Beach Book Bag

books on a shelf
Time to toss away the suits and real shoes and live in tees and shorts and flip flops for a few weeks. Time for sun and fun and sand and surf. And time to leave Washington and Politics behind. Well … not quite. For a political junkie, vacation is having all that time to read -- really read -- the newspaper and make some headway on the stack of books on the night table.

Packing the book bag, the first to go in is the book that all beltway politicos and media types were diving into after the 2004 election to figure our what the moral values thing was all about: Tom Franks' "What's the Matter With Kansas." It's drift is that liberals let themselves be branded as "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading … Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show" as that anti-Howard Dean ad put it. And the real people of Kansas took a look, bought it and decided to vote Republican.

It wasn't the economy stupid after all. Seems like a good time to go back to it and pair it with Rick Santorum's "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good." Santorum's title is a deliberate paraphrase of Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village," and blames the undermining of the values of the American family on the influence of liberals in academia and the federal government. Santorum is an unabashed social conservative who is trying to get reelected in the blue state of Pennsylvania and then maybe take on Sen. Clinton in 2008.

The next two are books by friends and fellow columnists who have written about their own lives in the context of contemporary history. Tom Oliphant's "Praying for Gil Hodges" is the story of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and how his little family in Manhattan was impacted by the Dodgers World Series win. Oliphant has an endearing way of was of mixing history and biography and, especially for someone who grew up in Brooklyn and spent many Sundays in church hoping to spot Number 14 in a pew, this book is a like going home.

Marjorie Williams, "Woman at the Washington Zoo," won't be published until the fall but the advance galleys look terrific. Williams had one of the sharpest eyes in Washington and a genius for writing about the powerful and pompous characters that dominate Washington. She died this spring of liver cancer at the age of 47. The book is a compilation of some of her best columns augmented by her very clear, powerful and poignant writing about her illness and her wishes for her husband and young children.

Went back and forth about including Bob Woodward's "The Secret Man." After Vanity Fair broke the identity of Mark Felt as Deep Throat what more could there be to say? Except, of course, to answer all those questions about who Deep Throat was and what he revealed to the young reporters that we've been wondering about for 30 years. Might as well tie up all those loose ends.

And, what's vacation without a cook book? "The Pleasures of Slow Cooking." has been on the back burner during a year of Chicken Out and Lean Cuisines. Written by Corry Kummer, the food editor for the Atlantic magazine, it is filed with beautiful pictures and some good essays on the Slow Food movement which is now 65,000 strong. And, it contains over 40 tantalizing recipes. Ah, to have the time (and a break from calorie counting) to try that chicken cacciatore with baked potatoes from the Piedmontese and Alice Waters' caramelized apricot tart!

So it's off to the beach for a few weeks but politics is in the bag!

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for