The First Lady's First Choices

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BROOKS KRAFT FOR TIME

TIME talked to the nation's First Reader about what's she's reading, who she's swapping books with, and why she sometimes has to ask the president to turn off the light and go to sleep. Her report:


CURRENT FAVORITE BOOK
'Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography' by Peter J. Conn Pearl Buck was a very interesting writer. I read "The Good Earth," like everybody else did probably in high school, but there are a lot of things about her that I didn't know. For instance, she started an adoption agency called the Welcome House, which was one of the first agencies that allowed Americans to adopt interracial children from all over the world.

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WHAT SHE LIKES TO READ
I like to read a lot of biography; I read mainly fiction and biography. I just finished "Henry and Clara" by Thomas Mallon, which is a historical fiction about the couple who were in the box at Ford's Theatre with Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd.

I've also read millions of mysteries. I like mysteries, and it's relaxing to read them. I love all of the famous British mystery writers, like Dorothy Sayers. And then I love a lot of American ones, like Mary Willis Walker, who happens to live in Austin.

READING HABITS
I read every day, and I always read every night in bed — for 30 or 40 minutes at the least. I read the newspapers in the morning. We read the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and the Washington Times. I see the Dallas Morning News, which comes over to the West Wing.

WHAT SHE READS FIRST IN THE SUNDAY PAPERS
I read the first section, first, and I read the Outlook or the Week in Review section. I look at the magazines and book reviews in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

TALKING ABOUT BOOKS AND RECOMMENDING BOOKS
I love to recommend books, and I have a number of friends and relatives that I share books with, like my mother-in-law and Lynne Cheney. She [Cheney] has sent me several books. In fact, the reason I read "Henry and Clara" is because she sent me Thomas Mallon's latest book, "Two Moons: A Novel." We also shared "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier. That's a historical fiction about the artist Vermeer. That was one of the most recent, and I did like it a lot. Then I just saw the Vermeer show at the Metropolitan. It was fabulous. I also saw the one that was here [in Washington] about five or six years ago.

HOW SHE CHOOSES THE BOOKS SHE READS
I nearly always have read book reviews. And then bought books from the NYT's book review or some other review list.

ON THE PRESIDENT'S NIGHTSTAND
He reads a lot of history, a lot political biography. We both like mysteries. Every once in awhile we'll share a mystery that we enjoyed. Nathaniel Philbrick, the National Book Award winner, was just here with his book on the Essex, the whaling ship ["In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex"]. That was a book that the president immediately picked up.

MOVIES
I just saw "Shrek." I thought it was very great and I loved the Eddie Murphy donkey. I thought he was very funny. I really liked "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." I saw it a couple of weeks ago at Camp David. That's where we usually see movies. We've seen some here, [at the White House] of course, but we always see them on the weekend when we're at Camp David. I thought it was so beautiful. Even the martial arts part of it was like ballet.

TELEVISION
We watch games on television a lot, usually the Texas Rangers. Of course, we've hosted two Tee-ball games. I was there last Sunday and that was very fun. I've watched "The Antiques Roadshow" a few times, but I'm not a regular watcher. I love "Mystery" on PBS, but I haven't watched it in a long time.

LIGHTS OUT
(She admits that the president often has to tell her to turn out the light at bedtime, but not every night.) Sometimes I have to ask him to turn off the light. It depends on who's sleepiest.