn’t. The six books on the president’s reading list were “All That Is,” by James Salter; “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr; “The Sixth Extinction,” by Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and “Washington: A Life,” by Ron Chernow).
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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