21 books directly related to elections 📚

All 21 election books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Verdict: Decoding India's Elections

By Prannoy Roy, Dorab R. Sopariwala,

Book cover of The Verdict: Decoding India's Elections

Why this book?

History often offers clues into what’s happening in the current times. This book, written by one of the most popular faces decoding Indian elections on television, provides an account of elections starting from India’s first election in 1952 until now. As I read through this book, I realized that what seems to be unprecedented to a young person might not be so when viewed through a historical perspective, and this book offers that important perspective. It also documents how election campaigns have transformed over the years and the major challenges disadvantaged groups face when trying to exercise their democratic right of voting, making it an excellent read for those looking to understand India’s democratic setup. 


Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960

By Irwin F. Gellman,

Book cover of Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960

Why this book?

Gellman is a nationally-recognized historian, whose writings reflect thorough and insightful research. His earlier books – on Nixon’s time in Congress (The Contender) and as Eisenhower’s vice president (The President and the Apprentice) – meticulously debunked derogatory stories about Nixon, and this one on the 1960 campaign does the same. Many believe Theodore White’s Making of the President,1960 is the only authoritative account of that contest, but Gellman points out how White set out to idolize Kennedy and villainize Nixon – never once actually speaking to Nixon, either during or following the campaign. Gellman is an excellent writer, putting his readers right in the center of historic events. His final chapter, bringing the campaign all together is simply outstanding.


The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority

By Patrick J. Buchanan,

Book cover of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority

Why this book?

Pat Buchanan joined Nixon’s staff in 1966 and was the conservative guru on his White House staff throughout Nixon’s terms in office. Totally written off for dead after his 1962 loss to Edmund “Pat” Brown as California’s governor, Nixon remerged to be sworn in as our 37th President in January 1969 – and Pat was with him every step of the way. This book is Buchanan’s insider account of how that recovery was planned, executed, and ultimately achieved. Its stories reflect lessons and insights for everyone interested in national campaigns. I served alongside Pat in the Nixon White House, but this volume fills in intimate details of Nixon’s wilderness years – before he took the oath of office.


Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

By Christopher H. Achen, Larry M. Bartels,

Book cover of Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

Why this book?

This book came out after my own, but the authors had already laid out the main themes in papers going back years, so I was familiar with their argument that voters (1) don't know much about politics, (2) don't pay much attention to issues, and (3) therefore base their political choices on something else. What that something else is depends on multiple factors like age, geography, self-interest, whim, and even the weather. The weather explanation is startling. The authors' studies show that droughts and floods affect how people vote. When misfortune frowns on voters they tend to vote against incumbents, whether it is reasonable or not to hold the people in power responsible for what's triggered their feeling of malaise. Throw the bums out!

But one factor above all others determines how people vote. And that's their social identity. Voters take their cues from people like themselves. What influences voters most, in a nutshell, is how their neighbors or fellow churchgoers vote. We go with our social group. 


The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It

By Mark Bowden, Matthew Teague,

Book cover of The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It

Why this book?

The Steal documents what happened in the weeks between the 2020 presidential election and January 6th in swing states that Biden won, where Trump persuaded local loyalists that the election had been rigged. Avid Trump supporters embraced every wild conspiracy theory Trump World tossed their way—imagining minor glitches to be bulletproof evidence of massive fraud. 

As the author of another narrative about the collateral damage wrought by purveyors of the Big Lie, I had obvious reasons to be drawn to The Steal. It deftly see-saws between besieged election workers and officials trying to do their jobs in the face of unrelenting pressure, and those who—truth, law, and logic be damned—applied that pressure. The Steal fascinates, both as a commentary on human nature and a ground-level account of an attempted coup.  


The Presidential Quest: Candidates and Images in American Political Culture, 1787-1852

By M. J. Heale,

Book cover of The Presidential Quest: Candidates and Images in American Political Culture, 1787-1852

Why this book?

Heale’s book is a classic look at how Early Republic presidential candidates and presidents curated their public image. Reading it made me realize how much political mythology was deliberately crafted during the early decades of the U.S. presidency, an obvious point in hindsight and a particularly important one in thinking about the contemporary relevancy. I gain new insights every time I read it.  


Practicing Democracy: Elections and Political Culture in Imperial Germany

By Margaret Lavinia Anderson,

Book cover of Practicing Democracy: Elections and Political Culture in Imperial Germany

Why this book?

People learn democracy by practicing it. The Germans practiced and practiced, and eventually got better at it. This is the main argument of Margaret Lavinia Anderson’s stunning book. Scrutinizing hundreds of contested elections, Anderson shows how Germans gradually reformed their authoritarian structures without significant constitutional reform. She demonstrates that the grassroots struggle for more democracy brought voters out of their narrow communities and helped form a wider civic culture. Alas, however, practice did not make perfect, and Germany was not saved from its own aggressive militarism.


The Plot Against America: A Novel

By Philip Roth,

Book cover of The Plot Against America: A Novel

Why this book?

Unlike the other books on my list, this one, of course, is a work of fiction. It imagines an alternative history, in which Charles Lindbergh, the Nazi-sympathizing celebrity pilot, wins the US presidency in 1940. Roth conveys the mounting horrors through the experiences of his narrator, a Jewish boy in New Jersey. The book is a meditation on the fragile borders between democracy and authoritarianism in the United States, it suggests that fascism could have happened (and could still happen) in our not so-exceptional democracy. 


What It Takes: The Way to the White House

By Richard Ben Cramer,

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

Why this book?

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Ben Cramer wrote what IMO is the best book ever written chronicling a run for president from the primaries to the general election. The author followed the 1988 election and provides deep and detailed revelations about the six candidates and their campaigns. I was pleasantly surprised how good this book was.


Zombie-In-Chief: Eater of the Free World: A Novel Take on a Brain-Dead Election

By Scott Kenemore,

Book cover of Zombie-In-Chief: Eater of the Free World: A Novel Take on a Brain-Dead Election

Why this book?

Whatever your take on politics and elections, I thought this was a truly original addition to the zombie world. Funny, and often true-to-life in an alternate reality, this book offers another interesting and sometimes horrific view of the crazy world of politics in a year that was far from the norm.


Missionary Stew

By Ross Thomas,

Book cover of Missionary Stew

Why this book?

Critically underrated and largely unknown but described by up-and-coming writer Stephen King (in 1983) as “the Jane Austen of the political espionage story,” Ross Thomas was rumoured to have been an ex-spook himself. For those that haven’t read him, the best way I can describe his writing is: hilarious, clever, cynical, and like Elmore Leonard had a baby with Graham Greene.

Missionary Stew sees political fundraiser, Draper Haere, and “almost-Pulitzer winning” journalist, Morgan Citron, wrapped up in a caper involving the CIA, cocaine traffickers, Latin American generals, and corrupt US officials, all trying to fund a coup in a fictional Central American country. A storyline that might sound like it’s based on a true story—the Iran-Contra Affair. The only hitch is Missionary Stew was published in 1983 while Iran-Contra first came to light in 1985. Prophetic or insider knowledge?    


Peril

By Bob Woodward, Robert Costa,

Book cover of Peril

Why this book?

There is probably no journalist in Washington more revered and connected than Bob Woodward. From his Watergate fame five decades earlier, the Washington Post legendary reporter and editor has continued his eye-opening, impressive work. Peril is his final book in a trilogy on the Trump administration. He and fellow Post journalist Robert Costa interviewed more than 200 administrative players who provide this account with the deep-sourced material that Woodward fans have come to expect. 

While numerous interviews are off the record and the focus of the book is more on officials than foot soldiers who carried out the attack, the result is a revealing tome that does not disappoint.


The (Un)Popular Vote

By Jasper Sanchez,

Book cover of The (Un)Popular Vote

Why this book?

This book hits all the right points for me. A diverse cast, teens figuring out who they are, and the problem of obstacles thrown in their way. That’s real life. In this divisive climate, we see and hear a lot of arguments played out on the news. Parents arguing against this, teachers and librarians fighting for that. What we don’t see and hear enough of are the kids, the ones who are truly affected by these disagreements. What I love about this book is that we get to hear their points of views, their feelings. We see what happens when a parent refuses to accept their child for who they are and puts limitations on their love. I love this book because it gives me that perspective.

Multi-party Politics in Kenya

By David Throup, Charles Hornsby,

Book cover of Multi-party Politics in Kenya

Why this book?

By far the most academic of our recommendations, Throup and Hornsby describe the constraints that having to hold an election imposes on leaders and, most tellingly, how easy leaders find it to flaunt these binds.


Deception Point

By Dan Brown,

Book cover of Deception Point

Why this book?

The search for truth is such a powerful force that, in the right circumstances, it can not only propel us to explore the darkest, coldest, and most dangerous recesses of the planet, it can make us question everything we know about life and death, love and betrayal. This classic thriller indulges readers with an exciting adventure across the snow and ice to explore one of the greatest scientific mysteries of all time: is there extraterrestrial life? But perhaps what makes this book so memorable, at least to me, is how deliberately the story tests our faith in friendship, family, and those we trust to lead us.


Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System

By Donald B. Cole,

Book cover of Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System

Why this book?

Cole is an underappreciated historian of the Jacksonian era. Unlike Remini’s classic overview of the 1828 presidential election, which is long on narrative and short on critical analysis, Cole provides a more in-depth examination of one of the dirtiest campaigns in U.S. history. It is the go-to book if you want to understand the inner workings of how Jackson was elected.  


Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia

By Joshua Yaffa,

Book cover of Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia

Why this book?

Russians are not intrinsically good, bad, or ugly, they’re just like the rest of us. But living in Putin’s era often forces all kinds of compromises on people, especially if they want to live well and make a difference to the world around them. New Yorker’s Yaffa digs deep into the experiences of eight such ambitious Russians, some of whom deformed themselves to thrive, others of whom were all but broken by the experience. It’s not always the easiest book to read, but it’s an excellent exploration of what living in today’s Russia can mean.


Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

By Malka Older,

Book cover of Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

Why this book?

Infomocracy has one of the most original science fiction concepts that I’ve read in in a very long time. It’s set in a grounded near future with a radically different, but still democratic, global governance system. The story and characters are engaging, but what really stood out for me is how well Older has thought through this new form of geopolitics. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about whether this is a good and workable solution long after you’ve finished the book.


Book Uncle and Me

By Uma Krishnaswami, Julianna Swaney (illustrator),

Book cover of Book Uncle and Me

Why this book?

I’d read this book a few years ago but was recently reminded of it when I interviewed Uma for a CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors Illustrators and Performers) profile. This is a sweet story about friendship, community, activism, and the main character, Yasmin's, love of books which I could totally identify with!

Set in India, nine-year-old Yasmin, an avid reader, loves to borrow a book from Book Uncle’s outdoor lending library. When the city decides to shut down Book Uncle’s stand, Yasmin gets to work. Drawing inspiration from a folktale about birds working together to free themselves from a hunter’s nest, she rouses the local community to help save the stand. An inspiring story about how each little action can contribute towards a larger goal, and that each one of us can make a difference in the world.


Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876

By Jr. Roy Morris,

Book cover of Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876

Why this book?

Accusations of ballot fraud, election challenges, dueling slates of electors, threats of political violence—even a new civil war. It sounds eerily like the 2020 presidential election, but it happened in 1876. The legitimate winner that year was Democrat Samuel Tilden. His rival, Rutherford B. Hayes, who eventually ascended to the presidency, and Tilden both, according to Morris, went to bed on election night, believing Tilden was the winner. The fraud, this time, was initiated, not by the candidate himself, but by Republican operatives behind closed doors who worked to propel Hayes to the top, in exchange for an end to Reconstruction—which led inexorably to the Jim Crow era. 

The bitter battle left Tilden and the country with grievous losses. The country is still recovering.


Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show

By Jonathan Karl,

Book cover of Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show

Why this book?

There are numerous books out about Donald Trump’s final year as president. This one by veteran ABC News Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl provides the most detailed insider account of what led up to the Capitol attack and what exactly occurred that day. Karl gets key administration officials and even Trump himself to talk on the record about what happened from their perspective. There aren’t many interviews from unnamed sources, which leads to a more accountable and authoritative work.