Pete Buttigieg made history yesterday as the first out LGBT+ person to be confirmed as a Cabinet secretary by the Senate. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana is also a Harvard grad, Rhodes scholar and Afghan war vet – who took the U.S. political scene by storm when he ran for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2020.

A dedicated reader, Buttigieg speaks seven languages and taught himself Norwegian just to consume novelist Erlend Loe’s work in its native tongue. Sharing his desert island reading list with NY-based bookstore One Grand, Buttigieg included classics by Joyce and Homer, along with works of historical and political fiction. Find his favorites below, and check out the bookshelves of other prominent politicians right here.

Ulysses by James Joyce (also rec’d by Bret Easton EllisGabriel García Márquez, Irvine Welsh & Jim Morrison)

“The greatest work of modern English literature. It’s known for being complex and difficult, but in a way it’s very democratic: a story about what it is to be human as one middle-class guy goes about one day of his life in Dublin.” -PB

A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas

“It’s a short book, or a long poem, by Dylan Thomas, which achieves the remarkable feat of making me nostalgic about someone else’s childhood. Some of the best writing ever about snow.” -PB

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (also rec’d by Hayao Miyazaki, Meghan Markle, Mr. RogersStevie Nicks & Trevor Noah)

“It’s touching, it’s about innocence and exploration, it’s sad but also uplifting.” -PB

The Odyssey by Homer (also rec’d by Bob Dylan, Jay-Z & Nick Cave)

“Homer’s epic isn’t just a foundational text in Western literature, it also makes me feel connected to my Mediterranean (Maltese) roots. The Maltese island of Gozo, where my people probably originated, claims to be the locale of Calypso’s cave.” -PB

The Quiet American by Graham Greene (also rec’d by Anthony Bourdain & Richard Branson)

“I wrote my thesis on this prophetic Graham Greene novel about the dangers of American involvement in Vietnam, set in the 1950s before most people knew we were operating in Vietnam at all. In a very jaded, British way, Greene points out the dangers of well-intentioned interventions.” -PB

Armageddon Averted by Stephen Kotkin

“I’ve recently returned to this very readable history of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Published soon after 2000, it now seems ahead of its time in pointing out how the seeds of oligarchy were sown through the unmanageable end of Communism and the arrival of capitalism without democracy.” -PB

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

“A murder mystery set in 16th-century Istanbul, this gripping novel is about art and religion, the encounter of East and West, and above all the question of how we deal with modernity.” -PB

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz (also rec’d by Jackie O)

“Part of the Cairo trilogy by Mahfouz, this novel is like Ulysses in its focus (everyday life) but instead of a day covers a family moving through generations. It, too, views politics not through the excitements of politicians but what it means for our lived experience.” -PB

Naive. Super by Erlend Loe

“This is the book that every searching twenty-something needs. The sense of humor is spot on, and the book turned me on to Norwegian literature as a whole, though unfortunately not much of Erlend Loe’s work has been translated.” -PB

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

“A brilliant take on politics through historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell in the time of Henry VIII. And it explores what it means to live by a code when you are at political and personal risk.” -PB
Categories: Politicians