After an Obama-centric spring that tried to prep (or inflame) conscientious readers before the election, fall’s titles consider matters of state other than partisan gridlock. At least, some of them do.
But first, more on Barack Obama. In The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, Time magazine senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald (The Swamp) compares President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill to FDR’s New Deal, and argues that the Recovery Act launched a genuine national comeback. Conservative scholar Charles R. Kesler takes a more critical view in I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. Kesler cites Obama’s own writings, speeches, and interviews—and blends philosophy, journalism, psychology, and history—to portray Obama as a thoughtful, vastly ambitious progressive, but one who fails to understand what Kesler sees as the contradictions of liberalism.
Coming at politics from a different angle, and reflecting the American obsession with analytics, is journalist Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. Billed by Politico as a “Moneyball for politics,” the book informs readers about the “analytical revolution” that is changing modern campaigns. One person eager to read Issenberg’s findings would surely be Karl Rove, who is himself the center of attention in Craig Unger’s Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. Here, the author of the bestseller House of Bush, House of Saud returns to gauge Rove’s impact on the 2012 presidential election.
Though the ethical nightmare of the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba occasionally flits across the front page, it’s easy to forget that this problem remains unresolved. In The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay, Jess Bravin, the Wall Street Journal’s Supreme Court correspondent, who has covered Guantánamo since it first opened, exposes the real-world legal consequences of trying to create a parallel justice system for enemy aliens.
Looking abroad, Middle East analysts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, who have served in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, take a measured approach to Iran in Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic. The Leveretts explain how Iran sees the world and why its approach to foreign policy is hardly the irrational behavior of a rogue nation. Also dismantling stereotypes, journalist Doug Saunders (Arrival City) tackles exaggerated post-9/11 fears of Islamic immigrants in The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? and offers concrete proposals to make immigration work.
Fear guides much that is written about China, but in The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, strategist Edward N. Luttwak takes a scholarly approach and suggests that China cannot maintain continuous growth in economic capacity, military strength, and regional and global influence. China’s leaders, Luttwak argues, will have to choose a more sustainable course.
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra (An End to Suffering) might be more history than politics, but this well-researched and accessible look at key intellectuals and political activists in India, China, and the Ottoman Empire bears attention from American readers.
Gene Robinson’s God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage ends this list on a hopeful note. As the first openly gay person ordained an Episcopal bishop, Robinson, the current bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire, makes the case for same-sex marriage using a religious argument.
PW's Top 10: Politics
The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald. Simon & Schuster, Aug.
I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism by Charles R. Kesler. Broadside, Sept.
The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns by Sasha Issenberg. Crown, Sept.
Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power by Craig Unger. Scribner, Sept.
The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay by Jess Bravin. Yale Univ., Jan.
Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. Holt, Jan.
The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? by Doug Saunders. Vintage, Aug.
The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy by Edward N. Luttwak. Harvard Univ./Belknap, Nov.
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Aug.
God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage by Gene Robinson. Knopf, Sept.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's politics titles in the spreadsheet below: