Political Flare-Up

While campaign season in America never really goes away, the upcoming Iowa caucuses do mark an end to the off-year latent period. What we’ve got now is a bad case of acute politicking, and for all but the most highly inoculated poli-sci nerds, it can be an afflicting time.  Symptoms might include nervousness, fatigue, and in some cases, total detachment.

I find that the best way to not feel plagued by the coverage is to try to engage with it.  (Here is where I seamlessly switch analogies...) Following the campaign season can be like watching sports - except with elections, we all have skin in the game so there's a reason to get worked-up.  The season starts with the dramatic infighting of the primaries, followed by a pivot to the general where you probably have to pick a new favorite, and it ends with an epically-hyped, must-see TV showdown.  All along the way expert commentators make wild predictions that are totally wrong and quickly forgotten. Then there’s a parade. Sorta fun, right?

No?  Well, if that’s still unappealing, turning off the coverage and grabbing a book on the current state of politics might prove more pleasant.  Here are some well-reviewed new books to help contemplate the health of our democracy:

WHY WE'RE POLARIZED by Ezra Klein
"A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant."  Kirkus
"With YA crossover appeal, Klein's accessible work is for anyone wondering how e got here; it show how understanding history can help us plan for the future."  Library Journal

THE BODY LANGUAGE OF POLITICS: DECIDE WHO IS LYING, WHO IS SINCERE, AND HOW YOU'LL VOTE by Donna Van Natten
"A master at deciphering both verbal and nonverbal language, Van Natten here teaches readers how to decode the messages and movements of today's politicians...Timely and instructive."  Library Journal

ELECTION MELTDOWN: DIRTY TRICKS, DISTRUST, AND THE THREAT TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY by Richard Hansen
"A hard-hitting critique of the American election process as timely as it is frightening." Kirkus
"...those focused on the long-term health of American democracy will appreciate this bracing and comprehensive inquiry."  Publishers Weekly

THE POWER WORSHIPPERS: INSIDE THE DANGEROUS RISE OF RELIGIOUS NATIONALISM by Katherine Stewart
"A must-read for those interested in the influence of religion on politics and the effects on our political institutions."  Library Journal
"...thoroughly researched....undeniably powerful examination..."  Kirkus

WHAT ARE WE FOR?  THE WORDS AND IDEALS OF ELEANOR ROOSEVLET By Eleanor Roosevelt
"The quotes collected here remain inspiring and relevant in the current political, social and cultural context.  They allow readers to step beyond their awareness of Roosevelt's most popular sayings, as passed around on the Internet or via greeting cards, and learn about the depth of this remarkable woman's mind."  Shelf Awareness

10% LESS DEMOCRACY: WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST ELITES A LITTLE MORE AND THE MASSES A LITTLE LESS by Garett Jones
"George Mason University economics professor Jones advocates for 'democracy-reducing reforms' including longer legislative term limits, the reauthorization of congressional earmarks, stricter voting eligibility requirements, and the appointment of technocrats to design federal tax laws in this succinct and accessible proposal...this informative and articulate books succeeds."  Publishers Weekly

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE WAR ON VOTING: WHO STOLE YOUR VOTE AND HOW TO GET IT BACK by Thom Hartmann
"Perhaps the single most important factor in maintaining a healthy, functioning democracy is protecting citizen's right to vote... anyone who is seriously concerned about the survival of American democracy will want to read this book and apply its lessons."  Booklist

THE PRESIDENTIAL FRINGE: QUESTING AND JESTING FOR THE OVAL OFFICE by Mark Stein
"In this one-stop history of third-party presidential candidates, Stein details how these outliers have provided a politics-weary populace plenty of distraction, much of it comic." Booklist
"Informative and entertaining, forcing American readers to take some glances into what at times is an unflattering mirror."  Kirkus

THE ONES WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR: HOW A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERS WILL TRANSFORM AMERICA by Charlotte Alter
"Alter is an exceptional storyteller...this nuanced & comprehensive guide does an admirable job illuminating the next generation of political leaders & the issues that drive them." Publishers Weekly
"Time magazine correspondent Alter's debut looks beyond the stereotypes of millennials as 'entitled' and 'snowflakes' in a surprising group portrait of a new generation of political leaders."  Kirkus

THE AMERICAN STORY: CONVERSATIONS WITH MASTER HISTORIANS by David Rubenstein
"Interviews with 15 major American historians and the current cheif justice of the Supreme Court... provides an excellent introduction to leading historians and the books every engaged American should read."  Kirkus

—Ransom Jabara is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

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