With less than one month until the people of the United States elect the next president, they have a lot to consider — especially given the chaotic year we’ve all had. Numerous government officials, academics, activists, journalists and even everyday citizens have taken up the pen to try to sort out and make sense of all the issues America currently faces. Be it a criticism of our current leadership, an exposé on closed-door operations or an analysis of our recent history’s failings these writers address the concerns weighing on the hearts and minds of Americans across the nation as we approach election day.
So, for anyone still wondering, what happened? and what’s going on?, these nine books offer a closer look at our current political climate.
Rage by Bob Woodward
From the bestselling author of Fear: Trump in the Whitehouse comes one of the most highly-anticipated reports on the Trump administration to date. Bob Woodward’s Rage examines the current presidency as it faces a global pandemic, economic disaster and racial unrest in a year unlike any other. With 17 on-the-record interviews over the course of seven volatile months, Woodward explores Trump’s decision making and crisis response, comparing it to the often instinctive style the president has developed over his first three years in office. “Even in a news landscape where it feels like nothing is shocking anymore,” says Vanity Fair, “the first excerpts from [this] book still landed like a pair of hydrogen bombs.”
According to CNN’s Peter Bergen, “Rage may be Bob Woodward’s most important book since All the President’s Men.”
“After many, many Trump books, this is an essential one,” says Vanity Fair. His only niece, Mary L. Trump, lifts back the curtain on her family’s dark history, offering an explanation on her uncle’s rise to power, which she says has threatened the world’s health, economic security and social fabric. A trained clinical psychologist, she describes and examines the various traumas, toxic relationships, neglect and abuse suffered by the family. With the education, insight and intimate familiarity needed to dissect and unveil the inner workings of this powerful family, Mary L. Trump has done what many journalists and other psychologists before her have failed to do.
“The most devastating, most valuable and all-around bet Trump book since he started running for president,” says Politico. Her book helps “us understand [Trump], offering the most incisive rendering yet of why he is the way he is.”
Fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ever-so-popular, long-running Broadway musical Hamilton can probably sing along to the title of this next book — but there is nothing historical about its contents. The hotly anticipated book The Room Where it Happened by former National Security Advisor John Bolton “describes Mr. Bolton’s 17 turbulent months at President Trump’s side through a multitude of crises and foreign policy challenges,” according to The New York Times. In his role as Trump’s National Security Advisor, Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves.
This memoir, which is being regarded as one of the most comprehensive and substantial accounts of the Trump Administration, produces a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. And what Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting re-elected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. (Read our full review here.)
What happened to America? According to Charles Pearlman, it all started “that Election Night in November 2016. That’s when the National Nightmare began.” In his book 2020 to Save America, Pearlman calls it like he sees it, never shying away from strong language while outlining all the shortcomings of the current presidential administration in the same manner one might at a cocktail party — conversational, but blunt.
Amidst jabs like “Liar-in-Chief,” “Distracter-in-Chief” and “Playboy-in-Chief,” Pearlman appeals to his fellow Americans’ love of country and sense of patriotic responsibility: “From the day I first said the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’, I have been ready to stand up for America. When it comes to our rights as Americans, I accept my responsibility to be vigilant and I refuse to compromise.” And while Pearlman’s rendering of the United States is bleak, he doesn’t believe that the outlook is hopeless: “We can pick up the pieces and start over.” (Read our full coverage here.)
Mother, educator and patriot Maritza Iberico believes that under the current presidential administration, the American people are losing the greatest piece of our country — the American Dream. According to the author, the country’s greatest threat is the “expert manipulator” sitting in the Oval Office, and it’s up to the people to preserve the principles of the United States. Iberico, who writes as an average citizen and not a politician or journalist, urges readers to recognize the state of tyranny the country has entered into under Donald J. Trump, stating that our will to change the direction of our country isn’t about partisan ideology, but common sense.
Iberico is very clear from the start: this is a book about trashing Trump and making a case for his Impeachment — the result of which she believes would be both poetic justice and make the average American citizen a hero in this story. Sadly, the author died this past April after her battle with COVID-19, but her son, who has written a new forward for the book and translated it into Spanish, is currently working to ensure that his mother’s message is heard.
Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again by Dan Pfeiffer
Written by the co-host of Pod Save America and the NYT bestselling author of Yes We (Still) Can, Dan Pfeiffer, Un-Trumping America outlines how Democrats can defeat Trump and the rest of the right-wing circus, which currently dominates American politics. Focusing on the dangerous legacy of what he calls “Trumpism” — “billionaire-funded racial grievance politics … It’s plutocracy in populist clothing” — Pfeiffer offers strategies for dismantling this flavor of political movements even after Trump is out of office. Because, as it turns out, Democrats have a whole lot more to deal with than just Trump himself.
With over 20 years of experience working at the center of Democratic politics, Pfeiffer offers a way to move forward and away from the toxicity of Trumpism. He urges Democrats to embrace bold solutions such as abolishing the electoral college and implores his party and other progressives to become more aggressive without becoming a paler shade of orange.
How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley
Nations don’t have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. Scholar of propaganda and renowned philosopher Jason Stanley, whose parents were refugees of WWII Europe, has a keen understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism. Using examples from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States among other nations, Stanley identifies patterns and explores the ten pillars of fascist politics. He discusses the dangers of underestimating powerful tactics such as “exploiting the mythic version of a nation’s past … anti-intellectualism directed against universities and experts … and fierce attacks on labor and welfare groups.”
Believe it or not, fascism has been present in the United States for more than a century, Stanley explains. And it’s tactics continue to build a greater divide between people and make our country vulnerable to authoritarian leadership. “With unsettling insight and clarity,” notes author William Jelani Cobb, this “is an essential guidebook to our current national dilemma of democracy vs. authoritarianism.”
Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America by Kurt Andersen
Why and how did America take a wrong turn? That is the question Kurt Andersen aims to answer in Evil Geniuses. Looking back on twentieth-century America where economic and social systems both progressed and prospered — the time in which a secure middle-class emerged and thrived — Andersen identifies and unfurls the points of a recent history which has left “the huge majority of Americans with dwindling economic prospects and hope.” Starting with the New Deal, Andersen outlines the roles of big business CEOs, the superrich and right-wing zealots, who changed the game and paved the way for dismantling the middle-class.
For those wondering, Andersen spares no assignment of blame. He identifies guilty parties on both sides of the aisle. Evil Geniuses is intellectually formidable, entertaining and “the one book everyone must read as we figure out how to rebuild our country,” if you ask biographer Walter Issacson.
What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era by Carlos Lozada
What do you do after you read all the books written about Donald Trump? If you’re Carlos Lozada, you write your own. No, he didn’t read every book, but a total of 150 volumes on a singular subject is still pretty impressive. In What Were We Thinking, Lozada, The Washington Post‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, argues that America’s response to Trump’s time in office reflects the same failures in imagination that made his presidency possible in the first place. In other words — whether Liberal or conservative, pro-trump or anti-trump, activist or academic — we all have the same blind spots we did four years ago when it comes to Trump and his administration.
Lozado highlights where these books succeed and where they fail, providing a comprehensive perspective on contemporary America. Kirkus calls it “a nimble overview of the library of Trumpiana.”
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