9 Essential Nonfiction Books To Read This Election Season, Because These Are The Issues That Really Matter

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 07: A man wears a 'I Voted!' sticker after voting in the California primary on June 7, 2016 at City Hall in San Francisco, California. Six states, including California, hold primaries today, in what is the last major day of the primary season. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Source: Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

History was made last week when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party. We might be officially moving out of the primaries and into the general election, but before you go to vote for the next president, make sure you check out some of the essential nonfiction books to read this election season.

The 2016 presidential election has been an insane ride so far, and neither party has even held their convention yet. Complete with name calling, voter suppression, and hand measuring contests, it feels like this is one of the craziest ones in American history, which is exactly why you need to become informed and involved before November. The best way you can truly make your vote count is to understand the process, comprehend the issues, and know where the candidates stand.

From immigration to climate change, terrorism to the economy, the biggest issues of the 2016 election are the ones that affect the daily lives of every Americans, but that doesn't mean they're easy to wrap your head around. Luckily, books are here to help you understand them a little bit better.

From cultural examinations to economical studies to election history, here are nine essential nonfiction books you have to read before November. The more you know.

1. A Magnificent Catastrophe:The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign by Edward J. Larson

If you think the 2016 election is crazy, imagine what the very first race for president looked like over 200 years ago. In A Magnificent Catastrophe, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Edward J. Larson recounts the election of 1800, the one between America's founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the one that set us up for the two-party system we still use today. Thoroughly researched and rich in detail, A Magnificent Catastrophe should be required reading for anyone intending to vote this year, because before we can decide where we are going, it's important to understand where we have already been.

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2. Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View by Stephen G. Breyer

When you go out an vote this November, you'll be picking not only the future president, but also a future Supreme Court Justice, who's vacant spot will likely be filled by a candidate of the future president's choosing. Prepare yourself by brushing up on knowledge of the justice system by reading Making Our Democracy Work, Justice Stephen Breyer's historical and philosophical examination of the Supreme Court and the role it plays in America's government. Insightful and informative, Breyer's book is like a handbook to understanding everything there is to know about the highest court in the United States, from the extent and limitation of its power to the role it plays in protecting the Constitution to its most important recent rulings. A smart and readable text perfect for law professionals and laymen alike, Making Our Democracy Work will help you understand just how important that open seat on the bench really is.

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3. Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America by David K. Shipler

Candidates may profess their love and respect for the Constitution, they may vow to protect it down to every last amendment, but what does this nearly 230-year-old document really mean for modern America? According to author and journalist David K. Shipler's Rights at Risk, the Constitution is standing on dangerous ground. A thorough examination of the Constitution, Rights at Risk shines a light on the place where constitutional principles meets every day American life, and the unexpected and terrifying ways it's affecting us all. 

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4. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

One of the biggest partisan issues of nearly every presidential election for the last two decades, climate change is still a major topic of debate for the 2016 political season. To better understand government's role in the protection (and destruction) of the environment, reach for Naomi Klein's provocative and eye-opening This Changes Everything. Hard-hitting and unapologetic, Klein's book exposes the truth behind those often recited climate change myths, challenges modern practices of our modern governments, and illuminates the influence capitalism has had on the planet's rapid and alarming deterioration. 

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5. Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman

In his highly acclaimed bestseller Give Us the Ballot, investigative journalist and political correspondent Ari Berman dives head-first into the murky waters of modern voting rights and all the ways in which, despite the success of the civil rights movement, they are still at risk all over the country. An accurate and engaging narrative about voting rights from 1965 to today, Berman's book draws on in-depth research, personal interviews, and his own expert reporting to paint a picture of one of the most important and issues facing American citizens today: the right to participate in their country's democracy. A must-read before hitting the polls.

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6. America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill

Alongside climate change, healthcare reform is one of the most heavily debated and partisan issues of any major election, including the 2016 one. To better understand this complex yet vital issue, turn to America's Bitter Pillauthor and journalist Steven Brill's bestselling and highly acclaimed book about one of America's most dysfunctional industries. Focusing on the Affordable Care Act, Brill's book looks at healthcare policy from two angles: one, from the view of a seasoned journalist, trained lawyer, and experienced reporter, and the other, from the view of a patient undergoing heart surgery and dealing with the healthcare system first-hand. A brilliant book about what's wrong with our country's healthcare and the different ways we can fix it, America's Bitter Pill will help you feel more informed than ever on one of the most important issues of this election season.

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7. The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon

Don't let the title (or the page count) scare you away. American economist Robert J. Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Growth may seem like an intimidating text for the everyday American, but the bestselling book is as informative and enlightening as it is readable. A thorough economic history about the American Standard of Living and how it has changed since 1870, Gordon's text is at once a celebration of America's greatest economic achievements and a warning about the harder times on the horizon. For anyone who wishes to be better informed about the way the American economy works, and, more importantly, the way it affects the lives of everyday citizens, The Rise and Fall of American Growth is the one book you should add to your election season TBR pile.

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8. Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction narrative on the rise and growth of ISIS, Black Flags, celebrated author and journalist Joby Warrick uses the stories of different individuals — from CIA agents to important religious leaders to active terrorists — to weave together a comprehensive account of the evolution of ISIS, including America's role in its rise to power. An accessible read for anyone trying to understand the origin of ISIS and its influence and threat it has all over the world today, Black Flags is the book to read on the subject before its time to vote for the next Commander in Chief charged with dealing with this critical global threat.

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9. Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky

Smart, provocative, and well-reported, Undocumented is a testament to the idea that "Immigrant rights are human rights." A fully-fleshed out narrative of what it is like to be living as an undocumented person in the United States, this investigation puts immigration in terms of legality, society, economy, and history to show how our modern policies were created, and how they damage our nation and the undocumented people living in it. No matter how you feel about immigration, Undocumented will open your eyes to what it's truly like to try and make it in America.

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