David Petraeus’ Reading Choices: Rudyard Kipling and Ulysses. S. Grant

The savvy general revealed his current reading list in a Meet the Press appearance today, running the gamut from Kipling in India to the history of a predecessor: Ulysses S. Grant.

“Most recently, I’ve been reading about the historiography of Grant, how historians changed their views of Grant over the years,” said General David Petraeus on Meet the Press, instantly sealing his reputation as one of our country’s most cerebral military commanders. He’s got a lighter side, too, though, revealing that he also picked up a biography of writer Rudyard Kipling’s years in India. The Daily Beast breaks down Petraeus’ bedside reading list.

The Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Grant, who was a Civil War general before he took office in the White House, was widely acknowledged to preside over a disastrous presidency from 1869-1877, but over the years his reputation has improved, as Jean Edward Smith details in her bestselling book, Grant. Of course, Petraeus already has a sterling reputation, and some might be wondering whether he’ll make the same move from the battlefield to the White House that Grant did. Asked whether he’d consider the move, Petraeus was adamant, quoting back the (misleading) words of Grant himself: “I am not a politician and I never will be.”

Rudyard Kipling in India

While we can’t say for sure which book about novelist Rudyard Kipling’s years in India General Petraeus was reading, we’re hoping it’s the “brilliant and insightful” Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling. Charles Allen’s narrowly focused biography centers on the “glory” years before 1900, when Kipling returned to England at the age of 35. It was India and his vivid experiences there that provided Kipling with the inspiration for many of his most cherished works, including The Jungle Book and Kim. The Wall Street Journal says the book “offers a vivid and fully rounded picture” of Kipling’s writing apprenticeship. It sounds like great escapist fare for a general stationed not too far from that country, and with a giant weight on his shoulders to boot.

Gen. Petraeus Shares His Reading List on Meet the Press