9 Political Books To Read After ‘Fire and Fury‘
If Michael Wolff’s Trump administration exposé has whetted your appetite, here’s what to pick up next
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Given the bump to its release date and reports of it selling out at midnight sales at bookstores across the country, we’re guessing some of you might have spent the weekend reading Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. And maybe you’re looking for something interesting with which to follow it.
It’s possible that you might want another book delving into abuses of political power. Maybe you’re looking to explore the recent past (or the more distant past) to gain clues about Donald Trump’s ascent from contentious real-estate developer to high office. Or perhaps you’re seeking an antidote for narratives surrounding the Trump White House and would prefer a tale of a more functional administration. Here are some options for your next political read.
Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth by Wayne Barrett
Few reporters captured the unpleasant nature of the politically connected in New York City like the late Wayne Barrett. First published in the early 1990s, Barrett’s biography of Trump offers readers an alternative to Trump’s preferred narrative of himself as a boldly successful corporate figure, and serves as a reminder of the unpleasant aspects of our current President’s earlier days.
American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Nickles by Thomas Keneally
During a 2016 campaign rally, then-candidate Trump infamously boasted that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” The case of Dan Sickles, who killed his wife’s lover, was acquitted, and went on to lead troops for the Union in the Civil War, suggests a bizarre precedent for these remarks. Keneally’s book includes an insider’s look at mid-19th century Washington, and the conflicts and infighting that took place there.
The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageious Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo
Matthew Algeo’s The President is a Sick Man tells the story of a secretive President (in this case, Grover Cleveland) hiding something critical (in this case, a tumor) from the American people and some of his closest advisors, and of the operation and coverup that ensued. A contentious administration, a distrust of the media, and an ominous sense of secrecy: there’s a lot in Algeo’s narrative that will seem more than a little familiar.
Grant by Ron Chernow
Among Ron Chernow’s talents as a biographer is the ability to remind readers of the humanity and contradictions of people who have long since developed larger-than-life reputations. With his recent biography Grant, Chernow examines the contradictions of Ulysses S. Grant, whose life moved from tremendous lows to towering heights. In his review of the book for Slate, David Plotz notes that Grant, during his presidency, “surrounded himself with con artists and rich people.” Some readers may note some contemporary resonances there as well.
The election of Donald Trump offers a host of contradictions that many of us are still unfolding: the gulf between Trump’s populist rhetoric and his own privileged background; his sometimes contentious and sometimes welcoming relationship with other elected Republicans. Those looking for the historic roots of this would do well to examine Before the Storm, the first of three books Rick Perlstein wrote about the birth of contemporary American conservatism.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
For readers seeking a portrait of a more functional Presidential administration, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (the basis for the acclaimed film Lincoln) may be the perfect counterpoint to the fractious infighting seen on an average day’s news. Goodwin’s look at the Lincoln administration examines how Lincoln worked with the men who were also in the running for the Republican nomination in 1860, and how they came to form the core of his cabinet—and thus addressed one of the largest crises faced by the nation.
Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon
In recent years, Thomas Mallon’s fiction has turned to examining the complex personal dynamics within presidential administrations, and the ways in which the proximity to power can alter certain relationships. The focus of this novel is 1986, and the ways those in power addressed the looming end of the Cold War, the AIDS crisis, and other national and international concerns.
Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante
Donald Trump’s rise to national prominence stems directly from his roots as a businessman among the often fractious politics of New York City. If one wants to understand the city’s own complex political history, with crooked politicians and flawed institutions, Luc Sante’s comprehensive Low Life has an abundance of information on the origins and misdeeds of Tammany Hall to get you started.
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen
Look, if you’re already terrified about the current state of American politics, it might behoove you to bring your overall levels of anxiety, in Spinal Tap terms, up to 11. So why not sit down with this detailed look at how Russia’s head of state got his start, moving from relative anonymity at the KGB to becoming one of the most powerful figures on the world stage.