Friday, January 27, 2012
The New York (Mayor’s) Review of Books
So it came as something of a plot twist last week when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, visiting a high school English class in the Bronx, confessed that he was not averse to a spy novel now and again.
“Have any of you ever read ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ by John le Carré?” the mayor, a touch of excitement in his voice, asked a classroom of wide-eyed 11th graders.
The reply came in the form of a deafening silence, but Mr. Bloomberg was unfazed. “I like spy stuff,” he said, then offered praise for another book by Mr. le Carré, “The Honourable Schoolboy”: “It’s 600 pages, it’s mostly description, there is almost nothing that happens. But it’s fascinating!”
Indulging in a tale of make-believe is rare for a time-is-money workaholic whose regular literary diet consists of periodicals (The Economist, The Financial Times, Aviation Week), political histories (“The Power Broker,” by Robert A. Caro), and entrepreneurial bibles (he has been known to hand out “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” by the Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, to friends and colleagues).
Virtually the only other work of fiction publicly endorsed by the mayor has been “Johnny Tremain,” the 1943 patriotic children’s story that Mr. Bloomberg frequently cites as a favorite. His personal library now has several first editions, gifts from friends.
But most of the mayor’s reading material is news and nonfiction, according to aides, colleagues and friends who spoke about his habits. One former colleague, informed that the mayor had admitted to reading a novel, responded in shock: “That’s not the Mike Bloomberg I know.”
When Mr. Bloomberg began planning a run for the mayor’s office, his advisers gave him biographies of Fiorello H. La Guardia and Robert Moses. The mayor is currently reading “On China,” by Henry Kissinger, according to a City Hall spokesman; others said he had enjoyed histories of Prohibition, the Bronx in the 1970s, and World War I aviators.
The mayor likes his iPad, but prefers his books on the printed page. He reads at night and on the road. And in what appears to be a lifelong habit, he often tears out magazine articles that he wants to read later and carries around the torn pages in a folder.