10 books like Politics and the English Language

By George Orwell,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Politics and the English Language. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

By William L. Riordan,

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

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.

Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

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


The Power Broker

By Robert A. Caro,

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

A gnawing hunger for the truth animates this towering author’s work on Robert Moses, New York City’s longtime “master builder” who reshaped and indisputably wrecked large chunks of thriving Gotham over the first half of the twentieth century. This book was staggeringly influential for me as a young urbanist and author coming to grips with the forces that mold the urban landscape. Caro’s intrepid, old-school reporting—a model of investigative journalism, the likes of which we could sorely use more of today—showed how one dogged writer could blow open the portals of power, hold the mighty to account, and reframe how we see our world.

The Power Broker

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

6 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…


A Political Education

By Harry McPherson,

Book cover of A Political Education: A Washington Memoir

Here’s Lyndon B. Johnson again. As a bright young lawyer, McPherson left Texas to work for a year with Johnson, thinking the experience might open his eyes—and a few doors—at the beginning of his legal career. McPherson stepped onto the rocket sled of politics and never stepped off. This grand old man of Washington paused mid-career to give us the ultimate learning-the-ropes memoir of life inside politics.

A Political Education

By Harry McPherson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This insider's view of Washington in the 1950s and 1960s, of the tumultuous presidency of Lyndon Johnson, and of the conflicts and factions of the president's staff has become a political classic since its original publication in 1972. In this reissue, Harry McPherson adds a new preface in which he reflects on changes in Washington since the Johnson era and on the lessons Bill Clinton could learn from the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.


What It Takes

By Richard Ben Cramer,

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

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.

What It Takes

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…


Metaphors We Live By

By George Lakoff, Mark Johnson,

Book cover of Metaphors We Live By

This book is about how we understand our language and our experiences, and how we make meaning. It sets out some of the theories that structure analysis of metaphor and language, and while it’s based on the authors’ research, it is an accessible introduction. This book will change the way you think about the language you use every day, often without a second thought.

Metaphors We Live By

By George Lakoff, Mark Johnson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Metaphors We Live By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People use metaphors every time they speak. Some of those metaphors are literary - devices for making thoughts more vivid or entertaining. But most are much more basic than that - they're "metaphors we live by", metaphors we use without even realizing we're using them. In this book, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson suggest that these basic metaphors not only affect the way we communicate ideas, but actually structure our perceptions and understandings from the beginning. Bringing together the perspectives of linguistics and philosophy, Lakoff and Johnson offer an intriguing and surprising guide to some of the most common metaphors…


The Spider's Thread

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

In the 1980s and 1990s, Keith Holyoak and I collaborated on a series of articles and books about analogy, which is the underpinning of complex metaphors. His new book is a delightfully insightful discussion of metaphors in poetry, drawing not only on his deep knowledge of cognitive psychology but also on his experience as a highly published poet. Through analysis of great poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and many others, he illuminates how metaphors contribute to beautiful poems and to creativity in general.  

The Spider's Thread

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spider's Thread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An examination of metaphor in poetry as a microcosm of the human imagination—a way to understand the mechanisms of creativity.

In The Spider's Thread, Keith Holyoak looks at metaphor as a microcosm of the creative imagination. Holyoak, a psychologist and poet, draws on the perspectives of thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics—and from the sciences—psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists. He begins each chapter with a poem—by poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda—and then widens the discussion to broader notions of metaphor…


More Than Cool Reason

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Book cover of More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor

Lakoff famously contends that metaphor is the crux of all human understanding. This classic academic, literary, philosophical, and sociological text suggests that at the root of what it means to be human is an absolute need to describe all experience and knowledge through comparison. Read More Than Cool Reason to begin gaining an appreciation for the theory of how metaphor makes us who we are and establishes our place in the universe.

More Than Cool Reason

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Than Cool Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The authors restore metaphor to our lives by showing us that it's never gone away. We've merely been taught to talk as if it had: as though weather maps were more 'real' than the breath of autumn; as though, for that matter, Reason was really 'cool.' What we're saying whenever we say is a theme this book illumines for anyone attentive." - Hugh Kenner, Johns Hopkins University

"In this bold and powerful book, Lakoff and Turner continue their use of metaphor to show how our minds get hold of the world. They have achieved nothing less than a postmodern Understanding…


Don't Believe a Word

By David Shariatmadari,

Book cover of Don't Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language

Shariatmadari writes beautifully, and this book will make you think differently about how we use language and how that language uses and shapes us, both as individual actors and as a society. Our language – those everyday vocabularies and grammars that we deploy without a second thought – is neither original nor value-free; instead, “to speak is ‘to swim in an inherited stream of images and words’”, crafted by generations before us. For small talk, this may not matter so much. But for the bigger, weightier things in life, for the things that really matter, the way we talk can have real consequences on what we are able to understand, and how we are able to respond.

Don't Believe a Word

By David Shariatmadari,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Believe a Word as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Think you know language? Think again.

There are languages that change when your mother-in-law is present. The language you speak could make you more prone to accidents. Swear words are produced in a special part of your brain.

Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But despite these advances, much of what people believe about language is based on folklore, instinct, or hearsay. We imagine a word's origin is it's "true" meaning, that foreign languages…


The Second Mountain

By David Brooks,

Book cover of The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

Brooks is interested in what makes for a good society and how we as individuals can lead moral, principled lives that benefit others. This must be a subject of interest to everyone but I think has a particular application for writers trying to portray men and women of character and moral purpose. In Brooks’ metaphor the first mountain consists of career, family, wealth, reputation, and everything you would put into your CV. The second mountain is what they might say about you after you die when none of that matters anymore. The issue now is character not achievements. Were you kind, hospitable, generous, compassionate, and humble in your outlook, or ego-centric and proud? For any one trying to write a character with character this is fascinating reading.

The Second Mountain

By David Brooks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Everybody tells you to live for a cause larger than yourself, but how exactly do you do it? The author of The Road to Character explores what it takes to lead a meaningful life in a self-centered world.

“Deeply moving, frequently eloquent and extraordinarily incisive.”—The Washington Post

Every so often, you meet people who radiate joy—who seem to know why they were put on this earth, who glow with a kind of inner light. Life, for these people, has often followed what we might think of as a two-mountain shape. They get out of…


Metaphor and Thought

By Andrew Ortony (editor),

Book cover of Metaphor and Thought

This is a recommendation for those who want to go into a bit more depth with metaphor. The book is an edited collection of chapters written by experts who explore how metaphor constructs our reality, looking at metaphor as forms of language, and metaphor as forms of mental representation. Admittedly, there’s a little more jargon in this one, but the chapters are an excellent starting point for reflecting on the applications and implications of the way we talk and why it matters.

Metaphor and Thought

By Andrew Ortony (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Metaphor and Thought, first published in 1979, reflects the surge of interest in and research into the nature and function of metaphor in language and thought. In this revised and expanded second edition, the editor has invited the contributors to update their original essays to reflect any changes in their thinking. Reorganised to accommodate the shifts in central theoretical issues, the volume also includes six new chapters that present important and influential fresh ideas about metaphor that have appeared in such fields as the philosophy of language and the philosophy of science, linguistics, cognitive and clinical psychology, education and artificial…


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