Maybe it's the hard-to-shed habit of a former history professor. Maybe it's just enthusiasm. Or maybe Newt Gingrich thinks if he can get people to read all the books he reads, he can get them to think like him, too.
Whatever the reason, every time the new House speaker gives a speech these days, he suggests books for his listeners to read. Day by day, the Gingrich reading list is growing and becoming more eclectic.For the lover of history, there's James Flexner's biography of George Washington, "Washington: The Indispensable Man."
Worried about welfare reform? Try Marvin Olasky's "The Tragedy of American Compassion."
For those who want to follow the new speaker into the future he talks about with such relish, there's the quick-read version of futurist Alvin Toffler's "The Third Wave." Called "Creating A New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave," it's written by Toffler and his wife, Heidi, with an introduction by Gingrich.
Gingrich often peppers rambling speeches about political life and the cyberspace future with the titles of books he's reading or has read. He has plugged Olasky repeatedly, for instance - most notably on the House floor, in his acceptance speech after being elected speaker.
Sometimes, Gingrich makes it clear he is virtually assigning the books to lawmakers and those on congressional staffs who wish to succeed under his rule.
That's what happened three days after the election, when he gave his first speech as speaker-to-be before the Washington Research Group.
Describing himself as a "conservative futurist," he mentioned two books by Toffler - "The Third Wave" and "Future Shock."
In just about the next breath, he referred to the "Federalist" papers as "I believe the most powerful single doctrine for the leadership of human beings and for their opportunity to pursue happiness." He also threw in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
And then he began listing a host of other books that he would "recommend to all the congressional staffs" - including management guru Peter Drucker's "The Effective Executive," the thinking of quality-control expert W. Edwards Deming and the abbreviated Toff-ler book.
A few weeks later, when the House Republicans chose him as their candidate for speaker at a party caucus, he thanked them by officially assigning the books he had mentioned previously - and more.
"Now, because I am a college teacher, let me say to you that in addition to your two handouts, there are eight documents I want to refer you to during the Christmas break," he began.
He was serious. The "Federalist" papers, for example, were handed out to all freshman House members, along with a book version of the Contract With America, during an orientation luncheon.
The reading list is so well-known in Washington that Trover bookstore, a few blocks from the Capitol, has a "Newt's Reading List" sign on the counter, with piles of the books he keeps mentioning behind it.
`Federalist' at forefront
Newt Gingrich's recommended reading list.
The "Federalist" papers.
The Declaration of Independence.
"Democracy in America," by Alexis de Tocqueville.
"Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave," by Alvin and Heidi Toffler (with an introduction by Gingrich).
"The Effective Executive" by Peter Drucker.
"Working Without a Net: How to Survive and Thrive in Today's High-Risk Business World," by Morris Shectman.
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change," by Stephen Covey.
"Washington: The Indispensable Man," by James T. Flexner.
"Leadership and the Computer: Top Executives Reveal How They Personally Use Computers to Communicate, Coach, Convince, and Compete."
"The Tragedy of American Compassion," by Marvin Olasky.
"The Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith.
"The Other Path," by Hernando DeSoto (in particular, the introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa).
"The Two Cultures," by C.P. Snow
"Keeping America Competitive" by Edward E. Potter and Judith A. Youngman.
"Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" by William Riordan.
"Advise and Consent," by Allen Drury.
"The Last Hurrah" by Edwin O'Connor.
"The Fourth Instinct" by Arianna Huffington.
"The Origins of the American Revolution" and "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" by Gordon Wood.
"America, America" by Elia Kazan.
"Take Back Your Government: A Practical Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work," by Robert Heinlein.
"My Years at General Motors," by Alfred Sloan.
"Building a Community of Citizens: Civil Society in the 21st Century," Don E. Eberly, editor.
"Chimpanzee Politics" by Franz De Waal.