There's a 2016 election book for everyone
In the past year, politicians, scholars, journalists, and seemingly everyone else with a point of view on the dramatic events of the last presidential election have come out with campaign “tell-alls.” They intend to shed some light on, in the words of one of the books on this list, What Happened. It can be difficult to sort through them and know which is worth reading, depending on what you’re looking for. Just in time for the holiday season, we present a definitive guide to who should be reading what, and why.
For the Bernie loyalists: Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ impressive rise to legitimate Democratic Primary challenger was fueled by a huge grassroots campaign and passion across the political left. He didn’t end up winning, but as this book (which recounts the whirlwind of 2016 and looks ahead to the future) reminds, his work is far from finished. Buy it here.
For the Hillary loyalists: What Happened by Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton’s shocking defeat led, in less than a year, to the publication of her surprisingly personal and frank campaign memoir, What Happened. In addition to the former Secretary of State giving her thoughts on how Trump won out, taking some responsibility while also calling out others, the book provides a window into her life as she hasn’t previously provided. Buy it here.
For the Hillary skeptics: Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
Shattered was released less than three months after Trump took office, and promptly created plenty of ugly back-and-forth with Clinton campaign officials. The subtitle (“Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign”) gives you a pretty good idea of the kinds of revelations this book provides. Not an anti-Hillary book, per se, but definitely one that doesn’t place her candidacy in the kindest of lights. Buy it here.
For the academically inclined: The Elections of 2016 by Michael Nelson (ed.)
There are plenty of politicians, journalists, and pundits weighing in on what they think happened in 2016. But for those looking to take a step back and get some nonpartisan, straightforward historical context of an academic bent, this new volume from CQ Press is a solid option. Buy it here.
For the politically alienated: Hacks by Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile seems to have made an enemy out of everyone: Due to a mix of Wikileaks content and her party affiliation, the interim DNC chair alienated Bernie-supporting Democrats and Republicans alike after she took over for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Fast-forward a year: In the lead-up to her book tour, Brazile then started dishing, unfavorably, on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and its relationship to the DNC. There are few left on her side. But that’s what might make her an interesting person to tell the story. Buy the book here.
For the alt-right watcher: Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green
One of the best, more thoroughly researched, and arguably most influential 2016 books to come out so far, Devil’s Bargain is the product of years of interviews and tight reporting from journalist Joshua Green. He thrillingly tracks the influence of Steve Bannon and the alt-right on Trump’s candidacy, persuasively arguing they were intrinsic to his rise and eventual victory. It’s disturbing, fascinating stuff for anyone interested in this newly powerful fringe. Buy it here.
For the pundit watcher: Unbelievable by Katy Tur
Anyone who was watching NBC or MSNBC with some regularity during the campaign came to know Katy Tur, a once-unknown reporter who was assigned to cover Trump on the assumption he wouldn’t be a candidate for long. Come to think of it, once Trump started literally targeting her at campaign rallies and encouraging his fans to heckle and threaten her, anyone who was keeping up with the campaign at all should know her pretty well. Buy her tell-all here.
For the gender and politics watcher: The Destruction of Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo
Feminist scholar Susan Bordo provides a definitive, disarmingly analytical take on Hillary Clinton’s slow downfall in this illuminating book. She captures the disturbing intersection of gender (read: sexism) and politics in the media’s coverage of the 2016 election, offering a different kind of commentary that resonates far beyond the confines of the Trump-Clinton battle. Buy it here.
For those who want the country to come together: Beyond the Messy Truth by Van Jones
Unapologetically liberal (and former Obama administration official) Van Jones tries to find common ground in this book about how to come together and create meaningful change. Jones conveys his belief that there’s more that unites us than divides us, discussing issues such as criminal justice reform, and issues a plea for the political tribalism to end. Buy it here.
For the most pessimistic: How the Hell Did This Happen? by P.J. O'Rourke
This book changed shape as it went along: P.J. O’Rourke, a conservative libertarian, wound up endorsing and voting for Hillary Clinton, upending his expectations of himself. In exhaustive detail but with his trademark snark, O’Rourke revisits the many insane, laughable, or plain depressing details of the 2016 campaign. He doesn’t reach particularly hopeful conclusions. Buy it here.
For the literary types: The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore by Jared Yates Sexton
Journalist Jared Yates Sexton paints an impressionistic, humane, and pained portrait of the 2016 campaign. He mixes his own reporting with analysis of an election that turned increasingly rageful and divisive, using it to craft a potent narrative of the state of the country. It’s a bleakly informative read, but also an artful one. Buy it here.
For the Biden crowd: Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s beautiful, harrowing memoir technically runs through the heat of the primaries, but the book still provides essential humane perspective on a campaign season defined by bitterness and viciousness. Biden recounts the year that followed after learning his son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. It’s a heartbreaking read, and one that implicitly puts the election into important context. Buy it here.
For the Russia watchers: Collusion by Luke Harding
There are plenty more books about potential collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign in the works, including one by New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin, but for now we have this propulsive, hair-raising account from Luke Harding. It presents an overwhelming web of evidence for coordination and focuses intensely on suspicious timelines. For those watching Robert Mueller’s investigation closely, a must-read. Buy it here.
For the Trump apologists: Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich
Most of the books on this list paint a fairly damning portrait of President Trump, especially his behavior on the campaign trail, and most defenses out there are a little too fringe to recommend here. But for those really interested in a more sympathetic, positive read of Trump, this 2017 title is probably your best bet. Newt Gingrich tackles the “Trump Phenomenon” with an eye toward its potential. Buy it here.
For the anti-Trump Republican: Two Paths by John Kasich
Remember John Kasich? The Ohio governor was never a shining star on the Republican primary debate stage, and yet he outlasted virtually every one of his challengers, save the man who eventually won the presidency. Kasich’s brand of folksy, kind conservatism didn’t meet the moment, exactly, but he had his supporters and his sharp criticisms of President Trump have kept him in the conversation. Pre-order his take on 2016 here.