Pete Buttigieg: TOP TEN BOOKS

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg from Wikicommons

When Pete Buttigieg, who ran for the Democratic ticket for President in 2020, talks about politics he likes to project forward to 2054, when he will be the same age as Donald Trump is today. “I think the most important debates of our time aren’t so much left-right as long-term versus short-term,” he told the podcaster Daniel Pfeiffer recently. “There’s things that we’re doing now that you would just never do if you viewed the state of the world in 2054 as your problem and not somebody else’s.” That’s not the only refreshing perspective that the 38-year old gay Afghan veteran and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, brings to our national politics. He’s also an avid reader, as witness his decision to learn Norwegian in order to read Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe in the original language. As it happens, he can also speak French, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic and Dari, so he can also read Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk—another novel on his desert island list—in the original as well.

Below are Pete Buttigieg’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.



James Joyce
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.
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A Child’s Christmas in Wales

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.
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The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It’s touching, it’s about innocence and exploration, it’s sad but also uplifting.
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The Odyssey

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.
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The Quiet American

Graham Greene
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.
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Armageddon Averted

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.
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My Name Is Red

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.
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Palace Walk

Naguib Mahfouz
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.
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Naive. Super

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.
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Wolf Hall

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.
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