Boyd Tonkin: From urban grit to globalisation

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The Independent Online

Since The Wire became holy writ for critics, pundit and even politicians, it has seemed that the Baltimore crime epic's stock could rise no further. But now it emerges that recent novels by the series' chief literary collaborators account for 40 per cent of the President's vacation reading list.

Set respectively in Washington DC and New York, The Way Home by George Pelecanos and Lush Life by Richard Price braid felony, family and community in the streetwise dialogue-driven manner that both authors had mastered long before the call from Wire creator David Simon came. What next: compulsory screenings of each episode under the flag in American schools?

Barack Obama's summer book bag extends its demographic reach with Kent Haruf's novel Plainsong. This gentle slice of rural Colorado life might balance all that urban grit and help make his peace with still-suspicious Middle America.

Of his two non-fiction picks, New York Times guru Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded shows a one-time cheerleader for unfettered globalisation trade down, go green and share a vision of America as moral leader in sustainable development: plenty of Obama mood-music there. And John Adams, David McCullough's massive biography of the second president of the USA (from 1797 to 1801), portrays the most enigmatic of the Founding Fathers. Good reading, perhaps, for a successor more at home with political ambiguity than any other modern president – but Adams' record of support for repressive laws in a time of global tension may give No 44 tips on measures to avoid.

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