Friday, October 7, 2011

Q Day 3: Books!

Paul asks:
Do you have a list of books about politics that you would recommend? You have mentioned Tell Newt to Shut Up and Rchard Ben Cramer's What it Takes, and I was wondering what others you would recommend.
And I have a question via email that covers similar ground, asking for my "desert-island top-five books and movies/shows on politics/political science?"

Hmm....I don't really believe in top fives, but I'll give the general question a shot. Let's see...

You know, I don't know that political science works quite that way...there's a lot of important stuff that's in articles, not books, for one thing, and for another it sort of depends on what you're interested in; I mean, for parties I could send you to Nelson Polsby or Austin Ranney or E.E. Schattschnieder, or John Aldrich or Joseph Schlesinger or Anthony Downs, or the party network stuff from Seth Masket and Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller, but that's far more than five and it's just party and party theory stuff.  (I will say that way more people interested in American political parties should read Alan Ware, but even though his books about American party history are easily accessible and well-written it's still not exactly a useful recommendation to non-academics, I suppose).

OK, this isn't getting anywhere. Here are a few lists. Not greatest, but great:

Five great books that I think people that I don't think I've mentioned too many times: Garry Wills, Nixon Agonisties (Nixon, but also 1968 and more); John Jacobs, A Rage for Justice (about Phillip Burton); Richard Fenno, Going Home (representation and African American Members of Congress); Robert Caro, The Power Broker (Robert Moses); and Taylor Branch, The Clinton Tapes, which I'm unfortunately still only halfway through, but it's second-to-top of my book pile, right after Bob Mould's book...blogging, unfortunately, or at least in my case, is really, really, really bad for book reading.

Five great books about democracy, justice, and other good stuff like that: Robert Dahl, A Preface to Democracy; Machiavelli, The Prince and the Discourses; Madison et al., The Federalist Papers; Hannah Arendt, On Revolution; Hanna Pitkin, Wittgenstein and Justice.

Five great movies/shows about politics: Henry V (d. Branagh); The Great McGinty (d. Sturges); Battlestar Gallactica/ST: Deep Space Nine (Ron Moore); Yes, Minister (written by Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn); and I'll go with The Times of Harvey Milk (d. Epstein). By the way, I'm going to try hard to get back to Monday Movie Posts now that baseball season is over, and that I've finally reached Season 5 of The Wire.

I hope people will chime in with more good suggestions in comments.


  1. Baseball season ain't even CLOSE to over, pal. ;-)

    Go Tigers!

  2. Fenno's Congressmen in Commmittees & Home Style
    Mayhew's The Electoral Connection
    Polsby's Consequences of Party Reform & How Congress Evolves
    Rohde's Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House
    CCMS The American Voter
    Olson's The Logic of Collective Action
    Dah's Preface to Democratic Theory
    Neustadt's Presidential Power
    Cameron's Veto Bargaining (OK, so I do veto politics, but it really is good)
    Birnbaum & Murray's Showdown in Gucci Gulch
    Ehrenhalt's United States of Ambition
    Jacobson's Politics of Congressional Elections
    Greenstein's Hidden Hand Presidency

    (Strange...this looks A LOT like the reading list for my grad course! :) )

  3. I endorse all of Jarvis's list!

    (Actually, haven't read Cameron, but if Matt vouches for it, I'd trust him. I also haven't read Gucci Gulch, but I've heard good things).

    Congressmen in Committees is great, but seriously dated. Approach with caution.

  4. You've got Caro on here, but I'd add that his Lyndon Johnson series is also must-reading.


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