Most famous people who write books have help. You wrote your new one—Reflections: Life After the White House —by yourself. Why are you so comfortable going it alone?
Because I keep a diary, and I write monthly letters to my close friends and to my surviving brother and my surviving sister-in-law. I’ve been writing like this for a long, long time.
What do you write about?
Well, we went to China when George was the U.S. ambassador. That was exciting, so I wrote in my diary about it. I wrote about moving to West Texas, about leaving my family in Rye, New York, when I was young. I’d never met a Texan until I moved. I’d led a very sheltered life, obviously. I wrote about going to the U.N., when George was there. Whatever we did, I wrote about it. I usually wrote about the funny things that happened to me or who was around at the time. When I go back and read what I’ve written, I realize how much I’ve enjoyed my life.
Do you find it hard to write every day?
It’s easy now that I have a computer. I climb into bed with my laptop and write; then I e-mail the file to my other computer, put it on a disk, and print it out. The pages go to George’s presidential library. They won’t be made public for 25 or 50 years—I forget which, but there’s a provision in my will. The reason is that I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings any more than I’ve already hurt them.
It’s hard to imagine that you’ve been brutally honest enough to hurt someone.
That’s the thing about diaries; they give you a chance to say exactly what you think. I always recommend to parents that they get their children to write in diaries, and then I worry: What if the parents read them? That’s wrong. If you tell a child to write what he feels and then you look at it, it’s unfair. Whatever it is, you don’t need to know it.
You’ve been a great advocate for reading as well. How did you get into it as a kid?
I grew up in a house with no TV and no radio; we didn’t have those distractions. My father worked for the largest publishing