What Are President Joe Biden's Favorite Books?

A quest to figure out which books are on the president’s nightstand.

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  • Photo Credit: White House

Though Joe Biden hasn’t recommended his favorite books in the way Barack Obama often did, we’re still confident that he’s one of us—a reader. “What’s your favorite book?” is a common question on the campaign trail, and it’s one that Joe Biden has answered with an oft-cited favorite for politicians: James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Unfortunately, without a curated list from the President himself, we’ve had to do a little digging to determine what his other favorite books might be. Both the classics and books from other Irish authors seem to be likely contenders. Our evidence for this comes from an article in The New Yorker, which cited a speech that Biden peppered with literary references:

As the small crowd munched Delaware-themed hors-d’oeuvres, he began by saying that he felt like Tom Sawyer, listening to people talk at his own funeral [...] Then, at the end, he declared that, just as James Joyce said that Dublin would be written on his heart when he died, so Delaware would be written on his.”

We also have a hunch that President Biden appreciates poetry. Not only did he continue the Democratic tradition of inviting a poet to his inauguration ceremony, a decision that made National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman a household name, he’s also known for his love of Irish poets.

Biden has often referenced Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who famously translated works such as Beowulf. Numerous speeches from Biden have quoted “The Cure at Troy,” a play which Heaney adapted from Sophocles’ Philoctetes 

Biden also enjoys quoting another Irishman, William Butler Yeats. Once, while acknowledging his affinity for Irish poets, Biden stated that his “colleagues always kid me about quoting Irish poets all the time. They think I do it because I’m Irish. I do it because they’re the best poets.”