What's on your nightstand?: Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.)

What magazines do you read regularly?
Science, The Economist, National Journal, Congressional Quarterly, Science Digest, the Harvard Business Review, Business Week. And all of this I read every week. Time and Newsweek.

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What’s your guilty-pleasure read?

I don’t have any. No, seriously. I’ll occasionally read poetry. But actually, I’m reading a book called Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life [by Jon Kabat-Zinn]. I’m very interested in mindfulness meditation.

What books have most influenced your political philosophy?
The Declaration of Independence, the second paragraph. But also there are a number of biographies, especially [on] Washington, Jefferson and Madison, but also Nelson Mandela and Frederick Douglass. My children’s middle names are Washington and Franklin.Washington’s Crossing [by David Hackett Fischer] is such a great book. Plus there’s this wonderful series of books by the New American Library and it’s the collected critical works of all of the Founders, and I’ve got Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton and Lincoln.

What books about Washington should every member read?
I think Washington’s Crossing, because it talks about [Washington’s] leadership style, but it also shows you the price that people paid to get us here. You read about these people who knew perfectly well that the odds were they were going to end up with a bayonet in them, and they went ahead and did it. And staying out there in the freezing cold. I think those are humbling reads, very, very humbling.

Which author do you most often reference?
Jefferson. Jefferson or Washington.

What are your favorite novels of all time?
I’m a huge fan of Les Miserables. I cried when I finished that book. Man, that Jean Valjean — what a great guy, seriously. I read the unabridged version. I tend to like stories about the underdog and people who turn their lives around. But without a doubt, my single favorite author is Shakespeare, and a lot of it is very politically instructive. Sometimes I feel it’s an appropriate line here: “A plague on both your houses.” [From Romeo and Juliet.]