GOOD Books: Life on the Campaign Trail
The 2012 Republican primaries commenced this week and already the election has seen political scandals worthy of the books. From Herman Cain’s sexual harassment charges, to Newt Gingrich’s open marriage proposal to Stephen Colbert’s joke campaign, this political season is one you will not want to miss.
Here is a list of books that attempt to give you an inside look into what the campaign trail is really like. Some are fiction and some are non-fiction but they all seek to paint a picture of the truly dramatic, scandalous and stressful lives of America’s politicians.
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by Chris Matthews
240 pages. Simon & Schuster. $10.85
It is only fitting to start the list off with a legend. For years Hardball has been the “go to” for politician and common citizen alike. Chris Matthews, a prolific writer and seasoned political reporter, writes about what to expect in the game of politics and how to win. His insights into the political realm and the campaign world will shock you. But his main message is simple: politics is local. Many of our current politicians are still following the advice of Hardball and living according to the ancient rules that first shaped the game.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power
By Robert Caro
960 pages. Vintage. $14.96
In Hardball Chris Matthews describes Lyndon Johnson as the only man to ever best him. And that was not just the perspective of Matthews. Johnson had the reputation of a man who was politically shrewd beyond comparison. The Path to Power is book one of Robert Caro’s biography of Johnson’s life, sparing no details of the man everyone knew him to be. Book one covers Johnson’s life through his failed 1941 campaign for the United States Senate, shedding light on the years that probably shaped Johnson more drastically than anything else.
All the King's Men
By Robert Warren
672 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $14.96
All the King's Men is a Robert Warren novel about a political powerhouse in the Deep South. Willie Stark is an idealistic man of the people who has won both the love and trust of his constituents. But the deeper he gets into political life and the more power he attains, the easier it is to embrace corruption and intimidation. In the end the reader finds that actions do have consequences.
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail
By Hunter Thompson
512 pages. Grand Central Publishing. $7.99
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail is a compilation of articles by Hunter S. Thompson first published in Rolling Stone about the 1972 presidential campaign. The articles provide interesting insight into real time campaign coverage while offering a unique hindsight perspective. While focusing mainly on the Democratic primary, the book seeks to highlight the various political processes as well as critique the way mainstream media covered the campaign. Known for his brutal honesty, Thompson takes the reader back in time as both a lesson in history and a prediction of future political leaders.
By Joe Klein
376 pages. Random House Trade Paperbacks. $14.49
It would be insufficient to have a list about political novels without mentioning politician extraordinaire Bill Clinton. Primary Colors is unashamedly based off of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992 beginning in New Hampshire at the new election year. Jack Stanton, the Clinton stand-in, comes off as insincere in his beliefs claiming to do whatever it takes to win. The plot climaxes as the characters must choose between idealism and realism.
By Beau Willimon
72 pages. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. $8.00
Farragut North, a play script made into feature film Ides of March, is a truly gripping story based loosely off of the Howard Dean 2004 presidential campaign. Beau Willimon wrote the play to explain the cutthroat world of politics and how media and staffers interact to control the fate of future presidential nominees. Reviews claimed the play “cut to the bone” or “struck a cord”, admitting to the accuracy in which Willimon depicts life from the inside.
By John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
464 pages. Harper. $11.20
The Obama - McCain 2008 election is not easily forgotten and Game Change helps to explain why. The sub title argues it was “the Race of a Lifetime.” The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 talks about the Democratic primary race between Obama and Clinton, Part 2 covers the Republican primary race and Part 3 describes the full campaign between President Obama and Senator McCain. Using mainly interviews of more than 300 people, the book is rich with political facts and a perspective that could only have been revealed from those closest to the action.