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Lawmakers Name Their Favorite Summer Reading Books

We asked senators and representatives what books influenced them during their high school years.

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It's probably safe to say that most people on Capitol Hill weren't spending much time leisure reading during the past few weeks as they tried to pull the nation from the brink of default, but that doesn't mean these lawmakers don't have favorite books.

Like most high schoolers, many lawmakers had to do summer reading in their youth. I asked every senator and select members of the House of Representatives about books that were important to them when they were in high school. Here are answers from the few that were able to take time out of their schedules to respond.

[Check out summer reading tips for teens.]

Sherrod Brown: Grapes of Wrath

The Ohio Democratic senator says John Steinbeck's classic is a "powerful depiction of the struggle for social and economic justice."

Susan Collins: Gone With the Wind; Jane Eyre

The Republican junior senator from Maine says she enjoyed Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. "This is a wonderful, romantic historical novel. It taught me about the Civil War, to supplement the facts I learned in school, and I loved the undaunted spirit of Scarlett O'Hara," she says.

Collins also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. "I loved the story of this 'plain' young woman who triumphs despite cruelty, poverty, and other hardships," she says. Collins is the Senate sponsor of "Read Across America Day," which takes place March 2 of every year. She encourages parents to read to their children for 30 minutes daily. 

Mike Enzi: Hatchet

The Republican speaks to middle school students about Gary Paulsen's survival tale Hatchet. He says he also likes reading books about the West and his home state of Wyoming. 

Mike Johanns: Atlas Shrugged; Siddhartha

The Republican junior senator from Nebraska since 1999 names Ayn Rand's libertarian classic, Atlas Shrugged, and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, about a man's spiritual journey in Nepal during the time of the Buddha, among his favorites. Minnesota Republican Congressman John Kline also mentioned Atlas Shrugged.

[Learn about building a more effective summer learning program.]

Ron Johnson: The Lord of the Rings; The Drifters; Dune

The Wisconsin senator says he loved reading as a high schooler. The Tea Party Republican loved science fiction, including the Dune series and books by Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. He also read collections of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and James Michener's The Drifters. "I read whatever I found interesting," he says.

Tim Johnson: Catcher in the Rye; Huckleberry Finn

The South Dakota Democrat names American classics and still-popular summer reading assignments by J.D. Salinger and Mark Twain as his favorites.

Richard Lugar: The Hardy Boys

The longtime Republican senator from Indiana says he enjoyed reading books in the Hardy Boys series, created by Edward Stratemeyer. He also enjoyed reading biographies.

Jeff Merkley: A Journey to the Center of the Earth

A Democratic senator from Oregon, Merkley loved many of Jules Verne's adventure books. He says A Journey to the Center of the Earth interested him because "the idea of finding a cave that takes you to an unexplored, extraordinary land is just about as exciting a prospect as I can imagine."

Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Pilgrim's Progress

A Republican Congresswoman from Washington, McMorris Rodgers read John Bunyan's 1678 Christian allegory Pilgrim's Progress. It has "life's ups and downs," she says, and highlights "the importance of relationships and people you meet along the journey."

Roger Wicker: All the King's Men; Lord of the Flies

Wicker, a Republican senator from Mississippi, says Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer-winning All the King's Men "is the definitive Southern political novel, dealing with corruption and redemption in the context of power." He also enjoyed William Golding's Lord of the Flies which he says "examines the conflict between good and evil in the absence of the civilizing forces of morality and government."

Not every lawmaker had to read over summer. Republican Senator Jim Risch from Idaho says he didn't have to do summer reading. "There was no such thing at my high school—we were on vacation," he says.

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