The POLITICO 50 Reading List

The POLITICO 50 Reading List

The POLITICO 50 Reading List — POLITICO


Our thinkers name the best books they read this year.

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What are some of the smartest people in politics reading? We asked the thinkers, doers and visionaries on our annual POLITICO 50 list to name the best books they read this year. Their responses—from literary classics like Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov or Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to modern bestsellers like Ron Chernow’s Grant or Naomi Alderman’s The Power—are a fascinating window into what’s informing (and entertaining) the people shaping this political moment.

  • Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford —Steve Doocy
  • “I read (again) The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It’s sublime.” —Bryan Stevenson
  • The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time, by Gordon Lafer. “What’s happening in West Virginia isn’t unique to our state—it’s part of a 50-state plan to privatize our public institutions and enrich corporations.” —Jay O’Neal
  • Weedeater: An Illustrated Novel, by Robert Gipe. “Having grown up in rural West Virginia, the characters in this book and its prequel, Trampoline, felt like people I had known my whole life.” —Emily Comer
  • Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics, by Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell and Maya Sen —Sean McElwee
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, by Steven Pinker. “I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a fresh, and actually very encouraging, perspective on some of our biggest common challenges.” —Justin Trudeau
  • Outline, Transit and Kudos, by Rachel Cusk. “I devoured Rachel Cusk’s trilogy and, with each book, was increasingly convinced that she is the most brilliant author writing today.” —Megan Twohey

“I’d say why, but I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

The Power, by Naomi Alderman —Jodi Kantor

  • “Every member of Congress should read Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, by Jaron Lanier.” —Christopher Wylie
  • There There, by Tommy Orange, is even better than the glowing reviews say.” —Amanda Litman
  • Calypso, by David Sedaris, and Discrimination and Disparities, by Thomas Sowell —Edward Blum
  • La Belle Sauvage, by Phillip Pullman, and Untangled, by Lisa D’Amour —Jodi Kantor
  • Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen, and Richard Nixon: The Life, by John A. Farrell —James and Deborah Fallows
  • Beautiful Day, by Elin Hilderbrand —Ainsley Earhardt
  • President Carter: The White House Years, by Stuart E. Eizenstat —Alan Dershowitz

“Heart-gripping true stories that show how our systems make it nearly impossible for our most vulnerable to hold on to the basic human necessity of shelter.”

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond —Libby Schaaf (also named by Michael Tubbs and Raj Chetty)

  • White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America, by Joan C. Williams, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, by Jon Meacham, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling —Jackie Speier
  • The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism, by Henry Olsen —Tom Cotton
  • Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon, by Robert Kurson. “The heroes of Apollo changed the course of history when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve. This is a great story about their lives and so many others who made it happen.” —Jim Bridenstine
  • Grant, by Ron Chernow —Brian Kilmeade
  • Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie —Marjorie Dannenfelser
  • AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, by Kai-Fu Lee —Mark Warner
  • History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, Johannes Brahms: A Biography, by Jan Swafford, and Summerland, by Hannu Rajaniemi —Ben Shapiro

“This book is a brilliant testament to the resiliency of the human heart. It is also heartbreaking in its timelessness.”

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter —Emily Cherniak

  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe — Yascha Mounk
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson —Michael Tubbs
  • RFK: His Words for Our Times, edited and Introduced by Edwin O. Guthman and C. Richard Allen —Parkland teens
  • The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro (Creating the North American Landscape), by Zachary M. Schrag. “No one has done a better job of telling the story of how technology, politics, design and money all interact to shape urban systems.” —Rohit Aggarwala
  • Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Anand Giridharadas —Michael Avenatti
  • Just Above My Head, by James Baldwin, and Democracy Against Domination, by K. Sabeel Rahman —Lina Khan
  • The Stories of John Cheever. “‘The Five-Forty-Eight’ is a pretty remarkable premonition of our current conversations about gender and rage and mental health, like a short story from 2018 somehow dropped into the ’50s.” —Ronan Farrow

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