Best Books for the 2016 Campaign Season

Best Books for the 2016 Campaign Season

It's been a depressing campaign season. And given the era of politics which I was born into and raised in, I’ve got a fairly low bar for expectations.

JFK was just before my time. My presidential history consists of Johnson (just barely), Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama. The Gen X generation has little to hang its hat on in terms of major accomplishments. While I was born into the era that ushered in legal abortion, we've had to fight tooth and nail to keep it safe and legal. While generations before us successfully lobbied for a women's right to vote, we've sputtered to further equal rights for women—you know, like equal pay—into meaningful action. The politicians that fought for civil rights in the early and mid '60s have witnessed the shameful ineptitude of this era to actually engage and advance those rights, save a few important victories, such as marriage equality. The New Deal of the 30s was largely replaced with the trickle-down economics of the 80s. And while generations past lost multitudes on the battlefield, the sacrifice was meaningful. The wars we fight today are fraught with uncertainty in their very purpose.

It’s been very hard for a very long time to expect much that is good from our country’s leadership.

It wasn't until 2007 that I was inspired by the politics of hope. I'm a sucker for good speeches, and regardless of what anyone may think of President Obama's politics, the man can give a speech that inspires.

And now? I gotta listen to an actual presidential candidate actually defend the size of his penis. In public.

I need to go back to burying my head in a book.

There are plenty of great choices, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. I lean liberal tree hugger left, but never put down smart, purposeful prose. Make a good argument, and I listen. Make a funny one, and I'll laugh. Here are a few of my favorites:


Bring the funny: Why Not Me?: The Inside Story of the Making and the Unmaking of the Franken Presidency by Al Franken (Yes, Sen. Al Franken!)

I read this book when it was first published back in 2000, and it only gets better with time. Follow the "campaign" and subsequent presidency of Al Franken, the first (but probably not the last) to finance his run for office with a phone sex line.


Behind the scenes: Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

An in-depth look at the machinations of two political parties, and how some candidates rise to the top while others sink to the bottom. Loved the behind-the-scenes peek into Hillary's first run, the awkward campaign of Sen. Edwards and the painful downfall of Sen. McCain, practically at the hands of his own party.


Bipartisanship and unicorns are real: The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

At a time when Democrats and Republicans can't agree on whether or not the sky is blue, it was refreshing to read about how this very small, bipartisan group of past and present leaders leaned on one another to guide this country through some very challenging times.


All politics are local: Believer: My 40 Years in Politics by David Axelrod

A reminder that some of the best political battles aren't fought in Washington, D.C. A love letter to a journalistic and political career that began on the streets of Chicago written by someone whose passion helped to propel the politics of hope onward and upward.

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