This is the seventh interview for Reader of the Month.
Way back in January, 2000, I registered for a Spanish course at Baylor. Michelle, one of my high school friends and I arrived early. While waiting for class to start, this guy Michelle knew from the previous semester showed up and sat next to us. He introduced himself as Ryan and immediately began talking about what he liked to do. One of his favorite pastimes was reading. Beyond college, I recall one Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend when Ryan sent me home with a copy of Tony Campolo’s Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?. While I still haven’t finished it (Sorry, Ryan), I definitely consider Ryan a reader.
1. What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past year?
This year was a relatively slow year for me as far as reading. That said, I really enjoyed American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic of USA Today. I’m a huge fan of the Supreme Court and biographies so this book was right in my wheelhouse. I had read Biskupic’s book on Justice O’Connor so her book on Justice Scalia was one I had to read.
2. Do you have any quirks when it comes to reading?
Quirks? Well, I don’t have many but those who know me would probably say the most obvious one is that I don’t read fiction. In fact, I haven’t read a work of fiction since I graduated college. I’m not sure I’ve read any fiction that wasn’t specifically required for a class to be honest.
3. What’s on your bookshelf or in your book bag?
I have lots of books on my shelves. If you’re a political/law junkie like me, I’d recommend 5 books. The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration by former high-ranking Bush Justice Department official and current Harvard Law Professor, Jack Goldsmith. It’s great if you want to read about the differing views of the Global War on Terror during the last presidency. Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor by Matthew Latimer is a terrific read. A former Bush White House speechwriter, Latimer started in Washington as a young, idealistic hill staffer who climbs the ladder. After working in the White House, you can see how jaded his view of politics becomes. It’s fascinating and honest. Lastly, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency by Barton Gellman is a must-read for anyone interested in reading about how to leverage power and influence. VP Cheney is the ultimate chess player and master strategist who spent his career outmaneuvering his political rivals.
4. Who supplies your reading material?
I don’t own a kindle or nook and never go to the library. I buy all my books either online at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble stores.
5. What type of reading do you usually enjoy?
My library consists almost of non-fiction books with the vast majority of it being political biographies, law/Supreme Court, political history, economics, foreign policy, or philosophy. In particular, I enjoy reading about how people relate to each other and exploit their personal and professional relationships to achieve their goals. Two books that do this for me are Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel and Rayburn by D.B. Hardeman and Donald Bacon.
6. Who are some authors that you read regardless of anything?
I don’t have any favorite authors. When I’m looking for something new to read, I focus more on the genres that interest me.
7. What’s on your TBR (to be read) list?
Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman is currently in my queue. It profiles 4 of the most influential justices in history who served together at a volatile time in American history. Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley should be a fascinating read. I feel like I don’t know enough about Teddy and hope this book will fill in gaps for me. Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America by Craig Shirley is one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. It’s about one of my favorite presidents and chronicles the last campaign before I was born. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro (famed LBJ biographer) came highly recommended to me. I’m told it’s the ultimate look at how Moses leveraged relationships and exercised political power to build New York City’s infrastructure.
8. Can you recall a book that changed your life? How so?
Changed my life? No. But the first book about the Supreme Court I ever read was Turning Right: The Making of the Rehnquist Supreme Court by David Savage. I read it about 13 years ago and haven’t stopped reading about our nation’s highest court.
9. What was something you enjoyed reading as a child?
I can’t remember any specific book or author from my childhood but every book I checked out, almost without exception, was about whales, sharks, wild cats, or space/stars.
10. Where do you like to read?
I can read magazines almost anywhere. I read books exclusively on my couch.
11. Other than reading, what do you like doing?
I love eating, playing tennis, learning how to golf, and listening to Supreme Court oral arguments online. I also love going on road trips and going to baseball games.
12. Where can we find you online?
I keep up with friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
13. Would you like to make a shout out to any other avid readers that are online?
Not really 🙂
14. How about sharing five random facts about you?
I’m an avid tennis player and participant in a USTA tennis league. I’m am nachos connoisseur; my favorite nachos are probably the Italian nachos at Carino’s. I played clarinet for 8 years when I was younger, 4 of them as a member of the NYC All-City Band where I played at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. If I could travel anywhere, I’d probably go to Italy first. I’ve never been there but the combination of food, history, and culture are compelling. If I won the lottery, I’d go back to school for fun and study law, economics, and history.
15. What do you challenge people to read?
I know I ought to read more fiction. I’m sure one day I’ll find a reason to read it. That said, I challenge everyone to read more non-fiction since I’m probably in the minority as someone who reads only non-fiction. Biographies, specifically, are interesting to me because they usually explore how the subject relates to others and how they make decisions.