Book review: Words of wisdom from a first lady

Book review: Words of wisdom from a first lady

“Pearls of Wisdom” by Barbara Bush [Hachette]

By Mims Cushing for the Florida Times-Union

Book review: A new book collects the wisdom and advice of first lady Barbara Bush.


Author: Barbara Bush

Hachette, 207 pages, $20

Aside from the stellar advice from Mrs. Bush and her myriad relatives and friends, you will read things that you have likely never heard. Did you know that George Bush drove into a garage wall after Laura Bush gave him negative comments about a speech he gave?R

Former First Lady Barbara Bush (1925-2018), known to some as “Bar,” was the mother we all wished we could have been: bawling children out, yes, and then the next minute cuddling them. They adored her, oldest son George W. Bush said. She was the “quintessential good sport,” and stunned one person by picking up after another person’s dog with a pooper scooper. This book shows the playful side of Mrs. Bush. Given several pairs of sneakers of varying colors, she wore different colors on her feet.

“Pearls” is filled with sensible thoughts, such as never buy an expensive lipstick when you can buy a nearly identical one for half the price in a drugstore. This is followed by more lofty goals such as “Don’t put on airs” and “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” Her advice runs from the sensible to the amusing. “Don’t lend your car to anyone you gave birth to or to their offspring.” You will find your favorite pearl, such as perhaps this: “When talking to a person over the age of 70, stop with, ‘You look great.’ Don’t ask them, ‘How are you?’ And don’t let them bore you with their ailments when yours are so much more interesting!”

With Bush, what you saw was what you got. When she spoke in the ’70s at our school fundraiser to talk about her just-published autobiography, a feeling of electricity drew us to her when she walked into the hotel. We instantly loved her.

This book has been beautifully curated using words/writing from many who have taken pains to write about lessons learned from her. Marvin Bush, the Bushes’ fourth son, was taught to be on time, which she always was. It is the height of rudeness, she felt, to keep one waiting. And this: Be yourself. Once she had her hair dyed copper. A few weeks later she was grey again and back to being herself. Marvin says, “We had a front-row seat at one of the greatest love stories that ever existed.” He gives examples of his parents looking at each other like teenagers and was compelled to say, “Enough, you two. Get a room.”

All the proceeds from this book will help to grow the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. It goes on sale Tuesday.

The nuggets of gold herein will make you wish her to still be among us. This book is the next best thing. Mrs. Bush would tell us to “Choose Happy.” She did.

Mims Cushing lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and has written three books.