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The Fix's list of best political books

Last week we asked Fixistas for their recommendations for their favorite political fiction and non fiction -- and boy did you guys respond.

Ideas came pouring in via the Fix comments section, our "Live Fix" chat and email. We've done our best to aggregate them all below but, if we missed any, feel free to add them in the comments section. (Our fiction list is a little light so we'd welcome suggestions.)

The most recommended piece of political fiction was "The Last Hurrah" by Edwin O'Connor while Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" took the prize on the non fiction side.

If you have a political junkie in your family -- or you are one yourself -- bookmark this post; it is a ideas factory for birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah for years to come!

One caveat: These recommendations are made by and for Fixistas. If you don't like a title on this list, don't blame us!

FICTION
"Jack Gance" by Ward Just
"The Wanting of Levine" by Michael Halberstam
"The People's Choice" by Jeff Greenfield
"The Last Hurrah" by Edwin O'Connor
"The Shad Treatment" by Garrett Epps
"The Woody" by Peter Lefcourt
"The Ninth Wave" by Eugene Burdick
"Advise and Consent" by Allen Drury
"The Gay Place" by William Brammer
"Seven Days in May" by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey
"Lincoln" by Gore Vidal

NON FICTION
"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro
"The Survivor: Bill Clinton In the White House" By John F. Harris
"The Politicos" by Matthew Josephson
"Politician" by Ronnie Dugger
"Rules for Radicals" by Saul Alinsky
"City for Sale" by Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett
"Who Governs" by Robert Dahl

NON FICTION (Cont.)
"Boys on the Bus" by Tim Crouse
"The Prince" by Machiavelli
"Huey Long" by T. Harry Williams
"Earl of Louisiana" by A.J. Liebling
"Southern Politics in State and Nation" by V.O. Key
"The Ambition and the Power" by John M. Barry
"Hardball" by Chris Matthews
"The Power Game" by Hedrick Smith
"Man of the House" by Tip O'Neill
"Nixonland" by Rick Perlstein
"The Selling of the President" by Joe McGinnis
"What I Saw at the Revolution" by Peggy Noonan
"Enduring Revolution" by Major Garrett
"Boss" by Mike Royko
"Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater" by John Brady
"Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms" by Ed Rollins
"RFK" by Jack Newfield
"Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
"Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" by Hunter S. Thompson
"When Hell Froze Over" by Dwayne Yancey
"The Making of the President 1960" by Teddy White
"Path to Power"/"Means of Ascent"/ "Master of the Senate" by Robert Caro
"The Future of American Politics" by Samuel Lubell
"The Real Majority: The Classic Examination of the American Electorate" by Ben Wattenberg and Richard Scammon.
"Conscience of a Conservative" by Barry Goldwater
"The Last Hayride" by John Maginnis
"Politics Lost" by Joe Klein
"Marathon" by Jules Witcover
"Truman" by David McCullough
"President Reagan: The Role Of A Lifetime" By Lou Cannon
"The Best and the Brightest" by David Halbertsam
"Wallace" by Marshall Frady
"Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald
"1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country" by James Chace

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 3, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Notes  
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Comments

How could you ignore my previous recommendation of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" for your fiction list just as the American people are beginning to shrug off the burdens of big government and redistribution of wealth.

Posted by: genanna | February 5, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Best Book on Presidential:

What it Takes

Best Book on House:

The Ambition and the Power

Best Book on Senate:

Master of the Senate

Best Book of all time politics wise:

Master of the Senate

Posted by: scanman1722 | February 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Good list and I'm late to teh party. Glad to see Jeff Greenfield's "The People's Choice" there.

I'd also add "America America" by Ethan Canin. Not always realistic on the details of political life, but profoundly thoughtful about its larger meaning.

Posted by: billmcg1 | February 4, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Some think that our founding fathers and the supreme court justices are beyond politics. But of course they were and are political. That's why I note these books:
The Declaration of Independence by Carl Becker, Jr.
The Nine by Jeffrey Tubin
Sorry if the authors' names are not spelled correctly.

Posted by: MikeK3 | February 4, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that two books by Thomas Frank, What's The Matter With Kansas, and The Wrecking Crew are not on the list of political non-fiction. Actually, I wish that they were fiction, but the scary truth is the reality of the theme's of both books.

Posted by: nobogey4 | February 4, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

That's a very good list and I liked the winners but I'm amazed that Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin did not make the list. It is the best book I've read in some time.

Posted by: Tomhowarth | February 4, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"Liberals are moral relativists, which is kind of like a fashion or a fad. When it is popular to be 1 thing, they like that thing, but that can change with the wind."

That's simply not true, Mike. Have you ever talked with a liberal friend? Then again, you stated below that no liberal can be a true friend, so I wouldn't exactly want to be a friend, true or otherwise, with someone who holds me in such contempt.

"Only those who believe in objective morality can claim to be anyone's true friend. If Hitler's Germany was full of moral objectivists, they would not have slaughtered the Jews. Only the moral relativist can justify, or even tolerate, such an act."

Anti-semitism has little to do with liberal vs. conservative. Listen to C-SPAN sometime when Middle East policy comes up. There are frequent, ugly comments coming from both the left and the right. I await any substantiating quote from a liberal who justifies the Holocaust.

"I urge you to think before making tired, trite, talking points. They're not only poorly thought out, they're boring."

I would co-sign that statement. Then again, I consider the argument that liberals have no values to be one such talking point.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 4, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

That's a very good list and I liked the winners but I'm amazed that Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin did not make the list. It is the best book I've read in some time.

Posted by: Tomhowarth | February 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Looking for fiction, you must add "Night at Camp David" by Fletcher Knebel. It's much better, I think, than his "Seven Days in May", penned with Charles Bailey.

As for non-fiction, I repeat my nominee "How the Good Guys Finally Won" by master story-teller, Jimmy Breslin. It tells the inside story, both the pols and the otherwise nameless worker bees, of the House and House Judiciary Committee in the Watergate impeachment summer. A thriller, even though you know how it turns out.

Posted by: kjff | February 4, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Add to the fiction list RIchard Condon's "The Manchurian Candidate."

Posted by: jbart39maccom | February 4, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

In my view, the best political book of fiction is "First Among Equals" by Jeffery Archer.

Its set in the British parliamentary system, but politics is the same the world over (selection battles, riding waves of discontent, etc!) It follows the life of 4 MP's, one of whom will become Prime Minister.

Jeffrey Archer spent some time as an MP (and then in the House of Lords), and he clearly knows his stuff!

Posted by: JayPen | February 4, 2010 4:20 AM | Report abuse

"liberals are much more open-minded than conservatives"

Wrong. Both are equally open-minded (or close-minded, however you want to put it).

The difference is, conservatives are consistent.

Liberals are moral relativists, which is kind of like a fashion or a fad. When it is popular to be 1 thing, they like that thing, but that can change with the wind.

Only those who believe in objective morality can claim to be anyone's true friend. If Hitler's Germany was full of moral objectivists, they would not have slaughtered the Jews. Only the moral relativist can justify, or even tolerate, such an act.

In today's America, it is fashionable/OK to be gay, so the liberals claim to be the friends of the gays. That's all well and good until the day it is no longer fashionable.

At least the conservatives know where they stand, and they stand for something.

I urge you to think before making tired, trite, talking points. They're not only poorly thought out, they're boring.

Posted by: USMC_Mike | February 4, 2010 4:05 AM | Report abuse

The people of Massachusetts haven't become scum-sucking neocons who want George Bush back.  MA is a liberal state and liberals are much more open-minded than conservatives.  They elected Mitt Romney as governor.  Brown won because he ran a good campaign, running as a moderate, as pro-choice and IINM open to gay marriage.

If he legislates as a scum-sucking Republican he'll be out at the end of his abbreviated term.  No problem.  If he legislates as a true moderate  then no problem.

We shall see.

Posted by: Noacoler | February 3, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Darn it!

ewyrtuyioetyerhytiu

This was the screen name I was going to use, say if I got banned for being boring or whatever.

But it could be used as an antagonist in a gothic political novel.

sample:

"Stop now!" cried ewyrtuyioetyerhytiu.
"It is I who cornered the market on Wapo blog junk merchandising!"

"...never..." muttered ukrakhor,
"ewyrtuyioetyerhytiu must be Banned from the Fix, BANNED!"

Posted by: shrink2 | February 3, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

"it's also important to appreciate good art and I'd say political fiction falls under that realm"

Yes, that is what I said. I appreciate psychology too, as fiction (a narrative) and yet people pay me to be a psychological critic. It is like being an art critic, or a personal pundit. Back to politics, Plutarch's Lives are so fascinating I leave the book around to read willy nilly. It is not history.

Reality, especially historical reality, has to be protected. What facts mean, who knows? But when facts don't matter, watch out.

Melding political fiction with political reality is a lethal disaster (unless history is so dead it teaches nothing).

Appreciating good art is one of the fun aspects of being human, but truth and fiction are not interchangeable, or at least, they better not be, or at least, we'll be better off if we keep them away from each other.

I hate to be blunt, but I don't see much difference between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appreciation of historical reality and Glen Beck's.


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Posted by: ewyrtuyioetyerhytiu | February 3, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Surprising that no one seems to have mentioned that favorite of the first civil servants of the early Pendleton years: Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Adams, grand and great-grandson of the presidents. Adams well-informed novel demonstrates still resonates after 130 years.

Posted by: dkdenze | February 3, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Folks,

Thanks for the great comments. One reminder: I named "All the King's Men" my favorite political fiction book of all time and "What It Takes" as my favorite non fiction book in the post that asked for other recommendations. It's linked right at the top of this post.

Thanks,
Chris

Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | February 3, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

"Good this is how it should be. Keeping track of what really happened is as important in politics as it is in chemistry. We don't talk of chemistry fiction and chemistry non-fiction. If we're making stuff up, then we should talk about art and religion, or psychology.

Sure political novels are fun, War and Peace might not be a candidate, but reality is hard for us. We'd rather be entertained, mollified or goaded by fiction than learn the hierarchies and dystonic masses of facts.

Posted by: shrink2"

Meh, those of us who aren't historians read political fiction and non-fiction for the same reason. For the stories. It's all entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that in and of itself. It's definitely important to be aware of history, but it's also important to appreciate good art and I'd say political fiction falls under that realm.

Incidentally, that's why I didn't recommend The Prince. It's got a lot of relevance, but it's sooooo boring. Unless you like reading textbooks cover to cover.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 3, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

All The King's Men not being on the list had to be an oversight somewhere in the system.

Posted by: srokun | February 3, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

"Eleanor & Franklin" by Joseph Lash.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 3, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Politics by Aristotle


The Prince by Machiavelli


The New Testament


Politics Among Nations by Hans Morganthau


1984 George Orwell


If you do not know these books, you know nothing.


NOW BACK TO THE SARCASM.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | February 3, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Was there some stated or implicit rule forbidding The Fix from mentioning books on politics by Posties? Woodward & Bernstein's "All The President's Men" is an absolute classic.

I'm also personally partial to Carl Bernstein's eloquent but not so well-known study of his parents' political involvement in Silver Spring, MD., and the San Francisco Bay Area, in the 1940s and '50s, "Loyalties: A Son's Memoir."

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 3, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

There are two classics by Theodore Lowi that should go on any list, The End of Liberalism, written in the late 1960's, in which he predicted the decline of the Democratic Party, and The End of the Republican Era, which is more recent, in which he predicted the decline of that party's dominance.

Posted by: jkopel1 | February 3, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Exhibit A

Posted by: shrink2 | February 3, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Crybabies. All Crybabies. Go back to reading your books.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | February 3, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone who has read it will never confuse fascism and the various stripes of socialism again."

Yes, even the possibility of that confusion is incredible, but the reality of it?

The Republicans are putting their populist front back together with an acceptance of anything anti-D.

It is a novel iteration of the Big Tent...surreal, psychotic, impossible: no problem.

This must be the post-post modern era.

In the post modern era, historical facts went into the rabbit hole where the narrative of the under appreciated source ruled the great man narrative.

But now, as for American politics, you can just make anything up. History is so over.


Posted by: shrink2 | February 3, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Cosign on the great Jack Germond. Whenever anyone was slinging sheet, from the left or the right, he'd call them on it.

And another top list for CC to consider. Best political journalists!

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 3, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and Jack Germond just turned 82 a week a ago.
Happy birthday, Jack.
(Did the Fix watch Jack on the McLaugh-In Group? He was the most entertaining.)

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | February 3, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I second fairlington blade on Yes, Minister (which was transcribed into a book).
I notice that Jack Newfield made it twice.
There's a good, old school politics journalist who is missed (like Jack Germond).

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | February 3, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Since someone suggested "Animal Farm," I would add "Homage to Catalonia" by Orwell, as well. Anyone who has read it will never confuse fascism and the various stripes of socialism again.

Posted by: thrh | February 3, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

"Call me juvenile, but I'm surprised Animal Farm is not on the list."

Probably falls under the category of "so obvious that we overlooked it." I definitely think it belongs. I think 1984 is even more relevant. One of the major themes of that book is the dumbing down of political discourse and oversimplification of issues. That's something that we see every day from our politicians and the politically based media and press.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 3, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

"Our fiction list is a little light...

Good this is how it should be. Keeping track of what really happened is as important in politics as it is in chemistry. We don't talk of chemistry fiction and chemistry non-fiction. If we're making stuff up, then we should talk about art and religion, or psychology.

Sure political novels are fun, War and Peace might not be a candidate, but reality is hard for us. We'd rather be entertained, mollified or goaded by fiction than learn the hierarchies and dystonic masses of facts.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 3, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Great list.

Can't believe Penn Warren's All the King's Men isn't on the fiction list, though.

Would also add Thos. Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas on the non-fiction list.

Posted by: rnbsand | February 3, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Call me juvenile, but I'm surprised Animal Farm is not on the list.

Most works of political fiction fail because the novel presents only one perspective at a time. Yet politics involves a multitude of interests and a changing cast of characters that can easily weigh down a novel. (For this reason, Caro's meticulous biography of Robert Moses must also tell the life stories of Al Smith, LaGuardia, John Lindsay, etc.)

Orwell's stroke of genius was to retell a true political story, using familiar barnyard characters to stand in for historical figures and groups. Without the jetsam of developing peripheral characters, the book focuses sharply on interest and injustice.

In nonfiction, Neustadt's Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents is wrongly missing.

Posted by: hungrypug | February 3, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

and in the non-fiction category:

"The Senator: My Ten Years With Ted Kennedy" by Richard E Burke. A fascinating study of one of the Senate's most memorable members.

Posted by: wagtdn | February 3, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Uhh, that's probably because consevatives usually need ghost-writers

Posted by: Noacoler | February 3, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

What a surprise, the overwhelming number of books on the non-fiction list are written by statist Liberals!

The two most important books of the last year fail to make the grade, which says more about the Washington Post than about the two books: MELTDOWN by Thomas Woods and ARCHITECTS OF RUIN by Peter Schweizer.

Posted by: vince33x | February 3, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Shocked, I tell you, shocked, that missing is "What It Takes," Richard Ben Cramer's tremendous account of the 1988 campaign.

Posted by: emoran1 | February 3, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Fiction:

All the King's Men -- Robert Penn Warren

Non-Fiction:

No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner -- Shrum

America: What Went Wrong -- Bartlett and Steele

Posted by: zinger1 | February 3, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm...By far my favorite political book.

Posted by: rmutt92 | February 3, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm waiting impatiently for Caro's concluding volume on LBJ. Ought to be great!

Posted by: Honus | February 3, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

wow, a list of the best political books by males.

No wonder our country is so stuck in rut

Posted by: newagent99 | February 3, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

Would you be kind enough to have the infants removed to their nursery by their nanny so that the adults may converse in peace?

Now, on to the TOPIC of this thread.

Love the list--even more so since the fiction list contains two of my (and probably many, many others) recommendations.

I'm certainly going to try to read as many of the titles I haven't read yet as practicable.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | February 3, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

SEAT SCOTT BROWN


SEAT SCOTT BROWN

SEAT SCOTT BROWN

SEAT SCOTT BROWN

SEAT SCOTT BROWN.


The Constitution says "Until the Election."

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | February 3, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Nice stuff. Now perhaps we can have been political movies and/or TV shows as a follow up? My vote is for Yes, Minister.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 3, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Why no mention of What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank?

Posted by: ericp331 | February 3, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Excellent list. One minor point. You have Lincoln by Gore Vidal listed as non-fiction.

Posted by: Penazoid | February 3, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Cult of the Presidency - Gene Healy

Posted by: member5 | February 3, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

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