70 books like A Political Education

By Harry McPherson,

Here are 70 books that A Political Education fans have personally recommended if you like A Political Education. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics

Charles Robbins Author Of The Accomplice

From my list on political bosses.

Who am I?

Political power has intrigued me since I read Macbeth and Machiavelli in high school – how to acquire it, wield it, and keep it, and how it seduces and ultimately corrupts. Political bosses fascinated me – Svengalis who built empires, often through charisma, populism, and ruthlessness. I began writing about politics as a newspaper reporter, then ran press shops for lawmakers and candidates, including a presidential campaign; co-wrote three nonfiction books with senators, including a former majority leader; then turned to writing fiction, a passion since boyhood, largely under the theme “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  

Charles' book list on political bosses

Charles Robbins Why did Charles love this book?

Plunkitt infected me with “the political bug.” George Washington Plunkitt’s “very plain talks on very practical politics” showed me the joys of playing the political game, of devising and executing strategies and tactics, of outwitting opponents. I first read Riordon’s classic for grade school and loved its gritty romp through turn-of-the-century New York. I reread the book for a college history course and came to appreciate politics as the art of the possible – and to see the innate conflict between ambition and conscience. After seven years in journalism, I “crossed to the dark side” and became a political operative, partly because Plunkitt had shown me that playing politics can be far more rewarding – and fun – than watching it.

By William L. Riordan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Plunkitt of Tammany Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A political machine member describes its operations


Book cover of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

Jonathan H. Rees Author Of The Fulton Fish Market: A History

From my list on the history of New York City.

Who am I?

I’m Professor of History at Colorado State University Pueblo and have published eight books, mostly about the history of food. After encountering Up in the Old Hotel for the first time during the early 1990s, I started reading New York City history in my spare time. The Fulton Fish Market: A History is my way to blend my expertise with my hobby. Each of these books are beautifully written, informative, and fun. If you’re interested in the history of New York City and you’re looking for something else to read, I hope you’ll find my book to be the same.

Jonathan's book list on the history of New York City

Jonathan H. Rees Why did Jonathan love this book?

Do you remember watching the news during the pandemic, when you could see everybody’s bookcases for the first time? 

There’s a reason that everyone kept noticing this book over and over and again. First, it’s really long, which means it’s thick and the spine is very recognizable. More importantly, most people read it because of what Caro has to say about the nature of political power.

It’s a biography of Robert Moses, who held multiple state and local positions that allowed him to build most of the infrastructure in and around New York City during the mid-twentieth century: highways, bridges, parks, etc.

I love it because it explains why New York City is the way it is. The chapter on the Cross Bronx Expressway may be the best piece of urban history ever written.

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Power Broker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro is 'simply one of the best non-fiction books in English of the last forty years' (Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times): a riveting and timeless account of power, politics and the city of New York by 'the greatest political biographer of our times' (Sunday Times); chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time and by the Modern Library as one of the 100 Greatest Books of the Twentieth Century; Winner of the Pulitzer Prize; a Sunday Times Bestseller; 'An outright masterpiece' (Evening Standard)

The Power Broker tells the…


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

Patrick J. Maney Author Of Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President

From my list on presidential campaigns.

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.  

Patrick's book list on presidential campaigns

Patrick J. Maney Why did Patrick 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…


Book cover of Politics and the English Language

Ben Hutchinson Author Of On Purpose: Ten Lessons on the Meaning of Life

From my list on essays to help us think for ourselves.

Who am I?

As an essayist, literary critic, and professor of literature, books are what John Milton calls my ‘pretious life-blood.’ As a writer, teacher, and editor, I spend my days trying to make meaning out of reading. This is the idea behind my most recent book, On Purpose: it’s easy to make vague claims about the edifying powers of ‘great writing,’ but what does this actually mean? How can literature help us live? My five recommendations all help us reflect on the power of books to help us think for ourselves, as I hope do my own books, including The Midlife Mind (2020) and Comparative Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2018).

Ben's book list on essays to help us think for ourselves

Ben Hutchinson Why did Ben love this book?

What I like about Orwell is that he is uncompromising. His fiction, such as Animal Farm and 1984, is very well known, but some of his essays have been just as influential.

This is probably the most important one, in which Orwell makes a case for clarity and concision as the guiding principles of communication. Language is both cause and effect of meaning: it "becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts."

Good writing, Orwell suggests, helps us retain freshness of thought; bad writing, conversely, deadens our sensibilities. Linguistic precision, in other words, is "not the exclusive concern of professional writers." We should all be concerned by cliché.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Politics and the English Language as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Politics and the English Language' is widely considered Orwell's most important essay on style. Style, for Orwell, was never simply a question of aesthetics; it was always inextricably linked to politics and to truth.'All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.'Language is a political issue, and slovenly use of language and cliches make it easier for those in power to deliberately use misleading language to hide unpleasant political facts. Bad English, he believed, was a vehicle for oppressive ideology, and it is…


Book cover of The Path to Power

Will McLean Greeley Author Of A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate

From my list on inspiring biographies.

Who am I?

I grew up in West Michigan, with a deep interest in American history, politics, and birds. Since boyhood I’ve wanted to learn the life story of my great-great uncle, Senator George P. McLean, who is credited with leading passage of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The MBTA represents a turning point in how the world views and now protects birds and the environment generally. Drawing upon my love of history, my degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in Archives Administration, I spent over a year researching McLean’s life story. Thus began my four-year research and writing journey culminating in A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington. 

Will's book list on inspiring biographies

Will McLean Greeley Why did Will love this book?

For years I resisted reading Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro’s four-volume (soon-to-be-five) series on Lyndon Baines Johnson. 

Growing up in the 1960s, I disliked Johnson’s disastrously tragic approach to the Vietnam War, and I couldn’t imagine reading a four-volume series on someone “I didn’t like.” But after fifty pages I was hooked. Caro taught me that the role of a biographer is to seek to understand their subject, not excessively praise or condemn them. 

The series also showed me how to incorporate just the right amount of context in the narrative (not too much, not too little). The book is also a study of Ambition and its consequences. After reading this series you’ll understand how Congress operates, and how even deeply- flawed people can still do good things, like LBJ’s commitment to pass civil rights legislation after JFK’s tragic assassination.

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Path to Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest biography of our era ... Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics' The Times

Robert A. Caro's legendary, multi-award-winning biography of US President Lyndon Johnson is a uniquely riveting and revelatory account of power, political genius and the shaping of twentieth-century America.

This first instalment tells of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country, revealing in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart. It charts his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut…


Book cover of The Gay Place

Charles Robbins Author Of The Accomplice

From my list on political bosses.

Who am I?

Political power has intrigued me since I read Macbeth and Machiavelli in high school – how to acquire it, wield it, and keep it, and how it seduces and ultimately corrupts. Political bosses fascinated me – Svengalis who built empires, often through charisma, populism, and ruthlessness. I began writing about politics as a newspaper reporter, then ran press shops for lawmakers and candidates, including a presidential campaign; co-wrote three nonfiction books with senators, including a former majority leader; then turned to writing fiction, a passion since boyhood, largely under the theme “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  

Charles' book list on political bosses

Charles Robbins Why did Charles love this book?

Brammer’s novel has resonated throughout my career, warning of almost inevitable disillusionment with a political powerhouse. Brammer had served as a top aide to Lyndon Johnson, on whom he based Arthur Fenstemaker, a star as bright as Penn Warren’s Willie Stark. The Gay Place spoke to me even more directly, focusing on minor politicos and their ambitions, frailties, and humanity. And the book drove home, through a pervading sadness, the anomie that rises from disillusionment. Brammer’s “Flea Circus” metaphor continues to amuse and bum me.

By Billy Lee Brammer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gay Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in Texas, The Gay Place consists of three interlocking novels, each with a different protagonist-a member of the state legislature, the state's junior senator, and the governor's press secretary. The governor himself, Arthur Fenstemaker, a master politician, infinitely canny and seductive, remains the dominant figure throughout.

Billy Lee Brammer-who served on Lyndon Johnson's staff-gives us here "the excitement of a political carnival: the sideshows, the freaks, and the ghoulish comedy atmosphere" (Saturday Review).

Originally published in 1961, The Gay Place is at once a cult classic and a major American novel.


Book cover of The Passage of Power

Don Glickstein Author Of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

From my list on political biographies that are well written.

Who am I?

I grew up in Massachusetts, which produced four presidents and untold presidential candidates including Mitt Romney, Mike Dukakis, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, and Gov. William Butler, who ran in 1884. My first career was as a newspaper reporter and editor, and I worked for papers in Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and Washington state. I’ve dabbled in politics myself, working as a campaign press secretary for the late Washington Gov. Booth Gardner. Newspapers gave me an abiding hatred for adverbs, the passive voice, and bias in word selection. (No, historians shouldn’t use “patriot” in describing the Revolution’s American rebels, because loyalists and Indian nations were just as patriotic in their own minds.)

Don's book list on political biographies that are well written

Don Glickstein Why did Don love this book?

Imagine you’re Vice President Lyndon Johnson on Nov. 22, 1963. The Secret Service just hustled you into a secure room at the Dallas hospital where doctors are desperately trying to keep President John F. Kennedy alive after an assassination attempt. What’s going through your mind? If Kennedy dies, what are your next steps? Robert Caro found out. Pulitzer-winner Caro is the greatest historian of our lifetime—and a brilliant, accessible writer who makes it impossible to put down a 700-page nonfiction book. The Passage of Power is the fourth of a planned five-volume biography of Johnson, the man who helped turn Martin Luther King’s dream into reality, and then self-imploded with the Vietnam War. Caro’s final volume will be an instant best-seller.

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Passage of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE, THE MARK LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE, THE AMERICAN HISTORY BOOK PRIZE

Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece.”

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power…


Book cover of A White House Diary

Mary C. Brennan Author Of Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady

From my list on why Pat Nixon was known (incorrectly) as Plastic Pat.

Who am I?

I became a historian because I am nosy. I like to know what is going on in other people’s lives. I study politics because I am fascinated by power—who has it? How did they get it? I took up this project not knowing much about First Ladies or Pat Nixon. My quest to know more led to the correspondence between Pat and her closest friend. The letters in these files allowed me to hear Pat’s voice describe her life as a politician’s wife, as Second Lady, and as a regular citizen. I feel privileged to be able to share that with the world.

Mary's book list on why Pat Nixon was known (incorrectly) as Plastic Pat

Mary C. Brennan Why did Mary love this book?

Lady Bird’s diary is worth reading no matter what you are studying. She is insightful, funny, and attentive to her unique perspective as First Lady. In terms of understanding Pat, the diary offers an outsider’s view from someone who understood Pat’s situation personally. The tidbits concerning their first post-election meeting and then subsequent visits provide evidence of Pat’s humor, humility, and kindness.

By Lady Bird Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A White House Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available again in paperback--Lady Bird Johnson


Book cover of Personal History

Fran Hauser Author Of Embrace the Work, Love Your Career: A Guided Workbook for Realizing Your Career Goals with Clarity, Intention, and Confidence

From my list on helping women find fulfillment in their career.

Who am I?

Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about leveling the playing field for women. I do this through my writing, speaking, and investing. Much of my current work is informed by the 20 years I spent in corporate as both an executive and a mentor to hundreds of women. ​The books I’ve chosen for this list are written by women I admire and who espouse similar approaches to the way I lead and show up at work. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!

Fran's book list on helping women find fulfillment in their career

Fran Hauser Why did Fran love this book?

Personal History is Katharine Graham’s memoir. She became the first female Fortune 500 CEO when she took over at The Washington Post. From having Warren Buffet as a mentor to presiding over The Washington Post during Watergate, her life was absolutely fascinating. There is so much to learn about leading, women’s empowerment, and how we show up at work through Graham’s journey. What makes this book unique, though, is that in addition to being a classic in the women’s leadership genre, it’s as juicy and riveting as your best suspense novel.

By Katharine Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen in the new movie The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep, here is the captivating, inside story of the woman who piloted the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media.

In this bestselling and widely acclaimed memoir, Katharine Graham, the woman who piloted the Washington Post through the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, tells her story - one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candour and dignity of its telling.

Here is the awkward child who grew up…


Book cover of America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama

Jan Stocklassa Author Of The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson's Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin

From my list on real conspiracies.

Who am I?

I was researching the assassination of Sweden’s Prime Minister Olof Palme when I came across the private archive of author Stieg Larsson. After eight years of research, my book The Man Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin was published, which shines new light on the conspiracy behind the unsolved murder. The book has been translated into 27 languages. My first book Gripen by Prague exposes corruption by Saab and BAe in connection with the sale of supersonic jet fighters to the Czech Republic. In the aftermath of the book, police investigations were opened in seven countries including the US and the UK.

Jan's book list on real conspiracies

Jan Stocklassa Why did Jan love this book?

This is an encyclopedia for anybody who wants to doublecheck the official version of events in US history starting from George Washington all the way through the presidencies of Nixon, the two Bushes, and Barak Obama. Investigative journalist Robert Parry worked for Associated Press and Newsweek on the Iran-Contra affair and spent years on the October Surprise, that cost President Jimmy Carter a second term. If you want to understand the role of the arms industry on US foreign policy since World War II, this is a great start. Or as President Eisenhower put it in his farewell address: “… we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

By Robert Parry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America's Stolen Narrative as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry reframes key chapters of American history by exploring past events that still drive the U.S. political narrative – from why the Framers junked the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution, to how the modern Republican Party embraced a win-at-all-cost ethos, to why the Democrats shy away from the hard work of accountability.

AMERICA’S STOLEN NARRATIVE takes you on a journey from America’s founding – and the plotting of George Washington and James Madison – to Richard Nixon’s sabotage of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks, on to the Watergate scandal (showing how those two dark…


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Interested in Lyndon B. Johnson, Washington state, and Texas?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Lyndon B. Johnson, Washington state, and Texas.

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