Former Treasury Secretary's Summer Reading Picks

John Snow resigned last month as Secretary of the Treasury. As part of our summer reading series, guest host Don Gonyea talks with Snow about what he's reading in his new-found spare time.

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DON GONYEA, host:

When former Treasury Secretary John Snow resigned from the cabinet last month, he told reporters that he was please to be entering the ranks of the unemployed at a time of strong growth made possible by the president's tax cuts.

As part of our summer reading series, we wondered if Snow has found time, now that he's in the ranks of the unemployed, to settle in with a good book. He was happy to provide his current reading list and welcomed a call at his home.

Mr. Snow, thanks for talking to us.

Mr. JOHN SNOW (Former Treasury Secretary): Delighted to do so, Don.

GONYEA: So I'm looking over your list and noticing a number of books about Abraham Lincoln. What sparked that interest?

Mr. SNOW: Well, I've always had an interest in Lincoln. Then I got Doris Kearns Goodwin's wonderful book, Team of Rivals, led to picking up some other pieces, McPherson's Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, Gary Wills' excellent pieces on Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. And I'm having a fun time going through these books that all have a central theme: the country we know today is fundamentally the creation of Abraham Lincoln.

GONYEA: Tell us what else you're reading.

Mr. SNOW: I've got a wonderful book. It's called Will in the World. It's by a fellow name Stephen Greenblatt. It goes at one of the deep and long-standing questions of literature. Where did this guy, Shakespeare, come from?

GONYEA: Hmm.

Mr. SNOW: How could this young man, without much formal education, become the greatest master of the English language in the history of world? And, you know, there's all this talk over time with, was Shakespeare really Shakespeare? Was he really somebody else? It's puzzled Shakespeare scholars how anybody could know so much. And Greenblatt offers a wonderful hypothesis, anyway, that all during his youth Shakespeare was thinking and absorbing.

And then the thing he placed a lot of stress on is that in the plays themselves, you can go back to things Shakespeare saw and did as a youth, the morality plays, which were the genre of time, and drew upon them. Drew upon experiences, visiting important people. He suggests that Queen Elizabeth may have visited close by and that he observed Queen Elizabeth, and later on played back, through his imagination, enlarged upon that visit. So he didn't need to go to Oxford or Cambridge. He didn't need to know kings and queens in order to write the best prose ever. The most sophisticated prose ever on kings and queens.

GONYEA: I may have to put that on my list.

Mr. SNOW: It is a fabulous book.

GONYEA: Former Secretary of the Treasury John Snow joined us by phone from his home in Virginia. There are lots of summer reading selections on our website at npr.org.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

Mr. SNOW: Hey, thanks, Don.

GONYEA: This is NPR News.

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