CAPITAL CULTURE: DC readers detour to book index

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Fire up your index finger. It’s time for another Beltway Read.

Readers elsewhere may work their way through a book about politics or government from front to back, but plenty of Washingtonians head straight for the index to look for a few select names _ especially their own.

Norman Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute who insists he really does read a lot of D.C.-related books, says the “index-lookers” may or may not also be table-stackers _ those who buy serious books and stack them, unread, on their coffee tables or bookshelves to look serious themselves.

The latest contemporary history to hit D.C. is journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars.” Its 19-page index will be the first stop for plenty of D.C. readers.

The book was a slow seller at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle when it was released on Monday, but manager Jake Cumsky-Whitlock said he suspected a drizzly morning was keeping readers away.

“All of Woodward’s books do well and this is the first Obama book, so I think we will see sales pick up,” he said.

Cumsky-Whitlock said he’s seen a handful of index-lookers over the years, some of whom have even pointed themselves out to store clerks.

“It’s human nature,” he said. “You want to see yourself and show other people.”

At a Barnes and Noble not far from the White House, 52-year-old Curtis Becks stopped for the book on his way to work.

“I’m a political junkie,” Becks said. For him, the index doesn’t make much of a difference; it’s the author that makes it a must read.

The book’s portrait of White House infighting over the war in Afghanistan is chockablock full of notable names, from Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Robert Gates and Hillary Rodham Clinton on down.

And for every household name _ the folks who have aides to check the index for them _ there are any number of lesser-known figures hoping their own names are there, too. Any mention, positive or negative, can be read as an affirmation of importance.

Excerpts and revelations from the Woodward book started trickling out last week, so official Washington didn’t even wait for the book’s index to start sniping about its revelations and gossipy name-calling.

Tom Mann, a longtime scholar at the Brookings Institution, confessed he’s like a lot of people in Washington _ suffering from information overload.

“I actually read very few of these books of contemporary history,” he e-mailed.

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