The best books about governors

8 authors have picked their favorite books about governors and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of My Nine Years as Governor of the Territory of New Mexico, 1897-1906

I’m not usually a fan of political memoirs (I tend to be skeptical of the authors), but this one is an enlightening read in terms of understanding the sorts of structural and governmental prejudices that Hispanic people faced in the early twentieth century as exemplified by New Mexico’s long struggle to obtain statehood. Otero was from a prominent New Mexican family and was the governor of the territory from 1897 to 1906. New Mexico was acquired as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in the aftermath of the Mexican-American war in 1848, but it didn’t become a state until 1912, due in part to the anti-Hispanic attitudes in Washington DC that Otero discusses in his book.

My Nine Years as Governor of the Territory of New Mexico, 1897-1906

By Miguel Antonio Otero,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Nine Years as Governor of the Territory of New Mexico, 1897-1906 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Miguel Antonio Otero (1859-1944) not only distinguished himself as a political leader in New Mexico and lived out his life as a champion of the people, but he is also highly recognized for his career as an author. He published his legendary My Life on the Frontier, 1864-1882, in 1935, followed by The Real Billy the Kid: With New Light on the Lincoln County War in 1936, My Life on the Frontier, 1882-1897 in 1939, and My Nine Years as Governor of the Territory of New Mexico, 1897-1906 in 1940. These books, of which this is one in Sunstone's Southwest…

Who am I?

Carrie Gibson is a London-based writer who grew up in the US and spends as much time as she can in Latin America and the Caribbean. She started out as a journalist, working at UK newspapers, including the Guardian and the Observer, before diving into a PhD and historical research on European colonialism and its legacy in the Americas. She is the author of two books and continues to contribute to media outlets in the UK and US.


I wrote...

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America

By Carrie Gibson,

Book cover of El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America

What is my book about?

El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present - from Ponce de Leon's initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

Say You'll Remember Me

By Katie McGarry,

Book cover of Say You'll Remember Me

Right away, I really loved the musical connection for the male lead’s side. He and his siblings are named after musicians, and I’m big on character names and I adored that element. Not to mention I’m a huge Swiftie and I peeped the title reference right away. Hendrix or “Drix” is recently released from juvie for a crime he did not commit and is inducted into a program aiming to give young offenders second chances and rehabilitate them, sponsored by the governor. And who does he meet while doing press releases for this program? The governor’s daughter Elle! This forbidden element had me engrossed immediately. I loved the idea of Drix being off-limits for Elle, but him being the only person she could be herself with and open up to!

Say You'll Remember Me

By Katie McGarry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Say You'll Remember Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading ever since kindergarten, and when I entered high school and discovered YA books, I found my home. Even when I read adult books now, I tend to gravitate towards rough-around-the-edges male leads. There’s just something fun and tempting about an anti-hero, bad boy, or morally gray male lead that always delivers spice and yearning. I’m a sucker for those bad boys who are only good for the girl who has their heart. While not all of my male leads are “bad boys,” naturally, I do tend to find myself writing quite a few of them and enjoying them, especially when you can show they’re multidimensional and have a soft side. 


I wrote...

The Right Side of Reckless

By Whitney D. Grandison,

Book cover of The Right Side of Reckless

What is my book about?

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him in the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned her about, she can’t stay away.

The Gay Place

By Billy Lee Brammer,

Book cover of The Gay Place

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.

The Gay Place

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.


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?”  


I wrote...

The Accomplice

By Charles Robbins,

Book cover of The Accomplice

What is my book about?

An eager young politico finds himself on the rise only to discover the perilous costs of success. Henry Hatten wangles a job as communications director for a senator’s presidential campaign and vows to shuck his ethical qualms after pulling a political punch that may have cost his last boss a governorship. Then the presidential campaign’s depths of greed emerge. Led by a ruthless chairman and filled with warring aides, hired thugs, fractious union bosses, and snooping reporters, the new gig turns out to be rife with the kind of politics Henry had so fervently sought to banish. When someone close to the campaign is murdered, Henry can no longer turn a blind eye or walk away.

Book cover of The Browns of California

A sprawling family story that, thanks to the sheer effort and skill of its author, tackles four generations of a political dynasty’s history and shapes it into a history of modern California at the same time. We see the Browns both shaping California and in turn being inexorably shaped by it, and we come away knowing them and knowing the Golden State all the better for this book’s depth and ambition.

The Browns of California

By Miriam Pawel,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I am a historian of the American West and a professor at the University of Southern California. I also direct the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. I love the way very smart and ambitious family histories illuminate the fascinating (or sometimes mundane) lives of people in the past and, at the same time, use those stories to help us understand bigger-picture issues, eras, and all the turbulence of American life. That little-girl-in-the-well book I wrote is the first time I’ve attempted family history. It was so hard to try to get it right but, at the same time, exhilarating to think that maybe I did.


I wrote...

Kathy Fiscus: A Tragedy That Transfixed the Nation

By William F. Deverell,

Book cover of Kathy Fiscus: A Tragedy That Transfixed the Nation

What is my book about?

This is a book that, until I finished it, haunted and obsessed me. In the spring of 1949, a three-year-old girl fell down the narrow shaft of an abandoned well in a field near her family’s Southern California home. Her father was superintendent of the water company in charge of the field and its active and inactive wells. For forty-eight hours across an April weekend, the fate of Kathy Fiscus was unknown. Would-be rescuers tunneled deep into the earth to try to get to her. Spectators, as many as 10,000, arrived to witness the rescue attempt; they sang and prayed and kept vigil. Live television news crews basically invented remote TV broadcasting from the site, and journalism was never the same.

Book cover of Tales of Alaska's Bush Rat Governor: The Extraordinary Autobiography of Jay Hammond Wilderness Guide and Reluctant Politician

Alaska’s politics have always been a blood sport, in part because participants are usually down-to-earth, no-nonsense Alaskans bound and determined to do what they think is right no matter the consequences—even if it costs them an election. 

A former Marine pilot with the famed “Black Sheep” squadron, Jay Hammond came north as a bush pilot and at statehood in 1959 was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives. His self-deprecating accounts of the political battles of the next quarter of a century, including the Permanent Fund, are sure to bring more than a chuckle. I once looked out an aircraft window to see a small plane upside down on a dirt runway at Hamond’s homestead some miles from Port Alsworth. Inquiring, I was told, “Oh, don't worry, Jay’s fine; he just bounced on a bad landing.”

Tales of Alaska's Bush Rat Governor

By Jay S. Hammond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales of Alaska's Bush Rat Governor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I wanted to visit Alaska since high school. It took me a couple of decades to make good on the urge, but I have made numerous trips. Alaska has everything I have always loved about Colorado, but in superlatives. From a historical standpoint, Alaska means mountains, mining, and railroads, exactly what I have written about in the lower forty-eight. Outdoors, there has never been any place that makes me happier than climbing mountains or rafting rivers. Spend two weeks in the Brooks Range with just one buddy without seeing another human and one comes to understand the land—and appreciate stories from people who do, too! 


I wrote...

Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land

By Walter R. Borneman,

Book cover of Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land

What is my book about?

Bradford Washburn, the dean of Alaskan mountaineering and exploration, has called my history of Alaska “just plain terrific.” It is a riveting account of Alaska from prehistoric migrations to Russian fur traders to the Gold Rush, extraordinary railroads, the oil boom, and the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Alaska’s history is filled with stories of new lands and new riches—and ever present are new people with competing views over how its resources should be used. Some want Alaska to remain static, others are in the vanguard of change, but Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land shows there are no easy answers. According to the Anchorage Chronicle, “This is the most accessible of all the Alaska histories.”

Ambling Into History

By Frank Bruni,

Book cover of Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush

George W. Bush, even today, 14 years after leaving the presidency, is a controversial president. But as with all presidents, to understand their politics and policies you have to first understand their personality and character. That’s what I like about this book: Bruni seeks to explain and understand who Bush was as a man—a man who, although the son of a president, never seemed destined to lead a nation and the world and yet ultimately faced one of the greatest crises in US history. Bruni, a former New York Times reporter who covered Bush as presidential nominee and president, shows W.’s weaknesses and strengths, his somewhat surprising life journey of serious endeavors for an often less-than-serious man, and ultimately how the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, changed Bush’s entire outlook and demeanor, thrusting him into an unprecedented challenge that elevated the laid-back good-time guy to a serious and dedicated leader.…

Ambling Into History

By Frank Bruni,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush. As the principal New York Times reporter assigned to cover George W. Bush's presidential campaign from its earliest stages - and then as a White House correspondent - Frank Bruni has spent as much time around Bush over the last two years as any other reporter. In Ambling Into History, Bruni paints the most thorough, balanced, eloquent and lively portrait yet of a man in many ways ill-suited to the office he sought and won, focusing on small moments that often escaped the news media's notice. From the author's initial introduction to Bush…

Who am I?

I'm an independent historian and journalist who has spent over 25 years studying Abraham Lincoln and his family. My fascination with the Great Emancipator began when I worked first as a student volunteer and then as a park ranger at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. As I writer who has always loved history, I decided I should start writing about history. I've authored or edited eight books (seven on Lincoln and his family) as well as numerous articles. My big break came when I discovered a cache of Mary Lincoln’s missing letters, written during her time in a sanitarium in 1875, which had been missing for nearly 100 years.


I wrote...

Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln

By Jason Emerson,

Book cover of Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln

What is my book about?

Giant in the Shadows is a biography of Robert T. Lincoln, the oldest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln and the only one of their four boys to live to adulthood. Robert Lincoln is considered to be one of the most successful presidential children to date, having been an accomplished lawyer, businessman, and statesman who, much more than merely the son of America’s most famous president, made his own indelible mark on one of the most progressive and dynamic eras in United States history. Robert was also the keeper and protector of his father’s legacy and papers from 1865 until his own death in 1926, and as such he had a profound impact on the way Abraham Lincoln’s life is known and interpreted today.

Dunmore's New World

By James Corbett David,

Book cover of Dunmore's New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor in Revolutionary America

With a broader focus than the 1774 campaign into the Ohio Valley known as Dunmore’s War, James David’s book gave me a vivid picture of the late colonial North American and British landscape in which Dunmore lived and moved and had his being. An engaging read as well as an indispensable resource for a historical fiction writer.

Dunmore's New World

By James Corbett David,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dunmore's New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dunmore's New World tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, whose long-neglected life boasts a measure of scandal and intrigue rare in the annals of the colonial world. Dunmore not only issued the first formal proclamation of emancipation in American history; he also undertook an unauthorized Indian war in the Ohio Valley, now known as Dunmore's War, that was instrumental in opening the Kentucky country to white settlement. In this entertaining biography, James Corbett David brings together a rich cast of characters as he follows Dunmore on his perilous path through the Atlantic world…

Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during the 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnee nation on the eve of the Revolutionary war, culminating in the Battle of Point Pleasant, is a fascinating, complex, and poignant example of the armies and individuals that planned, fought, and resisted the campaign.


I wrote...

Many Sparrows

By Lori Benton,

Book cover of Many Sparrows

What is my book about?

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would... In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year-old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son...especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

The Commonwealth of Thieves

By Thomas Keneally,

Book cover of The Commonwealth of Thieves

Tom is an old mate, and a magician with words. He is also a prodigious researcher. Books: yes. The bibliography in The Commonwealth of Thieves runs to seven tight-packed pages, divided between primary sources (three pages) and secondary sources. The bibliography is underpinned by no fewer than 27 pages of notes. The Australian history I was taught at school was hogwash. Tom has set it straight in this brilliantly researched and off-the-wall history of our early days.

The Commonwealth of Thieves

By Thomas Keneally,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this spirited history of the remarkable first four years of the convict settlement of Australia, Thomas Keneally offers us a human view of a fascinating piece of history. Combining the authority of a renowned historian with a brilliant narrative flair, Keneally gives us an inside view of this unprecedented experiment from the perspective of the new colony’s governor, Arthur Phillips. Using personal journals and documents, Keneally re-creates the hellish overseas voyage and the challenges Phillips faced upon arrival: unruly convicts, disgruntled officers, bewildered and hostile natives, food shortages, and disease. He also offers captivating portrayals of Aborigines and of…

Who am I?

I’ve now written four books, of which three are Australian history. My first two books were World War 2 military history. My publishers persist in calling each book a best-seller, and who am I to disagree? I live in France and my third book A Good Place To Hide is about a French community that rescued Jews from the Nazis. My fourth book Ten Rogues took me back to Australian history, telling the story of a bunch of ten convicts who in 1834 nicked a brig and sailed it from Tasmania to Chile without a map or a compass.


I wrote...

Ten Rogues: The unlikely story of convict schemers, a stolen brig and an escape from Van Diemen's Land to Chile

By Peter Grose,

Book cover of Ten Rogues: The unlikely story of convict schemers, a stolen brig and an escape from Van Diemen's Land to Chile

What is my book about?

The unlikely story of convict schemers, a stolen brig and an escape from Van Diemen's Land to Chile. From the grim docks of nineteenth-century London to the even grimmer shores of the brutal penal colony of Norfolk Island, this is a roller-coaster tale. It has everything: defiance of authority, treachery, piracy and mutiny, escape from the hangman's noose and even love. Peopled with good men, buffoons, incompetents and larrikin convicts of the highest order, Ten Rogues is an unexpected and wickedly entertaining story from the great annals of Australia's colonial history.

Harry Morgan's Way

By Dudley Pope,

Book cover of Harry Morgan's Way: The Biography Of Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688

Henry Morgan was the scourge of the Spanish Main. Riches were brought to Europe each year by a treasure fleet of heavily armed galleons that collected loot on the coast of Panama before setting sail for the old world. Morgan captured Spain’s coastal fort of Portobelo and did what none had done before — crossed the isthmus to sack Panama City. He would later become acting Governor of Jamaica, but his exploits as a privateer, ably told by naval historian Dudley Pope, cemented his legend.

Harry Morgan's Way

By Dudley Pope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harry Morgan's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Morgan the Pirate' is a name long associated with all the trappings of pirate living - skull and crossbones, pieces of eight, speeding ships, almost in fact 'with a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum'. As legend has it, his was a life of high adventure, dastardly battles and more than a few gold coins thrown in, collected by underhand means of course. Yet if this legend is true, why did Charles II knight him at the height of his career and why was he given the exalted position of governor of Jamaica? In this authoritative biography, Dudley Pope lays…

Who am I?

Ryan Murdock is Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost, Canada’s national travel magazine, and a weekly columnist for The Shift, an independent Maltese news portal. His feature articles have taken him across a remote stretch of Canada’s Northwest Territories on foot, into the Central Sahara in search of prehistoric rock art, and around Wales with a drug squad detective hunting for the real King Arthur.


I wrote...

Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

By Ryan Murdock,

Book cover of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

What is my book about?

Vagabond Dreams explores the process of psychological and emotional change experienced by the traveller, set against the backdrop of a solo journey through Central America. No trip has the same impact of that first time you set out alone on the road. It mirrors The Hero’s Journey, but without grand heroism. This is a personal mythology, revealed by the self-imposed hardships of the road.

Book cover of William Clark and the Shaping of the West

The versatile Landon Jones is a former editor of People magazine and the author of Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but it is his biography of Clark that really thrills me. This book combines solid research with vibrant, engrossing prose that is always a pleasure to read. You get to know the intriguing—and sometimes enigmatic—William Clark before, during, and after the expedition.

William Clark and the Shaping of the West

By Landon Y. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked William Clark and the Shaping of the West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1803 and 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark cocaptained the most famous expedition in American history. But while Lewis ended his life just three years after the expedition, Clark, as the highest-ranking federal official in the West, spent three decades overseeing its consequences: Indian removal and the destruction of Native America. In a rare combination of storytelling and scholarship, bestselling author Landon Y. Jones vividly depicts Clark's life and the dark and bloody ground of America's early West, capturing the qualities of character and courage that made Clark an unequaled leader in America's grander enterprise: the shaping of the…

Who am I?

I was browsing a bookstore around 1996 when I spotted a book about Lewis and Clark. I took a look, saw a list of the members of the expedition, and realized I hardly knew anything about those individuals. I wondered who they were and what happened to them during and after their trek across the country. I started reading books and articles and making trips to conventions or archives in places like St. Louis and Philadelphia. It has been a great twenty-five years, and my passion for Lewis and Clark has never ebbed. I hope you enjoy the books discussed here as much as I have.


I wrote...

The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition

By Larry E. Morris,

Book cover of The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition

What is my book about?

The Lewis and Clark Expedition ended in 1806, and the last surviving member died in 1870. In the intervening decades, expedition veterans witnessed the momentous events of the nation they helped form—from the War of 1812 to the California Gold Rush to the Civil War. Some of them went on to hold public office; two were charged with murder. Many could not resist the call of the wild and continued to adventure forth into the frontier.

Engagingly written and based on exhaustive research, The Fate of the Corps chronicles the lives of the fascinating men—and one woman and one child—who opened the American West.

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