TODAY | December 20, 2011
>> back now at 8:20 as "today celebrates 2011 ." and this morning the best books for your holiday list. we're pleased to have two avid readers and best-selling authors and they include former president bill clinton . he's the author of "back to work, why we need smart government for a strong economy" and mindy kaling who stars on nbc's "the office" and is the author of "is everyone hanging out without me?" can you believe we're sitting in the presence of the president here this morning?
>> before we actually get to the list of books , let me quickly get your take on how concerned we should be about the stabilization in north korea given the events of kim jong -il's passing?
>> well, i think we should be concerned, but i think the president did the right thing. he called the president of south korea , hillary met with the foreign minister of japan and the foreign minister of south korea and they basically want to do nothing now so that there's no provocation and they have time to sort it out. kim jong -il's son is quite young. when i went there a couple of years ago to bring the two american journalists home, i didn't meet him. so they were grooming him. what you don't want is for the military, which has overwhelming influence, to feel that they have to do something radical to reassert their control. and i just think we ought to let them sort it out and make the argument we've been making now for a long time, which is they ought to give up their nuclear power and selling military technology and let us work with them to grow food and create factories and create broadly shared prosperity.
>> we appreciate your perspective on that. we could go on about that but we do have to get to these books. let's do that. first of all, let's talk about the importance of books. i know you're such an avid reader. why do you think they are a good thing to give someone as a gift?
>> because it makes you think.
>> there you are.
>> it makes you feel and it gives you time where it's intensely personal, but you're completely involved. it's a wonderful sort of way to get away from the helter-skelter of your life and throw yourself into something else, and you can always be growing. when hillary's mom died recently at 92, she was reading this amazing book about what happens to the brain and the psyche if you lose one of your faculties. by the guy that wrote -- oliver sachs . so he's written this new book. my 92-year-old mother-in-law, and she stayed young doing it.
>> so that is what it's really about, keeping your mind open and thriving. mindy, ladies first, let's go down your list. you have your top five includes 1 11-12-63 by stephen king , bossypants by tina fey . lady gaga , a photo book by terry richardson , my father's daughter by gwyneth paltrow and alexander mcqueen , savage beauty a visual feast by andrew bolten.
>> i'd love to read them.
>> mindy, let's ask you about bossypants because that's the book you really would put on the top of the list.
>> well, tina fey is the funniest person, i think, that i know. she's so funny, the book is so inspirational. it's part memoir and off her work on "saturday night live." to be a writer, performer, comedian on nbc, it behooves me to read a book like that.
>> i bet she loves that you read that and looked at president clinton .
>> you like comedy, so yeah.
>> i think she is so funny.
>> let's go to your list, president clinton . your top choices include in order jerusalem, a biography of a city by simon montefiore , lincoln, which is a prize-winning portrait by david herbert donald . meditations, a spiritual journal by marcus aurelius , the way of the world by david fromkin and the cure at troy, which is a hero's tale, by seamus henley. i don't know if i get all that correctly out, but i feel smarter.
>> i didn't see his list when i made my list. marcus aurelius is one of your favorite authors.
>> you read this every year?
>> mm-hmm. and it's short. you can read it, it doesn't take long. the thing about marcus aurelius , he was deeply spiritual and understood that life required balance. and that's really important in the world we live in today. as an emperor he had absolute power , and this book is in part about the things he wouldn't do. and that's really important. you know, we're having a presidential election and one of the things i look at, every time an election comes along, i think about things that you could do that you wouldn't do. you know, i thought about it when i was president, when i had options a, b and c, are there any i think i shouldn't do and i wouldn't do.
>> we're out of time. i hope you stick around because i never have enough time