Posted by: montclairlibrary | August 27, 2016

Politics makes…good fiction

Political novels, a list by the Friends of Montclair Library

Although this year it seems sometimes like truth is stranger than fiction, there are a lot of entertaining novels centered around the intrigue and absurdity of American politics. Some of them draw on real-life (or very thinly fictionalized) characters, and others create entirely-fictional-but-all-too-real scenarios.

Whether you’re a political wonk or just looking for an escape from this year’s crazy presidential race, here are a dozen novels about the presidency and elections to give you laughs, chills and perspective.

Taft 2012 by Jason Heller (FIC HELLER) (not at Montclair)
“He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his peaceful, progressive practicality. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. And the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is. There’s just one problem. He is William Howard Taft…and he was already president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?”

Primary Colors by Anonymous (aka Joe Klein) (FIC PRIMARY) (not at Montclair)
When a former congressional aide becomes part of the staff of the governor of a small Southern state, he watches in horror, admiration and amazement as the governor mixes calculation and sincerity in his not-so-above-board campaign for the presidency. (Also a movie.)

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (FIC WARREN)
Set in the 1930s, this novel traces the rise and fall of a fictional Southern politician who resembles the real-life Huey “Kingfish” Long of Louisiana. He begins his career as an idealistic man of the people, but soon becomes corrupted by success, caught between dreams of service and a lust for power. (Made into movies in 1949 and 2006.)

Election by Tom Perrotta (FIC PERROTTA) (not at Montclair)
A comic story about a philandering high-school history teacher in the midst of a student-body election gone haywire. (This one’s a movie, too.)

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (FIC CONDON)
In this political thriller, the son of a prominent U.S. political family is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy. (Wikipedia) (Made into movies in 1962 and 2004.)

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (FIC SITTENFEL)
“On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House.” (GoodReads)

The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley (FIC BUCKLEY) (not at Montclair)
Opening with “a dotty, pajama-clad President Reagan refusing to leave the White House on his successor’s Inauguration Day” (Publisher’s Weekly), this fictional memoir gives a comedic account of the 1989-1992 bumbling Tucker administration, as told by his Deputy Chief of Staff.

Why Not Me?: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency by Al Franken (FIC FRANKEN) (not at Montclair)
An account of humorist and senator Al Franken’s successful (and entirely fictional) run for president, complete with “excerpts from his diaries, notes, speeches and memoranda–all of which were subsequently entered as evidence in his impeachment.” (Booklist)

O: A Presidential Novel by Anonymous (aka Mark Salter) (FIC O) (not at Montclair)
A fictional account of the prominent figures and issues surrounding the 2012 presidential election.

Lucky Bastard by Charles McCarry (FIC McCARRY) (not at Montclair)
“John Fitzgerald Adams, a charming liar and womanizer who is convinced that he is the bastard son of JFK, runs for President in a campaign organized and financed by a foreign secret service.” (GoodReads)

The Angry Buddhist by Seth Greenland (FIC GREENLAND) (not at Montclair)
Set in the California desert, this satire lives at the intersection of the Old Testament and Elmore Leonard. A fiercely contested congressional election pits a wily incumbent, unburdened by ethical considerations, against a well-finance opponent who does not have a firm grip on American history or elemental economics.

The High Road by Terry Fallis (FIC FALLIS)
For those of us feeling just a wee bit of envy looking at Canadian politics these days, a “deeply funny satire continues the story of Honest Angus McLintock, an amateur politician who dares to do the unthinkable: tell the truth.” (GoodReads) (The sequel to The Best Laid Plans, which doesn’t appear to be available in OPL.)


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