Donald Trump’s bragging is so incessant and over the top that you might start to think he believes his own bullshit.
But in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, he draws back the curtain a bit and reveals that’s not quite true.
"A little hyperbole never hurts," he writes. "People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion."
Passages like this, in which Trump demonstrates some semblance of self-awareness, are few and far between in his 12 books on politics and business.
But every so often they do turn up, and when they do, they provide a refreshing break from the boasting that fills the rest of his pages.
Trump: "Not true" that "I would be a success at everything"
Take this shockingly humble admission from Trump’s 2007 book Think Big and Kick Ass: "People tell me that I would be a success at anything. However, that is not true," Trump writes. "I am primarily a builder, and then got a little lucky on TV. I’m a TV personality."
He continues: "These are some of the things I can do, and I put an enormous amount of passion into doing them well, but there are many things I cannot do." He adds:
In real life there are some things that you just cannot do. People who tell their children that they can do anything they want are being unrealistic; some things are just not possible. Yet you do not want to discourage them. The trick is to be a skeptical optimist and to pick your battles. When you think you can win, go full-steam ahead and never quit, but also realize your limitations.
Sure, Trump has a low bar here, but for a book called Think Big and Kick Ass, this is some refreshing real talk.
Trump honestly explains how he manipulates the media
Elsewhere, Trump is pretty straightforward about the fact that he is deliberately constructing a certain image of himself — selling an exaggerated, outrageous caricature to the media to get attention.
"One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that," he writes in The Art of the Deal.
Indeed, Trump revisited this point during a campaign rally last September. With similar bluntness, he freely admitted that his vast success at getting media coverage has absolutely nothing to do with his substantive ideas:
I’ll be honest with you. It's a simple formula in entertainment and television. If you get good ratings — if you get good ratings — and these aren’t good, these are monster — then you'll be on all the time, even if you have nothing to say.
If you come up with a cure for a major, major horrendous disease and if you don`t get ratings, they won`t bother even reporting it. It’s very simple business. Very simple.
Trump: "I am the creator of my own comic book"
Finally, in his 2004 book How to Get Rich, he even went meta about how he’s constructed his life to resemble a "cartoon" or "comic book."
"I’ve read stories in which I’m described as a cartoon," he writes. "A comic book version of the big-city business mogul with the gorgeous girlfriend and the private plane and the personal golf course and the penthouse apartment with marble floors and gold bathroom fixtures."
Those stories aren’t exaggerated, Trump said. They’re real, based off an image and a lifestyle he’s deliberately designed.
"My cartoon is real," he writes. "I am the creator of my own comic book, and I love living in it."
And maybe by January 2017, 300 million Americans will be living in it too.