15 Books About Politics To Help You Understand What's Going On In 2018
Even if you keep up with the news on a regular basis, it can be hard to stay completely up-to-date on what’s going on in the White House. After the 2016 election Americans on the whole were critiqued and mocked for having little-to-no understanding of civics and the ways of government in our own country — but really, how can we be blamed for lacking knowledge about civics when the folks who’ve made civics their life are running around like the Three Stooges on an ayahuasca retreat?
However, since it’s become abundantly clear that a new generation of leaders is going to have to take the reins (sooner, rather than later, please) it might be important to garner some sort of clue about what is actually going on in politics right now. These books about politics in America will help you get started. (And no, it’s definitely not all bad. I mean, there's plenty of bad... But there’s a lot of really great stuff being done right now. And a lot of it is being done by women.)
Here are 15 books that will help you understand politics in 2018, because this is a huge year and you need to be informed:
'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville is classic political theory — and even though it was written and published back in the 1830s, it still holds significant relevance for understanding politics in the United States today. A key takeaway for our current moment: Tocqueville’s discussions on individual despotism and authoritarian democracies.
'US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality' edited by Lance Selfa
A collection of essays written by socialist writers and theorists, US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality edited by Lance Selfa begins with the modern failings of the electoral college (twice, in 16 years,) explores the Obama-to-Trump transition from a variety of angles, and offers ways forward for the political left to reclaim the interests and support of working-class Americans.
'No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need' by Naomi Klein
As a scholar of modern political systems (among other topics) journalist Naomi Klein argues against the shock of Trump’s election, instead claiming that the 2016 election was actually just the next, most-dangerous step on a path that the United States, and other countries around the globe, have been on for decades. In No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, Klein says that the resistance is only the beginning — once we know what we’re against, we also have to know what we’re for.
'Things that Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations' by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy
Based on Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, and Daniel Ellsberg’s 2014 conversations with NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Things that Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations explores power and surveillance in our current age, what it means to live in one of the countries currently engaged in perpetual war, how patriotism and capitalism play into it all, and so much more.
'We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a collection of new and selected essays that speak to the history of race in America and the Obama-to-Trump transition we find ourselves mired in today. Eight of the collection’s essays revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s personal experiences and observations, and is a must-read for anyone trying to navigate political and racial dynamics in the U.S. right now.
'Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People' by Danny Katch
A book that will remind you not to lose your sense of humor, Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People by Danny Katch demonstrates how the entire American political system stopped working for it’s people long ago, and that the election of Trump is a direct result of decades of corruption and ineptitude. A socialist writer, he argues for activism, protest, and large-scale social movements to lead the charge to a new political future.
'Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right' by Arlie Russell Hochschild
A National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestseller, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild examines what, exactly, Trumps myriad voters were thinking throughout the election, and when they cast their ballots. The updated, paperback edition expands on what has happened (and yeah, it’s been a lot) in that year since voters stood before the ballot box.
'What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues That Matter' by Jessamyn Conrad
Nonpartisan sounds pretty good right now if you ask me — and that’s what Jessamyn Conrad’s What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues That Matter will give you. Described as an essential book for understanding the 2016 election, What You Should Know About Politics explores each of the issues that led up to the recent election, in turn, striving to make clear who stands for what, and why.
'The United States of Fear' by Tom Engelhardt
Informative and thought-provoking, albeit a bit gloomy, The United States of Fear by Tom Engelhardt begins with the first U.S. National Intelligence Council report issued to then-president Barack Obama in 2008, which detailed the United States’ impending political decline over the course of the subsequent 15 years. It also looks at the history of failed or declining states, demonstrating that a state which over-invests in the military, war, and national security at the expense of healthcare, education, the environment, and more (sound familiar?) will increasingly lose power on the world stage.
'Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World' by the Women’s March organizers and Condé Nast
As we mark the second year of epic women’s marches in protest of the Trump administration, Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World by the Women’s March organizers and Condé Nast celebrates that first march — the largest global protest in modern history — and the spirit of activism and solidarity that has spread like wildfire to women across the United States and around the world. This one will leave you feeling hopeful.
'Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency' by Joshua Green
Though he’s likely not being invited to dine at the White House again any time soon, there’s no minimizing the influence that Steve Bannon had on the 2016 election. In Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green, Green compiles 6 years of interviews to illuminate the rise of the alt-right, the fall of Hillary Clinton, the complex partnership between Trump and Bannon, and what Bannon might have been planning for the 2016 election years before most Americans even knew he existed.
'A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order' by Richard N. Haass
Tackling the complicated realm of foreign policy through the lens of the waning legacy of post-World War II political order, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order by Richard N. Haass explores the successes and failures of American foreign policy alongside the escalating complications between the U.S., Russia, North Korea, China, and others, while offering insight on a way forward as the country begins to redefine its continued and evolving place in the global world order.
'It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art' edited by writer and artist Jonathan Santlofer
Sometimes fiction can take us further towards understanding each other, and the time we exist in, than facts can. This newly published anthology features original short stories from some of your favorite bestselling and award-winning authors (think: Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman.) It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art edited by writer and artist Jonathan Santlofer celebrates the surge of resistance fiction that has made it’s way into the world since the 2016 election, with pieces that tackle political, social, and cultural issues, as well as stories that celebrate justice, free speech, and more.
'Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic' by David Frum
A oft-touted talking point of late includes the recommendation that protesters “respect the office” of the president, even if they can’t respect the president himself — but Trump has done more to undermine essential political institutions than any poster you might see at the Women’s March. In Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, columnist and former White House speechwriter David Frum explores the lasting effects of the 2016 election on American democracy, and explains conservatism needs to ditch Trump.
'How Democracies Die' by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
Looking at the ways liberal democracies all over the world have ended, How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt gives readers a glimpse into understanding the death of democracies while presenting a road map for repairing the United States’. Using case studies of the breakdowns of democracies across Europe and Latin America, Levitsky and Ziblatt show that democracies tend to end slowly and quietly (at least, pre-Twitter they did) — meaning that the erosion of a democracy can occur so slowly it’s citizens don’t notice… but also meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to change direction along the way as well.