The Best Political Books We Read in 2013

The books <em>National Journal</em> staff read this year that had the most to say about politics in 2013.

National Journal
National Journal Staff
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National Journal Staff
Dec. 9, 2013, midnight

The “Best of” sea­son is upon us. This year, like last year, we’re of­fer­ing up the polit­ic­al books we loved the most in 2013.

Here they are, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der.

(Far­rar, Straus and Giroux)The Un­wind­ing: An In­ner His­tory of the New Amer­ica

By George Pack­er. Re­com­men­ded by Mar­got Sanger-Katz and Ben Ter­ris

Ben: It’s not very cre­at­ive to pick the Na­tion­al Book Award win­ner as your fa­vor­ite read of the year, but whatever, it’s that good. In his book, Pack­er man­ages to tell count­less stor­ies about the coun­try’s eco­nom­ic trans­form­a­tions from char­ac­ters ac­tu­ally liv­ing through them. I was an Amer­ic­an Stud­ies ma­jor in col­lege, and I feel like I learned as much from this book as any class I took about the shap­ing of the coun­try.


(Henry Holt and Co.)The Love Af­fairs of Nath­aniel P.

By Ad­elle Wald­man. Re­com­men­ded by Adam B. Kush­ner

Adam: One of the most sur­pris­ing things about Ad­elle Wald­man’s first nov­el is that it works even as it ad­vances the second-wave fem­in­ist no­tion that the per­son­al is polit­ic­al. In a less­er writer’s hands, The Love Af­fairs of Nath­aniel P. would be di­dact­ic and mor­al­iz­ing, but Wald­man is broadly sym­path­et­ic to her louche hero, and she does not use him to score points; she doesn’t need to.

Nate, a 30-year-old Brook­lyn writer, re­luct­antly leaves a pretty but un­chal­len­ging girl­friend and even­tu­ally gets to­geth­er with Han­nah, a sens­it­ive, in­tel­li­gent, beau­ti­ful foil — ex­actly the kind of girl­friend an en­lightened boy like him is sup­posed to want. (For the re­cord, he thinks he wants this, too.) Then the fault-find­ing be­gins: Sud­denly he is an­noyed by Han­nah’s over­stuffed closet and oth­er mundane de­tails that make her hu­man. She de­tects his an­noy­ance but, in­creas­ingly ta­cit­urn, he in­sists noth­ing is wrong, deep­en­ing her in­sec­ur­ity by mak­ing her feel crazy and push­ing him away fur­ther. He has in­duced a self-amp­li­fy­ing prob­lem. In this, he is an out­rageously well-ob­served stand-in for a gen­er­a­tion of in­de­cis­ive and con­ceited mil­len­ni­al man-chil­dren. But Wald­man keeps him from be­com­ing a straw man by giv­ing him real emo­tion­al depth: He is self-aware, rue­ful, and still some­how un­able to change. Love Af­fairs is the com­edy of man­ners we need to un­der­stand what ails mod­ern ro­mance.


(Schol­ast­ic Press)The Hun­ger Games Tri­logy

By Su­z­anne Collins. Re­com­men­ded by Emma Anger­er

Emma: Be­cause, ob­vi­ously.


(Touch­stone)En­emies With­in: In­side the NYPD’s Secret Spy­ing Unit and Bin Laden’s Fi­nal Plot

By Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold­man. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Ber­man

Matt: There’s a wan­nabe ter­ror­ist speed­ing to New York and the NYPD has been too overzeal­ous to know what’s com­ing. That’s the ba­sic tick­ing time bomb scen­ario presen­ted by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold­man’s En­emies With­in, a deep, jaw-drop­ping dive in­to the post-9/11 NYPD. Did you know that the NYPD has a Demo­graph­ics Unit, whose re­spons­ib­il­ity is, in part, to track the city’s Muslims? Or that the de­part­ment keeps troves of data on eth­nic groups, just in case a homegrown ter­ror­ist shows up? Or that these in­vas­ive, eth­ic­ally hazy meas­ures have not been proven to dis­rupt a single ter­ror­ist plot?

Gov­ern­ment se­cur­ity over­reach is about more than the NSA. It’s also about po­lice out­side the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment who will do any­thing to pre­vent a ter­ror­ist at­tack, even if what they’re do­ing breaks ba­sic stand­ards of pri­vacy and has no re­cord of suc­cess. No book bet­ter sums up the state of post-9/11 fear.


(Har­per­Collins)The King­dom of New York: Knights, Knaves, Bil­lion­aires and Beau­ties in the City of Big Shots

By The New York Ob­serv­er. Re­com­men­ded by Mar­in Cogan

“There were oth­er pa­pers, but they didn’t seem to be hav­ing as much fun,” writes Peter Ka­plan in the in­tro­duc­tion to The King­dom of New York, a col­lec­tion of the best pieces from The New York Ob­serv­er. After Ka­plan’s death in Novem­ber, at the age of 59, I got to think­ing that if there was one book I would re­com­mend to the writers and read­ers of Wash­ing­ton news, it’d be this one. Ka­plan was not in­ter­ested in merely re­lay­ing te facts, but cov­er­ing his city as “a to­po­graphy of power, with its Man­hat­tan moats and tur­rets, its courts in me­dia, polit­ics, so­ci­ety, its residues of Edith Whar­ton, Wal­ter Winchell, and Wee­gee.” To this day, oth­er pa­pers still aren’t hav­ing as much fun.


(Prin­ceton Uni­versity Press)The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Pres­id­en­tial Elec­tion

By John Sides and Lynn Vavreck. Re­com­men­ded by Steven Shep­ard

Steven: What really mattered in last year’s elec­tions? George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity pro­fess­or John Sides and UCLA pro­fess­or Lynn Vavreck, in a re­mark­ably fast turn­around for an aca­dem­ic work, ap­plied so­cial sci­ence to the de­vel­op­ments of last year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion in The Gamble. It turns out that the events journ­al­ists de­scribed in real time (in­clud­ing this one) wer­en’t as im­port­ant as they were made out to be. And Sides and Vavreck provide an im­port­ant real­ity check that ob­serv­ers should heed be­fore the daily do­ings of 2016 con­sume us all.


(Pen­guin Books)Private Em­pire: Ex­xon­Mobil and Amer­ic­an Power

By Steve Coll. Re­com­men­ded by Mike Mag­n­er

Mike: For any­one in­ter­ested in the polit­ics of en­ergy, spe­cific­ally big oil, I would re­com­mend Private Em­pire: Ex­xon­Mobil and Amer­ic­an Power. It is an in­cred­ibly well-re­searched ex­pos­i­tion of one of the world’s largest and most power­ful cor­por­a­tions and provides tre­mend­ous in­sight in­to how big oil gets its way in Wash­ing­ton, Mo­scow, Riy­adh, and just about every oth­er world cap­it­al. It’s a great read.


(Knopf)Amer­ic­a­nah

By Chi­m­aman­da Ngozi Adi­ch­ie. Re­com­men­ded by Jody Bran­non

Jody: This is an in­sight­ful nov­el about an im­mig­rant — and her ac­cul­tur­a­tion as a Ni­geri­an black to the U.S. and her re­turn home as an Amer­ic­an­ized mem­ber of the bour­geois­ie. The au­thor’s life some­what mir­rors her prot­ag­on­ist, who was in­spired by Obama’s 2008 elec­tion. Oh, and it’s a love story too.


(An­chor)Des­tiny of the Re­pub­lic: A Tale of Mad­ness, Medi­cine and the Murder of a Pres­id­ent

By Can­dice Mil­lard. Re­com­men­ded by Ma­jor Gar­rett

Ma­jor: It a won­drous polit­ic­al book. It ex­plores the rise of a po­ten­tially great Amer­ic­an pres­id­ent (the only to this day elec­ted from the House), the tragedy of a pres­id­ency cut short and the mad­ness of Gar­field’s as­sas­sin. If that were all, it would be enough. But wrapped with­in this saga is a sear­ing ac­count of the era’s back­ward, near-mur­der­ous med­ic­al prac­tices and the hero­ic ef­forts of Al­ex­an­der Gra­ham Bell to save a dy­ing pres­id­ent.


(Put­nam Adult)Wilson

By A. Scott Berg. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Cooper

Matt: It’s ir­res­ist­ible to com­pare Wilson, the last and only New Jer­sey gov­ernor elec­ted pres­id­ent, to a cer­tain Re­pub­lic­an in Trenton. Like Chris Christie, Wilson was a polit­ic­al new­comer when he was elec­ted gov­ernor in 1910 and pres­id­ent just two years later. And while his eru­dite style and an­gu­lar fea­tures couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent than Christie’s spher­ic­al bom­bast, the two each seemed suf­fi­ciently dif­fer­ent from the pols of their day to have na­tion­al ap­peal. As the 100th an­niversary of World War I ap­proaches in 2014, Wilson will garner at­ten­tion for tak­ing Amer­ica to war. But his do­mest­ic re­cord, at once pro­gress­ive (pro­mot­ing the fed­er­al in­come tax, ap­point­ing the first Jew­ish Su­preme Court justice) and re­ac­tion­ary (im­pos­ing se­greg­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton, crack­ing down on civil liber­ties in the name of an­ti­com­mun­ism), is worthy of equal scru­tiny.


(Vin­tage)Go­ing Clear: Sci­ento­logy, Hol­ly­wood, and the Pris­on of Be­lief

By Lawrence Wright. Re­com­men­ded by Bri­an Res­nick

Bri­an: Go­ing Clear is a book about power.

Yes, it is also an ex­pose of a money-flushed, lit­igal-happy or­gan­iz­a­tion as told by the people it has steam­rolled. And yes, there are tan­tal­iz­ing de­tails about John Tra­volta (pos­sibly gay) and Tom Cruise (who may have held au­di­tions for the role of his wife).

But cent­rally, it’s about how one man turned an idea in­to a move­ment, and how that idea — like a new life form — sus­tained it­self, pro­tec­ted it­self, and en­sured its longev­ity. Whatever you think about Sci­ento­logy, Go­ing Clear pro­vokes a power­ful ques­tion: How eas­ily could these dis­ciples of Hub­bard have been me? Be­cause ra­tion­al thoughts fall aside in the face of self af­firm­a­tion. And the power­ful know this im­pli­citly. Lawrence sub­titled the book Sci­ento­logy, Hol­ly­wood, and the Pris­on of Be­lief. Strike out the first two and fill in your own blanks. Be­lief isn’t al­ways ra­tion­al. And therein lies the power.


Who Stole the Amer­ic­an Dream?

By Hedrick Smith. Re­com­men­ded by Chuck Mc­Cutcheon

Chuck: This is a well-re­searched and highly read­able over­view of how the haves and have-nots of today’s eco­nomy came to be. People of all polit­ic­al per­sua­sions should pick it up; it’s full of fas­cin­at­ing stor­ies and does a ter­rif­ic job of ex­plain­ing the in­tric­a­cies of the tax code as well as oth­er con­cepts.


(Little, Brown and Com­pany)And Then We Came to the End

By Joshua Fer­ris. Re­com­men­ded by Lu­cia Graves

Lu­cia: You might ex­pect a nov­el about the hor­rors of work­ing in a Chica­go ad agency dur­ing the im­plo­sion of the dot.com eco­nomy to be small-minded and mean-spir­ited, but Joshua Fer­ris’s nov­el is neither. Writ­ten in the col­lect­ive voice, Fer­ris’s style is ex­pans­ive and funny. There is no bet­ter edu­ca­tion in the strange world of of­fice polit­ics, the cor­por­ate vacu­ous­ness and power grabbing as well as the some­times sur­pris­ing mean­ing and hu­man­ity — ex­cept maybe ex­per­i­ence.


(Doubleday)Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House

By Peter Baker. Re­com­men­ded by Norm Orn­stein and Matt Ber­man

Norm: This is polit­ic­al journ­al­ism and his­tory at its best. A deep, cred­ible, and com­pel­ling ac­count of the Bush pres­id­ency and the re­la­tion­ship between Bush and Cheney.


(Odys­sey Edi­tions)The Polit­ics of Abund­ance: How Tech­no­logy Can Fix the Budget, Re­vive the Amer­ic­an Dream, and Es­tab­lish Obama’s Leg­acy

By Reed Hun­dt and Blair Lev­in. Re­com­men­ded by Norm Orn­stein

Norm: An ab­so­lutely com­pel­ling and thought-pro­vok­ing blue­print for a 21st-cen­tury policy agenda, which, in a bet­ter world, both Obama and Re­pub­lic­ans could em­brace.


(Blue Rider Press)The In­vest­ig­at­or: Fifty Years of Un­cov­er­ing the Truth

By Terry Len­zn­er. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Cooper

Matt: Terry Len­zn­er’s ca­reer has taken him to a re­mark­able num­ber of in­flec­tion points in post-World War II Amer­ica. A Har­vard law­yer, he served in the Justice De­part­ment as an in­vest­ig­at­or in Mis­sis­sippi in 1965, sleep­ing on the floor of his motel and put­ting the mat­tress up against the win­dow lest he get shot. He was on the staff of the Sen­ate Wa­ter­gate Com­mit­tee, helped the Ber­rigan broth­ers’ de­fense dur­ing Vi­et­nam, helped Bill Clin­ton dur­ing im­peach­ment, and worked for Brown & Wil­li­am­son dur­ing the Jef­frey Wig­and af­fair. Along the way, he got fired by Don­ald Rums­feld dur­ing the Nix­on years, and in­vest­ig­ated Prin­cess Di­ana’s death at the be­hest of Dodi Fayed’s fath­er. His last­ing geni­us was cre­at­ing a new kind of firm — a high-end in­vest­ig­at­ive agency mar­ried to the white-col­lar law. Think of it as K Street meets Humphrey Bog­art.


(Uni­versity of Michigan Press)Get­ting Primar­ied: The Chan­ging Polit­ics of Con­gres­sion­al Primary Chal­lenges

By Robert G Boat­right. Re­com­men­ded by Steven Shep­ard

Steven: It might seem like the 2014 elec­tions are 11 months away, but voters will ac­tu­ally be­gin cast­ing their bal­lots in primar­ies in March. A new book from Clark Uni­versity polit­ic­al sci­ence pro­fess­or Robert Boat­right, Get­ting Primar­ied: The Chan­ging Polit­ics of Con­gres­sion­al Primary Chal­lenges (The Uni­versity of Michigan Press), ex­am­ines the past 40 years of con­gres­sion­al primar­ies. Those in­ter­ested in why and how the Ned La­monts, Bill Hal­ters, and Joe Millers of the world can rise to chal­lenge (and in the case of La­mont and Miller, de­feat for nom­in­a­tion) power­ful in­cum­bents should read Boat­right’s book be­fore this year’s primar­ies be­gin in earn­est.

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)<em>The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America</em>

By George Pack­er. Re­com­men­ded by Mar­got Sanger-Katz and Ben Ter­ris

Ben: It’s not very cre­at­ive to pick the Na­tion­al Book Award win­ner as your fa­vor­ite read of the year, but whatever, it’s that good. In his book, Pack­er man­ages to tell count­less stor­ies about the coun­try’s eco­nom­ic trans­form­a­tions from char­ac­ters ac­tu­ally liv­ing through them. I was an Amer­ic­an Stud­ies ma­jor in col­lege, and I feel like I learned as much from this book as any class I took about the shap­ing of the coun­try.


(Henry Holt and Co.)<em>The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.</em>

By Ad­elle Wald­man. Re­com­men­ded by Adam B. Kush­ner

Adam: One of the most sur­pris­ing things about Ad­elle Wald­man’s first nov­el is that it works even as it ad­vances the second-wave fem­in­ist no­tion that the per­son­al is polit­ic­al. In a less­er writer’s hands, The Love Af­fairs of Nath­aniel P. would be di­dact­ic and mor­al­iz­ing, but Wald­man is broadly sym­path­et­ic to her louche hero, and she does not use him to score points; she doesn’t need to.

Nate, a 30-year-old Brook­lyn writer, re­luct­antly leaves a pretty but un­chal­len­ging girl­friend and even­tu­ally gets to­geth­er with Han­nah, a sens­it­ive, in­tel­li­gent, beau­ti­ful foil — ex­actly the kind of girl­friend an en­lightened boy like him is sup­posed to want. (For the re­cord, he thinks he wants this, too.) Then the fault-find­ing be­gins: Sud­denly he is an­noyed by Han­nah’s over­stuffed closet and oth­er mundane de­tails that make her hu­man. She de­tects his an­noy­ance but, in­creas­ingly ta­cit­urn, he in­sists noth­ing is wrong, deep­en­ing her in­sec­ur­ity by mak­ing her feel crazy and push­ing him away fur­ther. He has in­duced a self-amp­li­fy­ing prob­lem. In this, he is an out­rageously well-ob­served stand-in for a gen­er­a­tion of in­de­cis­ive and con­ceited mil­len­ni­al man-chil­dren. But Wald­man keeps him from be­com­ing a straw man by giv­ing him real emo­tion­al depth: He is self-aware, rue­ful, and still some­how un­able to change. Love Af­fairs is the com­edy of man­ners we need to un­der­stand what ails mod­ern ro­mance.


(Scholastic Press)<em>The Hunger Games Trilogy</em>

By Su­z­anne Collins. Re­com­men­ded by Emma Anger­er

Emma: Be­cause, ob­vi­ously.


(Touchstone)<em>Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot</em>

By Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold­man. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Ber­man

Matt: There’s a wan­nabe ter­ror­ist speed­ing to New York and the NYPD has been too overzeal­ous to know what’s com­ing. That’s the ba­sic tick­ing time bomb scen­ario presen­ted by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold­man’s En­emies With­in, a deep, jaw-drop­ping dive in­to the post-9/11 NYPD. Did you know that the NYPD has a Demo­graph­ics Unit, whose re­spons­ib­il­ity is, in part, to track the city’s Muslims? Or that the de­part­ment keeps troves of data on eth­nic groups, just in case a homegrown ter­ror­ist shows up? Or that these in­vas­ive, eth­ic­ally hazy meas­ures have not been proven to dis­rupt a single ter­ror­ist plot?

Gov­ern­ment se­cur­ity over­reach is about more than the NSA. It’s also about po­lice out­side the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment who will do any­thing to pre­vent a ter­ror­ist at­tack, even if what they’re do­ing breaks ba­sic stand­ards of pri­vacy and has no re­cord of suc­cess. No book bet­ter sums up the state of post-9/11 fear.


(HarperCollins)<em>The Kingdom of New York: Knights, Knaves, Billionaires and Beauties in the City of Big Shots</em>

By The New York Ob­serv­er. Re­com­men­ded by Mar­in Cogan

“There were oth­er pa­pers, but they didn’t seem to be hav­ing as much fun,” writes Peter Ka­plan in the in­tro­duc­tion to The King­dom of New York, a col­lec­tion of the best pieces from The New York Ob­serv­er. After Ka­plan’s death in Novem­ber, at the age of 59, I got to think­ing that if there was one book I would re­com­mend to the writers and read­ers of Wash­ing­ton news, it’d be this one. Ka­plan was not in­ter­ested in merely re­lay­ing te facts, but cov­er­ing his city as “a to­po­graphy of power, with its Man­hat­tan moats and tur­rets, its courts in me­dia, polit­ics, so­ci­ety, its residues of Edith Whar­ton, Wal­ter Winchell, and Wee­gee.” To this day, oth­er pa­pers still aren’t hav­ing as much fun.


(Princeton University Press)<em>The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election</em>

By John Sides and Lynn Vavreck. Re­com­men­ded by Steven Shep­ard

Steven: What really mattered in last year’s elec­tions? George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity pro­fess­or John Sides and UCLA pro­fess­or Lynn Vavreck, in a re­mark­ably fast turn­around for an aca­dem­ic work, ap­plied so­cial sci­ence to the de­vel­op­ments of last year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion in The Gamble. It turns out that the events journ­al­ists de­scribed in real time (in­clud­ing this one) wer­en’t as im­port­ant as they were made out to be. And Sides and Vavreck provide an im­port­ant real­ity check that ob­serv­ers should heed be­fore the daily do­ings of 2016 con­sume us all.


(Penguin Books)<em>Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power</em>

By Steve Coll. Re­com­men­ded by Mike Mag­n­er

Mike: For any­one in­ter­ested in the polit­ics of en­ergy, spe­cific­ally big oil, I would re­com­mend Private Em­pire: Ex­xon­Mobil and Amer­ic­an Power. It is an in­cred­ibly well-re­searched ex­pos­i­tion of one of the world’s largest and most power­ful cor­por­a­tions and provides tre­mend­ous in­sight in­to how big oil gets its way in Wash­ing­ton, Mo­scow, Riy­adh, and just about every oth­er world cap­it­al. It’s a great read.


(Knopf)<em>Americanah</em>

By Chi­m­aman­da Ngozi Adi­ch­ie. Re­com­men­ded by Jody Bran­non

Jody: This is an in­sight­ful nov­el about an im­mig­rant — and her ac­cul­tur­a­tion as a Ni­geri­an black to the U.S. and her re­turn home as an Amer­ic­an­ized mem­ber of the bour­geois­ie. The au­thor’s life some­what mir­rors her prot­ag­on­ist, who was in­spired by Obama’s 2008 elec­tion. Oh, and it’s a love story too.


(Anchor)<em>Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President</em>

By Can­dice Mil­lard. Re­com­men­ded by Ma­jor Gar­rett

Ma­jor: It a won­drous polit­ic­al book. It ex­plores the rise of a po­ten­tially great Amer­ic­an pres­id­ent (the only to this day elec­ted from the House), the tragedy of a pres­id­ency cut short and the mad­ness of Gar­field’s as­sas­sin. If that were all, it would be enough. But wrapped with­in this saga is a sear­ing ac­count of the era’s back­ward, near-mur­der­ous med­ic­al prac­tices and the hero­ic ef­forts of Al­ex­an­der Gra­ham Bell to save a dy­ing pres­id­ent.


(Putnam Adult)<em>Wilson</em>

By A. Scott Berg. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Cooper

Matt: It’s ir­res­ist­ible to com­pare Wilson, the last and only New Jer­sey gov­ernor elec­ted pres­id­ent, to a cer­tain Re­pub­lic­an in Trenton. Like Chris Christie, Wilson was a polit­ic­al new­comer when he was elec­ted gov­ernor in 1910 and pres­id­ent just two years later. And while his eru­dite style and an­gu­lar fea­tures couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent than Christie’s spher­ic­al bom­bast, the two each seemed suf­fi­ciently dif­fer­ent from the pols of their day to have na­tion­al ap­peal. As the 100th an­niversary of World War I ap­proaches in 2014, Wilson will garner at­ten­tion for tak­ing Amer­ica to war. But his do­mest­ic re­cord, at once pro­gress­ive (pro­mot­ing the fed­er­al in­come tax, ap­point­ing the first Jew­ish Su­preme Court justice) and re­ac­tion­ary (im­pos­ing se­greg­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton, crack­ing down on civil liber­ties in the name of an­ti­com­mun­ism), is worthy of equal scru­tiny.


(Vintage)<em>Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief</em>

By Lawrence Wright. Re­com­men­ded by Bri­an Res­nick

Bri­an: Go­ing Clear is a book about power.

Yes, it is also an ex­pose of a money-flushed, lit­igal-happy or­gan­iz­a­tion as told by the people it has steam­rolled. And yes, there are tan­tal­iz­ing de­tails about John Tra­volta (pos­sibly gay) and Tom Cruise (who may have held au­di­tions for the role of his wife).

But cent­rally, it’s about how one man turned an idea in­to a move­ment, and how that idea — like a new life form — sus­tained it­self, pro­tec­ted it­self, and en­sured its longev­ity. Whatever you think about Sci­ento­logy, Go­ing Clear pro­vokes a power­ful ques­tion: How eas­ily could these dis­ciples of Hub­bard have been me? Be­cause ra­tion­al thoughts fall aside in the face of self af­firm­a­tion. And the power­ful know this im­pli­citly. Lawrence sub­titled the book Sci­ento­logy, Hol­ly­wood, and the Pris­on of Be­lief. Strike out the first two and fill in your own blanks. Be­lief isn’t al­ways ra­tion­al. And therein lies the power.


<em>Who Stole the American Dream?</em>

By Hedrick Smith. Re­com­men­ded by Chuck Mc­Cutcheon

Chuck: This is a well-re­searched and highly read­able over­view of how the haves and have-nots of today’s eco­nomy came to be. People of all polit­ic­al per­sua­sions should pick it up; it’s full of fas­cin­at­ing stor­ies and does a ter­rif­ic job of ex­plain­ing the in­tric­a­cies of the tax code as well as oth­er con­cepts.


(Little, Brown and Company)<em>And Then We Came to the End</em>

By Joshua Fer­ris. Re­com­men­ded by Lu­cia Graves

Lu­cia: You might ex­pect a nov­el about the hor­rors of work­ing in a Chica­go ad agency dur­ing the im­plo­sion of the dot.com eco­nomy to be small-minded and mean-spir­ited, but Joshua Fer­ris’s nov­el is neither. Writ­ten in the col­lect­ive voice, Fer­ris’s style is ex­pans­ive and funny. There is no bet­ter edu­ca­tion in the strange world of of­fice polit­ics, the cor­por­ate vacu­ous­ness and power grabbing as well as the some­times sur­pris­ing mean­ing and hu­man­ity — ex­cept maybe ex­per­i­ence.


(Doubleday)<em>Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House</em>

By Peter Baker. Re­com­men­ded by Norm Orn­stein and Matt Ber­man

Norm: This is polit­ic­al journ­al­ism and his­tory at its best. A deep, cred­ible, and com­pel­ling ac­count of the Bush pres­id­ency and the re­la­tion­ship between Bush and Cheney.


(Odyssey Editions)<em>The Politics of Abundance: How Technology Can Fix the Budget, Revive the American Dream, and Establish Obama's Legacy</em>

By Reed Hun­dt and Blair Lev­in. Re­com­men­ded by Norm Orn­stein

Norm: An ab­so­lutely com­pel­ling and thought-pro­vok­ing blue­print for a 21st-cen­tury policy agenda, which, in a bet­ter world, both Obama and Re­pub­lic­ans could em­brace.


(Blue Rider Press)<em>The Investigator: Fifty Years of Uncovering the Truth</em>

By Terry Len­zn­er. Re­com­men­ded by Matt Cooper

Matt: Terry Len­zn­er’s ca­reer has taken him to a re­mark­able num­ber of in­flec­tion points in post-World War II Amer­ica. A Har­vard law­yer, he served in the Justice De­part­ment as an in­vest­ig­at­or in Mis­sis­sippi in 1965, sleep­ing on the floor of his motel and put­ting the mat­tress up against the win­dow lest he get shot. He was on the staff of the Sen­ate Wa­ter­gate Com­mit­tee, helped the Ber­rigan broth­ers’ de­fense dur­ing Vi­et­nam, helped Bill Clin­ton dur­ing im­peach­ment, and worked for Brown & Wil­li­am­son dur­ing the Jef­frey Wig­and af­fair. Along the way, he got fired by Don­ald Rums­feld dur­ing the Nix­on years, and in­vest­ig­ated Prin­cess Di­ana’s death at the be­hest of Dodi Fayed’s fath­er. His last­ing geni­us was cre­at­ing a new kind of firm — a high-end in­vest­ig­at­ive agency mar­ried to the white-col­lar law. Think of it as K Street meets Humphrey Bog­art.


(University of Michigan Press)<em>Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Challenges</em>

By Robert G Boat­right. Re­com­men­ded by Steven Shep­ard

Steven: It might seem like the 2014 elec­tions are 11 months away, but voters will ac­tu­ally be­gin cast­ing their bal­lots in primar­ies in March. A new book from Clark Uni­versity polit­ic­al sci­ence pro­fess­or Robert Boat­right, Get­ting Primar­ied: The Chan­ging Polit­ics of Con­gres­sion­al Primary Chal­lenges (The Uni­versity of Michigan Press), ex­am­ines the past 40 years of con­gres­sion­al primar­ies. Those in­ter­ested in why and how the Ned La­monts, Bill Hal­ters, and Joe Millers of the world can rise to chal­lenge (and in the case of La­mont and Miller, de­feat for nom­in­a­tion) power­ful in­cum­bents should read Boat­right’s book be­fore this year’s primar­ies be­gin in earn­est.

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STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

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STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

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STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

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PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

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CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

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