Education Secretary Prefers Summer Escapist Fare

Photo of Margaret Spellings

hide captionU.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' current reading list includes books that span the globe.

Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Education

When U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings gets time to read, she likes to escape reality.

"I get plenty of nonfiction during the workday," Spellings says with a laugh.

The former Texas education lobbyist, who has two daughters, says her busy job doesn't give her much time for pleasure reading. When she does pick up a book, her choices tend to span the globe. From novels set in Afghanistan and North Dakota, to a memoir about travels in Indonesia and India, Spellings says she loves to be "swept away."

Reading and literacy is a cause that's close to Spellings' heart. She works closely with states to implement and enforce the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which aims to bring all U.S. students up to grade level or better in reading and math by 2014.

Her love of fiction started early. As a child, her favorite book was E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. Today when she visits schools, she brings copies of the classic to share.

And she has yet more children's books on her to-read list. If she had all the time in the world, Spellings says that she'd read all the Harry Potter books in order, even though she jokes that she should be reading Shakespere's complete works.

Margaret Spellings' Summer Reading List

Book Cover Image

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia By Elizabeth Gilbert; Paperback, 352 pages; List Price: $15.00

Spellings says that she just finished this novel, which she found "reflective and thought provoking." Gibert's spiritual memoir follows her recovery from a messy divorce as she battles depression and loneliness. Leaving behind all the trappings of the American dream – a career, marriage and country house – Gilbert sets off for Italy, Indonesia and India to find peace. She indulges her senses in Italy, learns how to meditate at an ashram in India and finds balance for her life on the island of Bali.

The Master Butcher's Singing Club By Louise Erdrich; Paperback, 416 pages; List Price: $13.95

Award-winning author Louise Erdrich draws on her German heritage to create a novel whose protagonist, Fidelis, is patterned after her own grandfather. Fidelis returns from WWI, marries his best friend's pregnant widow, Eva, then packs up a set of butcher knives and heads for Argus, North Dakota. He and Eva set up a butcher shop, and he starts a local singing club. The couple meets hardworking Delphine, who has returned to Argus to nurse her ailing father. Erdrich tells the rich stories behind each of her charismatic characters, and weaves in the brutal, hidden dramas behind a host of Argus' townspeople.

A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled Hosseini; Hardcover, 384 pages; List Price: $25.95

Hosseini, lauded for his novel, The Kite Runner follows his debut work with a tale of two Afghan women who survive decades of repression in their home country. Mariam is forced at 15 to marry 40-year-old Rasheed, who beats her when she fails to produce a child. Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, who bonds with Mariam. The women cope with unending war in a society that endorses brutal patriarchal despotism. Spellings, who has visited Afghanistan twice, says Hosseini's "love of his country and passion and regret about what it was and what it became" makes his stories particularly compelling.

Books Featured In This Story

A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

Hardcover, 372 pages | purchase


Purchase Featured Books

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Khaled Hosseini
The Master Butchers Singing Club
The Master Butchers Singing Club

by Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 389 pages | purchase


Purchase Featured Books

  • The Master Butchers Singing Club
  • Louise Erdrich
Eat, Pray, Love
Eat, Pray, Love

One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Paperback, 334 pages | purchase


Purchase Featured Books

  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
  • Elizabeth Gilbert



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