When The Wall Street Journal asked a range of celebrities, politicians and public policy experts to mention their favorite books of 2018, one Louisianan, Mitch Landrieu, was among the contributors.
Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans, was in high company. Other book readers recruited by WSJ to share their thoughts included former secretary of state George Schultz, supermodel Giselle Bundchen, retired race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and bestselling author Susan Orlean.
Landrieu, a Democrat, has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2020. Whether Landrieu will run for the White House is unclear, but the list of recent reading he provided to The Journal seemed like something an aspiring candidate would highlight. It included volumes on domestic affairs, national security and the Middle East.
Landrieu first mentioned “Our Towns,” in which authors James and Deborah Fallows discuss the ways that local communities across the nation are solving practical problems, emphasizing pragmatism over politics. “I’m a firm believer that our country is far more united than we see in the media right now,” said Landrieu, citing the Fallows’ book as hopeful evidence. “Having spent the last eight years of my 30-year career in local government, I know that our cities and towns – large and small, red and blue – are the laboratories of innovation and change that our country needs to look to right now in this time of dysfunction in Washington. New Orleans, which I was honored to serve, is one of those places.”
Ironically, Landrieu is identified in WSJ as the author of “In the Shadow of Statues,” his account of an issue in New Orleans that was something less than a kumbaya moment in local governance. The book recounts Landrieu’s controversial and ultimately successful push to remove several prominent New Orleans monuments linked to the Confederacy. The extended debate prompted by Landrieu’s move was a reminder that the nation’s culture wars and political divisions aren’t simply a Washington, D.C. phenomenon.
Landrieu also touted “City of a Million Dreams,” local author Jason Berry’s new history of New Orleans; “The Perfect Weapon,” David Sanger’s look at cyber security; and “My Promised Land,” in which Ari Shavit reflects on the challenges facing Israel.
Landrieu’s presence in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, a conservative newspaper, could bolster his appeal to the political center. Regardless of how it might help boost his profile, we welcome the prospect of public figures talking about books, however fleetingly. It’s a nice respite from the usual chatter that dominates public discourse these days, and, at its best, a reminder of what we have in common.