…and I don’t mean the kind that they write about here.
I’ll admit that, on the sunny, 80 degree day on which we selected David Levithan’s Wide Awake as our November Book Buzz selection, we probably didn’t appreciate how tired of electoral politics many of our readers might be by now. But if you’re feeling like the girl in this video, you may be in just the right mood to pick up a political novel.
The way I see it, fiction has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective and elevating us above the day-to-day noise. Because in a great book like the ones below, you won’t find any charts, five point plans, or analysis of body language during a debate. Instead, you’ll find people — sometimes key power players (didn’t you ever wonder what they’re thinking?), and sometimes the people affected by the policies enacted by the fictional politicians.
So let’s all take a deep breath, step back from the campaigns for a little bit, and dig into some great political fiction!
For starters, now is a good time to introduce our book club book, David Levithan’s Wide Awake. Talk about the political becoming personal — in a sort-of-but-not-quite-familiar near future, a high school student finds that he has to push away from his family to embrace his political identity. Do you ever have a hard time making the connection between the political world you see in the news and real, live, personal convictions? Levithan makes the (hypothetical) political personal in this book, and after reading it, you may find yourself politically energized!
If you want a straight-up classic, try Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Winner of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize, this is the harrowing story of a Louisiana politician’s rise and fall in the 1930’s. (Also a great movie.) Supposedly based on the career of Huey Long, with whom I will forever associate the word demagogue because of what must have been a very effective 6th grade history lesson.
Gore Vidal brings the man on the penny to life in Lincoln, his biographical-fictional take on the Great Emancipator. This is an interesting read — the facts are facts, but Vidal speculates what Lincoln’s experience must have been like. Fascinating stuff.
Follow three generations of a fictional political dynasty in Ward Just’s Echo House. Watch the Behl’s peddle influence in the best tradition of cynical, power hungry, backroom politics.
Alan Drury’s Advise and Consent, another Pulitzer winner, could also be called “How the Sausage is Made.” Watch a fictional (based on reality, as always) Congress push and pull behind the scenes.
You may never meet a shrewder political operative than Tracy Flick, the high school go-getter and student council presidential hopeful in Tom Perrotta’s Election. This hilarious send-up of electoral politics is highly recommended for anyone ready to check out of election coverage. (Also a great movie.)
Do you have a favorite political title? What do you even consider political writing? I would actually argue that Dune is my favorite political book of all time, but that’s a subject for another post…