The best presidential campaign books

Who am I?

It was during the 1960 presidential campaign, between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, that I first became enthralled with politics and history. I was only thirteen, so it never occurred to me at the time that I would end up abandoning my childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor and instead devote most of my adult life to teaching and writing political history. Because of what happened to me, I’m recommending five classic presidential campaign accounts. Because they were written by firsthand observers, they convey a vivid sense of how events, with all of their uncertainties appeared at the time before they became fixed in history.  


I wrote...

Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President

By Patrick J. Maney,

Book cover of Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President

What is my book about?

“This is a truly remarkable book. Patrick Maney gives us a penetrating, comprehensive, and thoroughly balanced account of the Clinton presidency, along with a shrewd, insightful assessment of the character of this fascinating and often infuriating denizen of the White House. This book will stand as the gold standard of works on this man and his era.” - John Milton Cooper Jr., Pulitzer Prize finalist for Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968

Patrick J. Maney Why did I love this book?

Outsiders sometimes see us better than we can see ourselves. Such is the case with the three British journalists who covered the tumultuous 1968 presidential campaign that took place during a year of assassinations, civil unrest, and war. Their account detected fault lines in the political system that still emperil us today but also reminds us that—however much we may wring our hands today—we’ve survived more perilous times. 

By Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodgson, Bruce Page

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An American Melodrama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A true original collectors item with a rare white background on cover and very minimal wear. This is a great book that's being sold at much higher prices but we are pricing ours to sell quickly.


Book cover of The Boys on the Bus

Patrick J. Maney Why did I love this book?

There’s never been a better book about the role of the media in presidential politics than Timothy Crouse’s classic account of the 1972 campaign between Richard Nixon and George McGovern. The campaign “bus” may be more inclusive today than it was fifty years ago, but the story remains much the same.

By Timothy Crouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boys on the Bus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cheap booze. Flying fleshpots. Lack of sleep. Endless spin. Lying pols.

Just a few of the snares lying in wait for the reporters who covered the 1972 presidential election. Traveling with the press pack from the June primaries to the big night in November, Rolling Stone reporter Timothy Crouse hopscotched the country with both the Nixon and McGovern campaigns and witnessed the birth of modern campaign journalism. The Boys on the Bus is the raucous story of how American news got to be what it is today. With its verve, wit, and psychological acumen, it is a classic of American…


Book cover of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

Patrick J. Maney Why did I love this book?

The 1972 campaign was one of the most lopsided in history, but it produced not one but two classic accounts. The first was Timothy Crouse’s Boys on the Bus. The second was Hunter S. Thompson’s uproarious, passionate, frankly partisan but insightful account. During my forty years of teaching modern US history, this was a class favorite.

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 50th anniversary edition of “the best account yet published of what it feels like to be out there in the middle of the American political process” (The New York Times Book Review) featuring a new foreword from Johnny Knoxville.

A half-century after its original publication, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 remains a cornerstone of American political journalism and one of the bestselling campaign books of all time. Thompson’s searing account of the battle for the 1972 presidency—from the Democratic primaries to the eventual showdown between George McGovern and Richard Nixon—is infused with the…


Book cover of Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics

Patrick J. Maney Why did I love this book?

Journalist Joe Klein’s thinly-veiled fictional account of a Southern governor running for president fooled nobody. Klein’s send-up of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign nails his character and style—his odd mixture of political gifts and personal recklessness that shaped his reputation as “the Comeback Kid”. Even better is the underrated (and often misunderstood) movie version of Primary Colors which may be the best—and most realistic—film ever about presidential politics.

By Anonymous,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Primary Colors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel provocatively based on an insider's devastating account of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The anonymous author is reported to be someone close to the Clintons.


Book cover of What It Takes: The Way to the White House

Patrick J. Maney Why did I love this book?

Why would anybody in their right mind put themselves through the agonies of a presidential campaign? And what does it take to win? Cramer’s account of the crowded 1988 campaign is less about strategy and tactics than the personality and character of the candidates (including Joe Biden, Bob Dole, and George H. W. Bush). Ego and ambition, courage and cowardice are on display here, but so too is an almost across-the-board sense of honor and duty that’s in rare supply today.

By Richard Ben Cramer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked What It Takes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Quite possibly the finest book on presidential politics ever written, combining meticulous reporting and compelling, at times soaringly lyrical, prose." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

An American Iliad in the guise of contemporary political reportage, What It Takes penetrates the mystery at the heart of all presidential campaigns: How do presumably ordinary people acquire that mixture of ambition, stamina, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate? As he recounts the frenzied course of the 1988 presidential race -- and scours the psyches of contenders from George Bush and Robert Dole to Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist…


You might also like...

Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

Book cover of Unsettled

Laurie Woodford

New book alert!

What is my book about?

At the age of forty-nine, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and leaves her life in upstate New York to relocate to Seoul, South Korea. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English in Asia evolves into a nomadic adventure.

Laurie spoon-feeds orphans in Ethiopia, performs 108 bows at a Buddhist mountain temple, walks shelter dogs in Peru, milks goats in Fuerteventura, and gets lost in Mexico, all the while navigating dating at midlife.

After four years of traveling, Laurie’s return “home” becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, and then struggles to reconcile her need for freedom with her longing to feel settled.

Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

At the age of forty-nine, driven by an urgent restlessness, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and relocates to Asia. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English overseas, evolves into a nomadic adventure as Laurie works and volunteers in South Korea, Ethiopia, Peru, Spain, and Mexico. After four years of traveling, Laurie's return "home" to the U.S. becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, who challenges her to reconcile her life of fierce independence with her longing to feel…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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