Summer Reading

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Last year, it was Eat, Pray, Love, a "travelogue of spiritual seeking." This year, it's Vets Under Seige and What Happened, apparently. According to a new article in Publishers Weekly, political books have become incredibly popular. Summer reading favorites, even. That's hard for me to get my head around, but the sales figures don't lie. Many books about the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and global warming have initial print runs between 30,000 and 1 million copies. Hello, bestseller lists! If you're taking political books to the beach this year, we want to hear from you. Which are your favorites? Have you given up on fiction? (Don't feel like you have to give us contemporary examples. Anything goes!) To get started, check out these recommendations, from NPR's political team.

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OK, I'm biased, but my favorite political book is the biography of rabble-rousing, behind-the-scenes kingmaker Philip Burton, the legendary Congressman from San Francisco who was the political mentor of S.F. Mayor Willie Brown, Congressman George Miller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was written by my late husband John Jacobs, former political editor for McClatchy Newspapers, and it's a great read--even for someone like me who is more an earth mother-type than political junkie. Published by University of California Press.

Sent by Carol Brydolf | 3:13 PM | 6-17-2008

Do not miss Garry Wills, "Head and Heart - American Christianities!" The early chapters lay the groundwork for an expose of the Bush Administration's manipulation of today's conservative Christians in the final chapters. Must reading for thinking evanelicals.

Sent by John Baum | 3:20 PM | 6-17-2008

Read Blackwater, The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, now in paperbook. Around half our "troops" in Iraq are private, corporate soldiers paid much more than regular army. They are often foreign soldiers and are not under our military rule. Now, this hard right wing, "Christian" corporation has opened a training branch in San Diego very near the Mexican border and are expected to control immigration with a heavy hand.

Sent by Dorothy Knable | 3:26 PM | 6-17-2008

If you don't know anything about the Middle East, I can highly recommend Robin Wright's "Dreams and Shadows." She has lived in that area for many years and knows everybody, at the top and at the bottom.

Sent by Peggy Prichett | 3:27 PM | 6-17-2008

I didn't realize the Liberal Book Club was having its meeting on ToN today!

Sent by Ryan | 3:37 PM | 6-17-2008

The "must read" not just on politics, but on the very survival of our democracy is Naomi Wolf's "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot."

She wrote the book in response to her friend who was the daughter of a Hollocaust survivor, comments about all the restrictions of the current administration on our liberties. Her friend kept saying "that's what Hitler did."

She outlines eleven steps to fascism and where the U.S. stands in relationship in the destruction of our democracy.

It's a chilling, but revealing read.

I think we get tied up in the Roman Circus aspect of our electoral politics. We need to dig deeper. Read Naomi Wolf!

Sent by Sarah Smith Redmond | 3:40 PM | 6-17-2008

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's book, "A Time to Fight" for political & economic insights in and unvarnished look at both political parties from a warrior-thinker.

Sent by Ed Mauel (pronounced "mall") | 3:41 PM | 6-17-2008

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin R. C. Gutzman, Kevin Raeder Gutzman

This book is a must read for anyone interested in how we got here from our forefathers to present. How the current government has manipulated and twisted the constitution around to a point if our forefathers would know how this country has turned out would be rolling in their graves.

Sent by Brian Gray | 3:44 PM | 6-17-2008

For those interested real health care reform I recommend "Overtreated" by Shannon Brownlee which talks about how the medical industrial complex profits by pushing volumes of expensive treatment over quality medical care. She also talks about how healthcare reform can benefit from what VA hospitals have learned over the years.

A second fast and provocative read is "The Health Care Fix" by Lawrence Kotlikoff which offers an interesting approach to universal health insurance using health history adjusted tax credits/vouchers.

All the current candidate proposals do nothing to reform the waste or improve quality healthcare but simply seek to get everyone "insured".

Sent by Rick Evans | 3:44 PM | 6-17-2008

Primary Colors by "Joe Klein" still is a great and enjoyable read. Remarkably relevant right now, as well.

Sent by Justin Johnson | 4:06 PM | 6-17-2008

As far as political fiction is concerned, when I was 16, I read Allen Drury's Advise and Consent and absolutely loved it. I had the feeling I was being exposed to "real" political life, and I felt quite sophisticated as I read it. I am almost afraid to read the book now, for fear it will destroy the charm of memory.

Sent by David Lang | 5:06 PM | 6-17-2008

"Jesus would vote for a Black President" by Peter Opa.
We've been told America is a Christian country. Yet, we've all heard the misguided assumption that "America is not ready for a black president." In a country of racial diversity like the U.S., leadership must transcend race. Jesus Christ is not prejudiced. Therefore, denying votes to somebody because of their skin color (or sex) raises serious questions about American Christianity. If (white) Christians are so prejudiced against the black man in America, why do they send bibles and missionaries to preach the love of God in Africa? America is not ready for a black president, but is ready to share her Jesus with Africans? Christians would not vote for a black president, but would share communion with black people? How about if, in response to the prayer for a "God-fearing" president, God chooses a black person to lead the country? Dealing with these issues in a way that will move America forward and salvage her image are the thrust of this book.
A must read for everyone who is at all interested in how and why we choose candidates.

Sent by Karuna Gerstein | 5:32 PM | 6-17-2008

"The Revolution: A Manifesto" by Ron Paul

In this book Ron Paul concisely speaks about the key issues that compelled him into the 2008 presidential race. Dr. Paul touches on issues such as the constitution, national sovereignty, non-interventionist foreign policy, monetary policy, the federal reserve, civil liberties and respect for the rule of law.

Sent by Jake in Salt Lake | 6:38 PM | 6-17-2008

I will second Sarah Smith Redmond's recommendation of Naomi Wolf's "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot."

At times I found her 'reaching' a bit far, but overall she left me a disturbed reader.

We will be a long time recovering from the last 8 years.

Sent by John Baum | 9:01 PM | 6-17-2008

Two good books on the edges of politics are "The Place to Be" by Roger Mudd (detailing CBS' political news coverage in the 1960s and 70s) and "God in the White House" by Randall Balmer (looking at how faith has interacted with the presidency from Kennedy to GWB).

Sent by Adam | 9:53 PM | 6-17-2008

Naomi Klein. Very topical, well-written, and excellently researched books. Agree with her or not, Klein's books are very thought provoking.

Sent by syd | 12:39 AM | 6-18-2008

I know that it is probably a little outdated, but I have just discovered The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. I suggest it for summer reading because it is extremely well-written and it reads like a novel even though it is packed with detail.

Sent by Mia Girard | 5:11 AM | 6-18-2008

I have just read the most imformative book on politics I ever came acrossed. It is "Requiem for Modern Politics" by William Ophul. It will both challenge your assumptions and answer your questions.

Sent by George Ross | 10:46 AM | 6-18-2008

"The Bush League of Nations: The Coalition of the Unwilling, the Bullied and the Bribed: The GOP's War on Iraq and America" by James A. Swanson ISBN 978-1438211954 is a 2008 self-published sleeper that hits hard and accurately - writing about the impact of the Bush presidency in completely destroying the reputation of the United States worldwide, and in transforming what the GOP party once stood for - a powerful and unique tome on evil and unrestrained power.
Swanson's appalled at the Christian Reich's neo-Jesus: Pro-War and Pro-Rich.

Sent by Michael L. Baird | 9:01 PM | 6-18-2008

I am surprised that so few people mentioned "All the King's Men," which truly is one the the great political books. Another worthy book is Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. Caro's biograpphies of L7yndon Johnson is terrific. And, the best of all, Atlas Shrugged.

Sent by Lewis Kapner | 11:04 AM | 8-21-2008