Earlier this week, Chicago magazine scored the first interview with former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich since he began a 14-year prison sentence for more than a dozen federal crimes.
Turns out, one of Blago’s favorite ways to pass the time in the slammer is…reading books. “Most nights, Blagojevich reads until 2 or 3 o’clock, using a tiny book light he bought at the commissary,” David Berstein writes.
And here’s another surprise: he’s actually got pretty good taste.
Man’s Search for Meaning
By Viktor Frankl
Part memoir, part psychological treatise, Frankl’s first-person account of the Holocaust is actually one of my own favorite books. Blagojevich told Chicago magazine he’s read it three times: “Inspired by it, I began to develop ideas about what I could do in the difficult circumstances I found myself in that could help me direct my energies and efforts to use the time I had to pass in prison working toward a worthy goal. Something more than just marking time and getting through the years ahead. Viktor Frankl explained it by writing if you had a ‘why’ to live, you can find the ‘how.’ ”
Strength to Love
By Martin Luther King, Jr.
In her forward, Coretta Scott King says “this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. That insight, luminously conveyed in this classic text, here presented in a new and attractive edition, hints at the personal transformation at the root of social justice.”
By Stephen Ambrose
Yeah, I’m as surprised as you about this one. It’s a 500-page doorstopper about the Lewis and Clark expedition from the author of Band of Brothers. Maybe Blago identifies with Meriwether Lewis, who historians agree was a pretty poor governor.
By Lots of People
Not surprising, considering it’s one of the most popular — and most available — books in prison.
Adam Morgan is the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books and the Southern Review of Books. His essays and criticism have appeared in The Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and elsewhere.