The President’s Book Club: What Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR Read for Guidance

Bard College

Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, and he taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in The New York TimesTLSThe London Times, the GuardianChronicle of Higher Education, and on National Public Radio. Dr. Luzzi’s awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. He is the author of five books and recently created The Virtual Book Club: an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present.

 

 

 

 

Overview

Presidents’ Favorite Books

When Donald Trump was running for President, he announced he wasn’t really much of a reader. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m busier than ever before.” Well, that got us thinking about Presidents who did consider themselves readers: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and a few others. What books did they read, and why? How did literature affect them personally and as leaders? That’s how this class titled “The Presidents’ Book Club” was born.

Award-winning Bard College literature Professor Joseph Luzzi guides audiences through a fascinating “Presidents’ library,” to explore books that shaped some of the most powerful men ever to sit in the Oval Office. He’ll discuss why George Washington was obsessed with a play about a Roman freedom fighter who opposed Julius Caesar; how Thomas Jefferson came to have the largest personal library in the country; what drew Abraham Lincoln to Shakespeare so obsessively (and which Shakespeare play he loved most); which British poet Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorized as a child and read throughout his life, and more.

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