Reagan reading list: 'Coolidge' to 'Hondo'

Like any resident of the White House, President Reagan has his frustrations, and they do not all concern weighty affairs of state. One of them is the lack of time for reading.

''He complains that he doesn't have time to read for enjoyment,'' a close aide says. ''He once said, 'My mother told me that I'd never be lonely if I liked to read.' ''

Mostly, Mr. Reagan is said to like nonfiction, including biographies and works on foreign policy and economics. Among the books he has read recently or is reading are ''The Africans'' by David Lamb, ''For Self and Country'' by Rick Eilert, ''Coolidge and the Historians'' by Thomas Silver, and ''The Third World War'' by Gen. Sir John Hackett. The one item of fiction on the list that the President scribbled down for the Monitor is ''Hondo,'' a Western adventure novel by Louis L'Amour.

Apparently Reagan has always had difficulty carving out time for reading while in public office. In an interview with a Monitor reporter during the 1980 campaign he said that he had been a ''voracious reader'' as a youngster, but that because of all the reports and memorandums he had to read while governor of California, it had been ''a long time'' since he had been able to sit down and enjoy a book.

Of late the President has been working a more normal schedule, aides say. During the intense days following the bombing of the US marines in Lebanon and the US invasion of Grenada, he was involved around the clock and had only sporadic periods of sleep.

This week, after Christmas in Washington, the Reagans are in southern California. They will spend the New Year holiday at the home of businessman Walter Annenberg.

What ism a ''normal'' schedule?

According to the aide, the President gets into the office at 8:45 a.m. Each morning he has a meeting with Counselor Edwin Meese and Chief of Staff James Baker. He is also given a National Security Council briefing. He has about one hour a day alone in the Oval Office and the rest of the time is scheduled with meetings. His official day runs to about 6 p.m., says the aide, and he spends about three hours at the residence in the evening doing paper work, working on speeches, and preparing for the next day.

In addition to stacks of official material, the President reads a number of newspapers. Every day, the aide says, he receives nine newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times. The others are regional newspapers and are changed every two weeks. Each afternoon the New York Daily News and New York Post are delivered to him. He also receives a daily press summary.

Early in Reagan's term, his aides tried to set aside Wednesday afternoons for horseback riding or other relaxation. But this ''has not worked out,'' the official says. ''If we give him any time he goes back and works at the residence. The only riding he does has been at Camp David, but he hasn't done that for a long time.''

Recently the President stirred public interest by his article on ''How to Stay Fit,'' published in Parade magazine. In it Mr. Reagan described the physical work he does at his ranch, the benefits of horseback riding, and his eating habits.He also detailed his afternoon exercise in a gym set up on the second floor of the White House - a routine that began after the assassination attempt against him. He said his program consisted of 10 minutes of warm-up calisthenics and 15 minutes of workout on the exercise machines.

''Why don't you get out there and enjoy some exercise yourself?'' the President urged his readers. ''If all of us do, America will be in better shape, too.''

The President enjoys watching movies at Camp David on Saturday evening. Every third time or so, says the aide, he asks for such ''oldies'' as ''A Star Is Born,'' or ''Knute Rockne - All-American.''

After three years in office, Reagan is described as feeling ''more comfortable'' in the presidency. It took him a while to feel at ease and confident. One reason for this, the aide suggests, is Reagan's sense of respect for the Oval Office.

This shows up in his demeanor and unwillingness to slight the office in any way. The aide relates that one steamy day last August, it was suggested that the President take his jacket off in the Oval Office.

''He wouldn't do it,'' the aide says. ''He feels that one of his responsibilities is to bring pride back to the White House.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.