Lord Melbourne by David Cecil
Montrose by John Buchan
Marlborough by Sir Winston Churchill
John Quincy Adams by Samuel Flagg Bemis
The Emergence of Lincoln by Allan Nevins
The Price of Union by Herbert Agar
John C. Calhoun by Margaret L. Coit
Talleyrand by Duff Cooper
Byron in Italy by Peter Quennell
The Red and the Black by M. de Stendhal
From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming
Pilgrim's Way by John Buchan
These were President John F. Kennedy's ten favourite books. Perhaps like me you're taken aback by the presence of two off-trail Buchans and a Fleming. But the list prompted me to look up a few other lists by comparable heads of state and sundry other political figures. Ready?
Margaret Thatcher (described by friends as 'an avid reader') admired, among others Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and "anything by Winston Churchill”. Her favourite historians included Robert Conquest, Andrew Roberts and Norman Stone. Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal was also reportedly a favourite.
Tony Blair cited Treasure Island, Zola's Germinal, The Lord of the Rings and Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Leon Trotsky. Then Walter Scott's Ivanhoe ('a work of genius') and three squirmingly pious choices Jesus was a Jew by Arnold G Fruchtenbaum, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf and Jon Rothschild, and Muhammad by Martin Lings.
In Cameron on Cameron the PM cites Goodbye to All That and David Copperfield, and claims that Graham Greene is his favourite author. All fine - although most of us will recognise them as GCSE set texts. Has he read anything since?
David Milliband (on Desert Island Discs) chose Ulysses, but (and this is unbelievably annoying) did so on the grounds that in such circumstances he"'might get through it". Having your cake and eating it - a solid philistine view, that - a craven recognition that it's the greatest of novels coupled with a crowd-pleasing admission that he's never read it, having more important things to do.
Boris Jonson claims to like Wodehouse. His favourite film is something called Dodgeball starring somebody called Ben Stiller.
Donald Trump? The Bible, of course. It's even better than his second favourite book, but I'm damned if I can bother to type the title of that - it's a book written by Donald Trump, or at leafs published under his name. Od the Good Book he says: “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics,”
Hilary Clinton? The Brothers Karamazov.
Gordon Brown? The Snail and the Whale.
John Major? Trollope's The Small House at Allington
Diane Abbott? Vanity Fair. ("I admire Becky Sharp – she is absolutely unstoppable")
I could go on.