The most recommended books on the politics of the United States

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to United States Politics, and here are their favorite United States Politics books.
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Book cover of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Author Of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

From my list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US.

Who are we?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  

Laura, Paul, and Francisco's book list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did Laura, Paul, and Francisco love this book?

Kendi’s book is the most recent in a long line of fantastic scholars who have tackled discussions of racism in America, especially anti-Black racism. Kendi focuses specifically on racist ideas, and how those ideas were created and then used to rationalize policies and inequalities for generations. The book is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason: it is accessible, has important ideas that are well-supported, and the reader doesn’t get lost in a history that covers a wide span of time.

By Ibram X. Kendi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Stamped from the Beginning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.

** Winner of the US National Book Award**

Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals - Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis - showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.

Contrary to popular…


Book cover of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals

Raina Lipsitz Author Of The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

From my list on American politics for open-minded readers.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with politics and social justice since I was a kid, have been writing professionally for over a decade, and have twice interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I wrote The Rise of a New Left because I was covering a new generation of political candidates who were challenging old orthodoxies, and I was curious about the leftward shift in U.S. politics: where it came from, who was driving it, how deep it went, and how durable it might be. I try to convey a broader and more nuanced view of the American left and give young women and people of color the credit they deserve for reinvigorating it.

Raina's book list on American politics for open-minded readers

Raina Lipsitz Why did Raina love this book?

Essentially a field manual for progressive organizers, this personal and engaging book offers hard-won insights into what works, what doesn’t, and how left-wing organizations can break the too-common cycle of isolation and marginalization and broaden their reach. Smucker imparts valuable lessons without being hectoring or pedantic; he is admirably generous and self-critical, and he writes like a real person rather than a jargon-spewing robot. This book reminded me why I got interested in politics in the first place and renewed my faith in our power to change our communities.

By Jonathan Matthew Smucker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hegemony How-To as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A guide to political struggle for a generation that is deeply ambivalent about power. While many activists gravitate toward mere self-expression and identity-affirming rituals at the expense of serious political intervention, Smucker provides an apologia for leadership, organization, and collective power, a moral argument for its cultivation, and a discussion of dilemmas that movements must navigate in order to succeed.


Book cover of Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto

Raina Lipsitz Author Of The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

From my list on American politics for open-minded readers.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with politics and social justice since I was a kid, have been writing professionally for over a decade, and have twice interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I wrote The Rise of a New Left because I was covering a new generation of political candidates who were challenging old orthodoxies, and I was curious about the leftward shift in U.S. politics: where it came from, who was driving it, how deep it went, and how durable it might be. I try to convey a broader and more nuanced view of the American left and give young women and people of color the credit they deserve for reinvigorating it.

Raina's book list on American politics for open-minded readers

Raina Lipsitz Why did Raina love this book?

Crispin is funny, acerbic, trenchant, and a little bit mean. Her 2017 polemic takes contemporary feminism to task for what she sees as its feckless devolution from fervent, world-changing force to toothless irrelevancy. It’s a challenging read, especially for anyone who is, like me, a longtime feminist. But Crispin’s voice is fresh and compelling, and whether or not you agree with her entirely, her critique is impossible to ignore.

By Jessa Crispin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why I Am Not A Feminist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Outspoken critic Jessa Crispin delivers a searing rejection of contemporary feminism . . . and a bracing manifesto for revolution.

Are you a feminist? Do you believe women are human beings and that they deserve to be treated as such? That women deserve all the same rights and liberties bestowed upon men? If so, then you are a feminist . . . or so the feminists keep insisting. But somewhere along the way, the movement for female liberation sacrificed meaning for acceptance, and left us with a banal, polite, ineffectual pose that barely challenges the status quo. In this bracing,…


Book cover of All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States

Raina Lipsitz Author Of The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

From my list on American politics for open-minded readers.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with politics and social justice since I was a kid, have been writing professionally for over a decade, and have twice interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I wrote The Rise of a New Left because I was covering a new generation of political candidates who were challenging old orthodoxies, and I was curious about the leftward shift in U.S. politics: where it came from, who was driving it, how deep it went, and how durable it might be. I try to convey a broader and more nuanced view of the American left and give young women and people of color the credit they deserve for reinvigorating it.

Raina's book list on American politics for open-minded readers

Raina Lipsitz Why did Raina love this book?

A timely and well-researched look at the right’s successful, decades-long strategy of capturing state legislatures, this book sounds the alarm—and points to a crucial path forward. I love that Winter succeeds where many academic authors have failed: she has written a book that’s both deeply informative and fun to read. I especially appreciate her concrete and practical approach to moving the United States in a more progressive direction; anyone can point out that the right is, by many measures, winning, but it takes real talent to show us what we can do about it.

By Meaghan Winter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Politics Is Local as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After the 2016 election, the Republican Party seized control not just of the White House and Congress but of many state governments. To be precise, the GOP seized control of both legislative chambers in 32 states and governor offices in 33 states-a majority the party hadn't held since 1928. What happened?

In In the Red, journalist Meaghan Winter argues that over the last couple decades, the Democratic Party has made a very risky strategic choice to abandon state and local races in order to win federal races, while the GOP poured money into winning state governor seats and state congresses.…


Book cover of Democracy: A Case Study

John G. Matsusaka Author Of Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge

From my list on understanding why American democracy is struggling.

Who am I?

I am an economist by training, who has researched and taught classes related to business, governance, and democracy for more than 30 years at the University of Southern California. My work is multidisciplinary, spanning economics, finance, law, and political science, with a grounding in empirical analysis. In addition to two books and numerous scholarly articles, I am a frequent op-ed contributor and media commentator on topics related to democracy. I also direct the Initiative and Referendum Institute, a nonpartisan education organization focused on direct democracy.

John's book list on understanding why American democracy is struggling

John G. Matsusaka Why did John love this book?

This unconventional book contains a series of business-school-style case studies about critical episodes in American democracy that forms the basis for a class taught by the author at Harvard Business School. The cases are interesting and an enjoyable way to learn history—but more than that, by putting the reader in the shoes of key decision-makers in each episode, they build an appreciation for the complexity of real political decisions, in contrast to public discourse these days which too often treats our policy challenges as black and white issues.

By David A. Moss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year

"This absolutely splendid book is a triumph on every level. A first-rate history of the United States, it is beautifully written, deeply researched, and filled with entertaining stories. For anyone who wants to see our democracy flourish, this is the book to read."
-Doris Kearns Goodwin

To all who say our democracy is broken-riven by partisanship, undermined by extremism, corrupted by wealth-history offers hope. Democracy's nineteen cases, honed in David Moss's popular course at Harvard and taught at the Library of Congress, in state capitols, and at hundreds of high schools across…


Book cover of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

John D. Caputo Author Of What to Believe? Twelve Brief Lessons in Radical Theology

From John's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Retired professor Philosopher Theologian Writer Questioner

John's 3 favorite reads in 2023

John D. Caputo Why did John love this book?

Religion is in the process of destroying itself, turning itself into a mockery of what it is supposed to be.

Nothing better illustrates that than the nightmare that does not blush to call itself Christian Nationalism, as if Jesus were a first-amendment, gun-toting, shoot first and ask questions later firebrand nationalist, in short, John Wayne. That, you would think is just a joke, which it is, a sick joke, and Kristin Kobes du Mez does a brilliant job of documenting how that is actually what they think.

John Wayne is what has become of Jesus, which does as much damage to the New Testament as it is doing to the country.

By Kristin Kobes Du Mez,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jesus and John Wayne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Jesus and John Wayne, a seventy-five-year history of American evangelicalism, Kristin Kobes Du Mez demolishes the myth that white evangelicals "held their noses" in voting for Donald Trump. Revealing the role of popular culture in evangelicalism, Du Mez shows how evangelicals have worked for decades to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism in the mould of Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson and above all, John Wayne. As Du Mez observes, the beliefs at the heart of white evangelicalism today preceded Trump and will outlast him.


Book cover of The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Who am I?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

This book came out in 1956 and almost instantly became a classic. It essentially ripped apart the claims put forth by southern historians that slavery was a benign institution and that slaves were better off in the Deep South than if they had remained in “savage” Africa. The book also made it clear that slavery, and not states’ rights, brought on the Civil War. But the main reason I chose this book is that I had the good fortune of taking Stampp’s lecture course when I was a freshman back in 1952. Were his lectures dazzling? No, they weren’t. But they covered what now appears in The 1619 Project. And the message was always clear: Don’t ever underestimate the negative impact of slavery. 

By Kenneth M. Stampp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1 SOFTCOVER BOOK(pocket size)


Book cover of Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution: Ten Essays

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Who am I?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

This book is a corrective. For over two hundred years Americans have been taught that enlightened slaveholders—and especially Jefferson and Madison—were initially the main champions of liberty and equality. But was that truly what happened? This book offers a different take on that story, and in my mind it deserves more attention than it has received.

By Staughton Lynd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We sell Rare, out-of-print, uncommon, & used BOOKS, PRINTS, MAPS, DOCUMENTS, AND EPHEMERA. We do not sell ebooks, print on demand, or other reproduced materials. Each item you see here is individually described and imaged. We welcome further inquiries.


Book cover of Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics

Mary E. Stuckey Author Of Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump

From my list on why American politics are terrible and what to do.

Who am I?

I believe in democracy. I think the US has the opportunity to be the world’s first multicultural and inclusive democracy. And I think that’s a very, very hard thing to do. I’ve been writing about democracy through the lens of presidential history my whole career, and I think the US has done some things so impressively well while at the same time it frustratingly keeps failing to live up to its own ideals. The tensions and contradictions in our history as we try to expand and enact those ideas are endlessly fascinating. And I’m nervous that we may be seeing the end of a national commitment to democracy. 

Mary's book list on why American politics are terrible and what to do

Mary E. Stuckey Why did Mary love this book?

I love this book because it’s political science at its best; it uses a lot of great data to study how history affects us in the present; it shows us how hard change is and also what makes it possible. It’s depressing and hopeful and super smart. It’s social science but it’s also very readable.

By Avidit Acharyo, Matthew Blackwell, Maya Sen

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The lasting effects of slavery on contemporary political attitudes in the American South

Despite dramatic social transformations in the United States during the last 150 years, the South has remained staunchly conservative. Southerners are more likely to support Republican candidates, gun rights, and the death penalty, and southern whites harbor higher levels of racial resentment than whites in other parts of the country. Why haven't these sentiments evolved? Deep Roots shows that the entrenched views of white southerners are a direct consequence of the region's slaveholding history. Today, southern whites who live in areas once reliant on slavery-compared to areas…


Book cover of Undue Hate: A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Hostile Polarization in US Politics and Beyond

Zachary Elwood Author Of Defusing American Anger: A Guide to Understanding Our Fellow Citizens and Reducing Us-vs-Them Polarization

From my list on healing the political divides in America.

Who am I?

For my psychology podcast, I’ve interviewed many political and psychology experts on the subject of political polarization and conflict resolution. That led to me writing my book Defusing American Anger. I believe extreme us-vs-them polarization is humanity’s biggest problem: I see it as an existential threat not just to specific nations, including America, but to humanity as a whole, especially as our weapons and technologies get more powerful. And I think we need more people working on reducing our seemingly natural tendency to always be fighting with each other. 

Zachary's book list on healing the political divides in America

Zachary Elwood Why did Zachary love this book?

A major factor in our extreme polarization is the distorted, overly pessimistic views people on both sides can have of their fellow citizens.

As Stone points out, we can dislike the people on the "other side" much more than we should, even based on our own standards for disliking people. If you're looking for an in-depth, academic examination of our "undue hate," this is the book to read. 

Our distorted perceptions are very important because the animosity and disrespect and insults we aim at the "other side" helps create their animosity, which in turn gives more power to highly polarized and polarizing leaders, and other influencers.

By Daniel F. Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How to understand the mistakes we make about those on the other side of the political spectrum—and how they drive the affective polarization that is tearing us apart.

It’s well known that the political divide in the United States—particularly between Democrats and Republicans—has grown to alarming levels in recent decades. Affective polarization—emotional polarization, or the hostility between the parties—has reached an unprecedented fever pitch. In Undue Hate, Daniel F. Stone tackles the biases undergirding affective polarization head-on. Stone explains why we often develop objectively false, and overly negative, beliefs about the other side—causing us to dislike them more than we…