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Nonfiction first

Chris Matthews: Nonfiction first

Despite the demands of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Chris Matthews also writes books, such as “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” and sees all the movies he can. The latter explains why the fast-talking TV host is on the board of the Nantucket Film Festival, which runs Wednesday through Monday. He talks “The West Wing” with Bradley Whitford Thursday at 4 p.m. and Aaron Sorkin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. For ticket information check www.nan tucketfilmfestival.org.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

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MATTHEWS: I just finished Christopher Buckley’s “But Enough About You.” It’s a great collection of his essays, like a travelogue. I’m also just finishing up Rob Lowe’s “Love Life.” I’ve wanted to read his memoir because I’ve met him a few times. It’s great stuff. I also recently read John Wayne’s biography by Scott Eyman, which I loved. I read it in China during the past couple of weeks. Eyman’s book really projected you out West, to places like Durango or Monument Valley.

BOOKS: Do you read memoirs and biographies often?

MATTHEWS: In my library I have shelves on Churchill. He’s my hero. I just finished the third volume in William Manchester’s “The Last Lion.” That volume was finished by Paul Reid after Manchester had a stroke. It has some rippingly good chapters about the fall of France during World War II. The three people I’ll read anything about are John F. Kennedy, Churchill, and Hemingway. I’m about halfway through “Hemingway’s Boat” by Paul Hendrickson, which is good.

BOOKS: How would you describe yourself as a reader?

MATTHEWS: I’m all over the place. I love Graham Greene, Lenny Bruce, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. His journal is spectacular. I think I like first-person accounts, and I’m pretty much a nonfiction reader.

BOOKS: Has that always been the case?

MATTHEWS: I was always into nonfiction. As a young kid I was into Landmark Books, which is a series of books for kids on presidents and other national leaders. I would get them from my grandma at Christmas and birthdays. Some how I got oriented toward national politics early on. When I was growing up in Philadelphia, the first book I checked out of the library was on Alexander the Great. I always remember the smell of that book.

BOOKS: Do you read about film?

MATTHEWS: I know more about movies than anything else other than politics. I go back and forth between a film and the book it was based on, like “Deliverance” by James Dickey. That’s one of my most favorite books. I really liked “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty, which I’ve read a number of times. I read the “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo in Israel in 1971, long before the movie was made. I was stunned by how much better the movie was than the book.

BOOKS: When do you read?

MATTHEWS: Doing a show every night, there’s a lot of work all day. I have to embezzle time. I have to stay up too late and get up too early if I want to read.

BOOKS: Do you have any reading habits?

MATTHEWS: I’m an underliner. I can’t read a book without a pen. I’m looking for quotes that mean something to me. I write on the inside cover about something I’m thinking of writing myself.

BOOKS: How have you changed as a reader over time?

MATTHEWS: I’m getting to be more and more of a reader. It’s so much easier than writing.

BOOKS: Is now the most you’ve ever read?

MATTHEWS: Yes, except when I was in the Peace Corps in Swaziland. When I was in the corps in the ’60s they gave you a book locker. It had 50 or 60 books. A lot of us got into W. Somerset Maugham, such as “The Razor’s Edge.”

BOOKS: Why Maugham?

MATTHEWS: He writes about being out there, of being cut off from your country, which is a great feeling. It’s one thing to travel, but to be out there and be connected to a foreign place, that is something else. There are some books that are perfect when you are overseas, like Maugham’s.

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