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Congressional Bookworms Open Up to C-SPAN

Prefer your C-SPAN coverage a little less combative than vitriolic one-minutes or partisan committee hearings? Then tune that dial over to Book TV’s “Summer Reading” series, a literary love-fest that’s got lawmakers gushing about their favorite page-turners.  


Senior Executive Producer Peter Slen told HOH the quick-hit segments — all prompted by the interrogatory softball, “What are you reading this summer?” — used to focus on Washingtonians from all walks of life. But the team decided to bear down on elected officials this year, and has, to his delight, received an enthusiastic response.  

“It’s been difficult, time-consuming and effective,” Slen said of the dozens of interviews conducted with pols on both sides of the aisle. Per Slen, Team C-SPAN typically arranges one-on-one chats in private offices with those most eager to chat about the must-reads that have been occupying their free time. He’s opening up the process Wednesday by camping out from noon to 3 p.m. in Statuary Hall in the hopes of catching up with additional folks.  

Some of the more ravenous bibliophiles ticked off some of what they’ve recently digested:  

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly , D-Va.:

  • “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson,
  • “The Illustrious Dead” by Stephan Talty (travails of the Napoleonic army),
  • “Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War” by childhood friend/historian Elizabeth R. Varon,
  • “Thomas Cromwell” by Tracy Borman,
  • “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts (“It is a stupendous read. And very accessible,” Connolly asserted.),
  • “Wilson” by A. Scott Berg,
  • “Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace” by Lawrence Wright (all about the Camp David peace accord),
  • “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson,
  • “Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero” by James Romm.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill.:

  • “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown (“Which I recommend,” he told Book TV.),
  • “Dead Wake,”
  • “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette ” by Hampton Sides (He said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid recommended this one.),
  • “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr,
  • “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan,
  • “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Sen. Dan Coats , R-Ind., who said he’s got different reading material reserved for each facet (home, D.C. or traveling) of his transient lifestyle:

  • “All the Light We Cannot See,” the latest installment of the “The Last Lion” by William Manchester and Paul Reid,
  • “America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder” by Bret Stephens.

Next up for Coats? “The Boys in the Boat,” “Dead Wake” and “World Gone By” by Dennis Lehane. “I try to work in a murder mystery,” he said .  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., who demonstrated a super wonky list he is poring over:

  • “The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States, 1783-1789” by Edward J. Larson,
  • “When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys” by Thomas Maier,
  • “America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union” by Fergus M. Bordewich.

“We’d love to get 535 of them,” Slen said of his desire to pick every congressman’s brain for novel suggestions.  

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