Elect to Read: Books on Voting, Elections, and Democracy
October 12, 2020
As we prepare for Election Day on November 3, why not learn more about the right to vote?
Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive guide to this year’s election!
Democracy in One Book or Less
How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, And Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think
Here’s something true for almost every American. The democracy you live in today is different, completely different, than the democracy born into.
Since 1980, the number of Americans legally barred from voting has more than doubled. Since the 1990s, odds of living in a competitive Congressional district have fallen by more than half. In the twenty-first century alone, the amount of money spent on Washington lobbying has increased by more than 100 percent. Meanwhile, new rules in Congress make passing new bills nearly impossible, no matter how popular or bipartisan they are.
No wonder it feels like representatives have stopped representing the people. Millions of Americans now recognize that democracy is in trouble and that the trouble goes beyond Trump. But too often, they are looking in the wrong places for solutions. Voter suppression is real, but Voter ID laws aren’t tipping elections. Getting rid of bizarrely shaped districts won’t end gerrymandering.
Beyond Your Bubble
How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work
This practical, politically neutral book offers concrete skills for holding meaningful conversations that cut across today’s intense political divide, showing readers how to connect to the people in their lives.
Political polarization is at an all-time high, and the consequences for our personal relationships are significant. Many people have friends and family members with whom they feel they can no longer communicate because of their extreme political views. In this book, psychologist Tania Israel presents her program for helping people have meaningful, constructive conversations with those they disagree with politically.
The Body Language of Politics
Decide Who Is Lying, Who Is Sincere, And How You’ll Vote
Dr. Donna Van Natten
Learn how to spot the lies and deceptions of our politicians in action.
You can’t turn on the television, check your phone, or scroll through social media without being besieged with political headlines and the “Who’s Who” of today’s news. With so much spoon-fed to us by the media, fake news, and from politicians themselves, it’s time to take the reins and control what you see, feel, and know so you can make informed political choices in our hot, political environment.
In The Body Language of Politics, body language expert Dr. Donna Van Natten provides you with the tools and resources that you need to analyze movements of today’s most notable politicians. She looks at some of the looming figures in our political landscape-Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others-and analyzes their physical behaviors, breaking down the lies and deceptions embedded in their everyday movements.
I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening)
A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations
Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
More than ever, politics seems driven by conflict and anger. People sitting together in pews every Sunday have started to feel like strangers, loved ones at the dinner table like enemies. Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers say there is a better way. As working moms on opposite ends of the political spectrum and hosts of a fast-growing politics podcast, Holland and Silvers have learned how to practice engaging conversation while disagreeing.
In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), they share principles on how to give grace and be vulnerable when discussing issues that affect families, churches, the country, and the world. They provide practical tools to move past frustration and into productive dialogue, emphasizing that faith should inform the way people engage more than it does the outcome of that engagement. This urgently needed new book reveals how to talk about politics in a way that inspires rather than angers and that pays spiritual dividends far past election day.
The Origins of Our Discontents
The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power–which groups have it and which do not.
In this book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate.
See Jane Win
The Inspiring Story of The Women Changing American Politics
An inside look at the female candidates fighting back and winning elections in the crucial 2018 midterms.
After November 8, 2016, first came the sadness; then came the rage, the activism, and the protests; and, finally, for thousands of women, the next step was to run for office–many of them for the first time. More women campaigned for local or national office in the 2018 election cycle than at any other time in US history, challenging accepted notions about who seeks power and who gets it. Moscatello speaks with leaders of organizations training female candidates, researchers, and successful strategists who helped women triumph–emphasizing authenticity and passion.
Closely following four candidates throughout the entire process, from the decision to run through Election Day, See Jane Win takes readers inside their exciting, winning campaigns and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes brutal realities of running for office while female.
Why We’re Polarized
America’s political system isn’t broken. The truth is scarier: it’s working exactly as designed.
Journalist Ezra Klein reveals how that system is polarizing us–and how we are polarizing it–with disastrous results.
This book offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump’s rise to the Democratic Party’s leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture. America is polarized, first and foremost, by identity. Everyone engaged in American politics is engaged, at some level, in identity politics. Over the past fifty years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. These merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together.
Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone
What is democracy, really? What do we mean when we use the term? And can it ever truly exist?
There is no shortage of democracy, at least in name, yet it is in crisis everywhere we look. From a cabal of plutocrats in the White House to gerrymandering and dark-money campaign contributions, it is clear that the principle of government by and for the people is not living up to its promise. The problems lie deeper than any one election cycle. As Astra Taylor demonstrates, real democracy–fully inclusive and completely egalitarian–has in fact never existed.
The Story of American Freedom
Over the course of our history, freedom has been a living truth for some Americans and a cruel mockery for others.
In Eric Foner’s stirring history, freedom’s story is not the simple unfolding of a timeless truth, but an open-ended history of accomplishment and failure. Its impetus lies in the aspirations and sacrifice of millions of Americans, celebrated and anonymous, who have sought freedom’s blessings. Its meaning is shaped not only in congressional debates and political treatises, but on plantations and picket lines, in parlors and bedrooms. Its cast of characters ranges from Thomas Jefferson to Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, from former slaves seeking to breathe real meaning into emancipation to the union organizers, freedom riders, and women’s rights advocates of our time.
What Unites Us
Reflections on Patriotism
In a collection of essays, venerated television journalist Dan Rather celebrates our shared values, reminds us of what matters most in our great country, and shows us what patriotism looks like.
The Common Good
Robert B. Reich
The Common Good makes a powerful case for the expansion of America’s moral imagination. Rooting his argument in common sense and everyday reality, Reich demonstrates that a common good constitutes the very essence of any society or nation. Societies, he says, undergo virtuous cycles that reinforce the common good as well as vicious cycles that undermine it, one of which America has been experiencing for the past five decades. This process can and must be reversed. But first we need to weigh the moral obligations of citizenship and carefully consider how we relate to honor, shame, patriotism, truth, and the meaning of leadership.
Politics Is for Power
How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, And Make Real Change
Who is to blame for our broken politics? The uncomfortable answer to this question starts with ordinary citizens with good intentions.
We vote (sometimes) and occasionally sign a petition or attend a rally. But we mainly “engage” by consuming politics as if it’s a sport or a hobby. We soak in daily political gossip and eat up statistics about who’s up and who’s down. We tweet and post and share. We crave outrage. The hours we spend on politics are used mainly as pastime. Instead, we should be spending the same number of hours building political organizations, implementing a long-term vision for our city or town, and getting to know our neighbors, whose votes will be needed for solving hard problems.
In Politics Is for Power, pioneering and brilliant data analyst Eitan Hersh shows us a way toward more effective political participation. Aided by political theory, history, cutting-edge social science, as well as remarkable stories of ordinary citizens who got off their couches and took political power seriously, this book shows us how to channel our energy away from political hobbyism and toward empowering our values.
Thank You for Voting
The Maddening, Enlightening, Inspiring Truth About Voting in America
Erin Geiger Smith
In this concise, lively look at the past, present, and future of voting, a journalist examines the long and continuing fight for voting equality, why so few Americans today vote, and innovative ways to educate and motivate them; included are checklists of what to do before election day to prepare to vote and encourage others.
Voting is a prized American right and a topic of debate from the earliest days of the country. Yet in the 2016 presidential election, about 40 percent of Americans—and half of the country’s young adults—didn’t vote. Why do so many Americans choose not to vote, and what can we do about it?
Voting and The Spirit of American Democracy
Essays on The History of Voting and Voting Rights in America
Edited by Donald W. Rogers in collaboration with Christine Scriabine
Writing in a succinct and lively manner, leading historians and political scientists trace the history of American voting from the colonial period to the present, incorporating the latest scholarship on suffrage reform, woman suffrage, black voting rights, and electoral participation. They explain how voting practices changed over time as the result of broad historical forces such as economic growth, demographic shifts, the results of war, and the rise of political reform movements. By viewing voting within a broad historical context, this book distinguishes itself from narrow, specialized studies, making it a valuable volume for students and general readers.
The Fight to Vote
The president of a nonpartisan law and policy institute at NYU describes the fight for the right to vote and the historical, and ongoing, efforts by some to make voting difficult for the elderly, the poor, and the young.
The Woman’s Hour
The Great Fight to Win the Vote
An account of the 1920 ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted voting rights to women traces the culmination of seven decades of legal battles and cites the pivotal contributions of famous suffragists and political leaders.
The nail-biting climax of one of the greatest political battles in American history. Nashville, August 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, granting all women the vote, is on the verge of ratification–or defeat. Out of the thirty-six states needed, thirty-five have approved it, and one last state is still in play–Tennessee. After a seven-decade crusade to win the ballot, this is the moment of truth for the suffragists, and Nashville becomes a frenzied battleground as the enormous forces allied for and against women’s suffrage make their last stand. Elaine Weiss artfully recasts the saga of women’s quest for the vote by focusing on the campaign’s last six weeks, when it all came down to one ambivalent state.
Give Us the Ballot
The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
A groundbreaking narrative history of voting rights since 1965, Give Us the Ballot tells the story of what happened after the act was passed. Through meticulous archival research, fresh interviews with the leading participants in the ongoing struggle, and incisive on-the-ground reporting, Ari Berman chronicles the transformative impact the act had on American democracy and investigates how the fight over the right to vote has continued in the decades since.
From new strategies to keep minorities out of the voting booth, to cynical efforts to limit political representation by gerrymandering electoral districts, to the Supreme Court’s recent stunning decision that declared a key part of the Voting Rights Act itself unconstitutional, to the efforts by the Justice Department and grassroots activists to counter these attacks, Berman tells the dramatic story of the pitched contest over the very heart of our democracy. At this important historical moment, Give Us the Ballot brings new insight to one of the most vital political and civil rights issues of our time.
Let the People Pick the President
The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College
A radical spirit of change has overtaken American politics, making once-unthinkable reforms-like abolishing the Electoral College-seem possible.
Two of the last five elections were won by candidates who lost the popular vote, calling the integrity of the entire electoral system into question. Political passions are already high, and they will reach a boiling point as we enter the 2020 race. The message from the American people is clear: we need major reform, and we need it now.
In Let the People Pick the President, New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman makes a powerful case for abolishing the antiquated and antidemocratic Electoral College, and choosing presidents based on a national popular vote. He uncovers the Electoral College’s controversial origins, profiles the many attempts to reform it over the years, and explains why it is now essential for us to remove this obsolete system and finally make every citizen’s vote matter. Wegman addresses objections from both sides of the aisle and presents an airtight argument that moving toward a national popular vote would reduce voter apathy and political polarization, increase voter turnout, and restore belief in our democratic system. Abolishing the Electoral College is the keystone reform that must be accomplished to improve our politics; Wegman shows that this once-lofty goal can be achieved, and charts a path to accomplishing it.
What You Need to Know About Voting and Why
What You Need to Know About Voting and Why provides practical, useful advice on the mechanics of voting and a survey of its history and future.
The Birth of Modern Politics
Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, And the Election Of 1828
Lynn Hudson Parsons
In The Birth of Modern Politics, Parsons shows that the Adams-Jackson contest also began a national debate that is eerily contemporary, pitting those whose cultural, social, and economic values were rooted in community action for the common good against those who believed the common good was best served by giving individuals as much freedom as possible to promote their own interests.
The book offers fresh and illuminating portraits of both Adams and Jackson and reveals how, despite their vastly different backgrounds, they had started out with many of the same values, admired one another, and had often been allies in common causes. But by 1828, caught up in a shifting political landscape, they were plunged into a competition that separated them decisively from the Founding Fathers’ era and ushered in a style of politics that is still with us today.
My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History
Whistlestop tells the human story of nervous gambits hatched in first-floor hotel rooms, failures of will before the microphone, and the cross-country crack-ups of long-planned stratagems. At the bar at the end of a campaign day, these are the stories reporters rehash for themselves and embellish for newcomers. In addition to the familiar tales, Whistlestop is a ride through the American campaign history with one of its most enthusiastic conductors guiding you through the landmarks along the way.
Arguing with Zombies
Economics, Politics, And the Fight for A Better Future
Paul R. Krugman
An accessible, compelling introduction to today’s major policy issues from columnist, best-selling author, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.
There is no better guide than Paul Krugman to basic economics, the ideas that animate much of our public policy. Likewise, there is no better foe of zombie economics, the misunderstandings that just won’t die. This delightful new book finds Krugman at his best, turning readers into intelligent consumers of the daily news with quick, vivid sketches of the key concepts behind taxes, health care, international trade, and more.
Arguing with Zombies contains short, accessible chapters on topics including the fight for national health care in the United States, the housing bubble and financial meltdown of 2007-2008, the European Union and Brexit, the attack on Social Security, and the fraudulent argument- the ultimate zombie- that tax cuts for the rich will benefit all.
Bending Toward Justice
The Voting Rights Act and The Transformation of American Democracy
When the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted African Americans the right to vote, it seemed as if a new era of political equality was at hand. Before long, however, white segregationists across the South counterattacked, driving their black countrymen from the polls through a combination of sheer terror and insidious devices such as complex literacy tests and expensive poll taxes.
Most African Americans would remain voiceless for nearly a century more, citizens in name only until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act secured their access to the ballot. In Bending Toward Justice, celebrated historian Gary May describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens. The struggle that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act was long and torturous, and only succeeded because of the courageous work of local freedom fighters and national civil rights leaders–as well as, ironically, the opposition of Southern segregationists and law enforcement officials, who won public sympathy for the voting rights movement by brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators. But while the Voting Rights Act represented an unqualified victory over such forces of hate, May explains that its achievements remain in jeopardy.
Many argue that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama rendered the act obsolete, yet recent years have seen renewed efforts to curb voting rights and deny minorities the act’s hard-won protections. Legal challenges to key sections of the act may soon lead the Supreme Court to declare those protections unconstitutional. A vivid, fast-paced history of this landmark piece of civil rights legislation, Bending Toward Justice offers a dramatic, timely account of the struggle that finally won African Americans the ballot–although, as May shows, the fight for voting rights is by no means over.
Somebody’s Gotta Do It
Why Cursing at The News Won’t Save The Nation, But Your Name on A Local Ballot Can
Adrienne Martini—a knitter, a runner, a mom, and a resident of rural Otsego County in snowy upstate New York—has always thought of politicians as… oily. Then she spent election night curled in bed, texting her husband, who was at work, unable to stop shaking. And after the presidential inauguration, she reached out to Dave, a friend of a friend, who was involved in the Otsego County Democratic Party. Maybe she could help out with phone calls or fundraising?
But Dave’s idea was: she should run for office. Someone had to do it.
And so, in the year that 26,000 women (up from 920 the year before) contacted Emily’s List about running for offices large and small, Adrienne Martini ran for the District 12 seat on the Otsego County Board. And became one of the 14 delegates who collectively serve one rural American county, overseeing a budget of $130 million. Highway repair? Soil and water conservation? Child safety? Want WiFi? Need a coroner? It turns out, local office matters. A lot.
The American Spirit
Who We Are and What We Stand For
This timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States–winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other honors–reminds us of fundamental American principles.
Over the course of his distinguished career, David McCullough has spoken before Congress, the White House, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions. Now, as many Americans engage in self-reflection following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume that articulates important principles and characteristics that are particularly American.
How A Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People
Jared Yates Sexton
From writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton comes a journey through the history of the United States, from the nation’s founding to the twenty-first century, which examines and debunks the American myths we’ve always told ourselves.
In recent years, Americans have faced a deluge of horrifying developments in politics and culture: stolen elections, fascist rallies, families torn apart and locked away. A common refrain erupts at each new atrocity: This isn’t who we are.
In American Rule, Jared Yates Sexton upends those convenient fictions by laying bare the foundational myths at the heart of our collective American imagination. From the very origins of this nation, Americans in power have abused and subjugated others; enabling that corruption are the many myths of American exceptionalism and steadfast values, which are fed to the public and repeated across generations. Working through each era of American growth and change, Sexton weaves together the origins and perpetuation of these narratives still in the public memory, and the acts we have chosen to forget. Stirring, deeply researched, and disturbingly familiar, American Rule is a call to examine our own misconceptions of what it means, and has always meant, to be an American.
How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency
The first in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the White House Chiefs of Staff, whose actions–and inactions–have defined the course of our country.
Since George Washington, presidents have depended on the advice of key confidants. But it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the White House chief of staff became the second most powerful job in government. Unelected and unconfirmed, the chief serves at the whim of the president, hired and fired by him alone. He is the president’s closest adviser and the person he depends on to execute his agenda. He decides who gets to see the president, negotiates with Congress, and–most crucially–enjoys unparalleled access to the leader of the free world. When the president makes a life-and-death decision, often the chief of staff is the only other person in the room. Each chief can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks.
Teens & Children
A Vote Is A Powerful Thing
Callie learns a lot about voting as her family gets involved in local and national elections and she campaigns to have the local wilderness park chosen for her class field trip.
What Is an Election?
Read all about elections around the world. Find out who is a candidate, how voting takes place, and what you can do to be a part of your school elections.
Using a campaign for mayor as an example, shows the steps involved in an election, from the candidate’s speeches and rallies, to the voting booth where every vote counts, to the announcement of the winner.
Vote for Our Future!
The students of Stanton Elementary School, which is a polling place, find out all they can about voting and then encourage everyone in their neighborhoods to cast their ballots. Creative nonfiction picture book: includes additional facts and historical details.
Lillian’s Right to Vote
A Celebration of The Voting Rights Act Of 1965
As an elderly woman, Lillian recalls that her great-great-grandparents were sold as slaves in front of a courthouse where only rich white men were allowed to vote, then the long fight that led to her right–and determination–to cast her ballot since the Voting Rights Act gave every American the right to vote.
One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote
All About Voting
The Cat in the Hat looks at how, why, and who we vote for in a rhyming, nonfiction book that’s perfect for Election Day, President’s Day, and year-round reading—now with 16 bonus-pages of kid-friendly voting activities!
Vote for Me!
The donkey wants your vote. So does the elephant. And each will do just about anything to win your support. Brag? Sure! Flatter? Absolutely! Exaggerate, name-call, make silly promises and generally act childish? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Soon, the tension mounts, and these two quarrelsome candidates resort to slinging mud (literally) and flinging insults. And what happens when the election results are in? Well, let’s just say the donkey and the elephant are in for a little surprise–and a certain bewhiskered, third-party candidate is in for a first term. Vote for Me! is a timely satire of American politics, but it’s a story readers of all nationalities and ages will recognize.
We Elect A President
The Story of Our Electoral College
America’s unique presidential election system is often misunderstood–and perhaps especially hard to explain to children. We Elect a President: The Story of Our Electoral College will help you and your family discover more about the Electoral College and its remarkable history. Why was it created in the fiorst place? Does it still work today? Written in straightforward language and complemented with playful illustrations, We Elect a President explains how the Electoral College works and why it is still needed in a great, diverse country such as our own: As the Founders intended, the system continues to protect our republic and promote our liberty.
It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It
Activism for Teenagers
You can change the world. Free Speech. Racism. The Environment. Gay Rights. Bullying and School Safety. Animal Welfare. War. Information about Safe Sex and Birth Control. Free Speech. HIV and AIDS. Women’s Rights. These are the issues you care about–and now you can do something about them. It’s Your World will show you how to act on your beliefs, no matter what they are, and make a difference. The information inside includes: The basics of activism. Activism projects and outreach ideas. The 5-minute activist. How to be an activist at home, at school, and in your community. Stories from teenagers who have taken on the world–and won. Resources including books, movies, and Web sites, and much, much more. Whether at home, in school, or in your community, you have the power and the ability to create change, even if you aren’t old enough to vote. Don’t wait until you’re eighteen to flex your political muscles–start right now!
Votes of Confidence
A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections
An in-depth introduction to the American election cycle. Fleischer explains the past, present, and future of American elections; how the election process actually works and why it matters; and how young people can become involved–not just this year, but for years to come.
A Hip Pocket Guide
John J. Patrick
This handy pocket guide explains the core concepts of democracy in a clear A-Z format. Though these core concepts may be practiced differently in various countries, every genuine democracy is based on them in one way or another. Ideal for civics and government classrooms, Understanding Democracy is a concise, scholarly starting point for research papers and writing assignments.