mccain palin: game change

9 Eye-Opening Political Tell-Alls

“Politics” is very often viewed as a dirty word—sometimes deservedly so, other times not. These 9 memoirs from well-known, revered, or even infamous American political players reveal a world that is as vibrant as it is ugly, hopeful as it is gloomy, and sterile as it is lurid. In the words of the great Soviet-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff: What a country!


  1. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by Robert S. McNamara


in retrospect

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A shrewd businessman known as a “whiz kid” for his work at the Ford Motor Company, Robert S. McNamara made it to the highest echelons of decision-making when he was tapped as Secretary of Defense by John F. Kennedy. But for all his cunning, McNamara was unable to prevent the U.S.’s descent into an ultimately disastrous war in Vietnam. Previously seen as a “war hawk,” this memoir reveals McNamara’s in-vain attempts to get President Lyndon B. Johnson to withdraw troops, as well as the regrets he carried.



  1. “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin


game change

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Later adapted into an emmy-winning HBO film, “Game Change” follows the inner-workings of the 2008 presidential campaign in almost-real time. The book is unflinching in its explorations of the flaws of its candidates, but it also goes in depth inside various networks of political operatives toiling behind the scenes to put their candidate on top.


  1. “The Diaries of John Quincy Adams 1779-1848” by John Quincy Adams


john quincy adams

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The son of U.S. second president John Adams, John Quincy was practically groomed from birth to be a politician. Starting in 1779, when Adams was only 12, and ending with his death 70 years later, Adams writes a meticulous account of a life at the forefront of a brand-new nation and increasingly global world. He witnesses the invasion of St. Petersburg by Napoleon Bonaparte as U.S. ambassador to Russia; wins the presidency only to lose re-election to a vengeful Andrew Jackson; and defends the right of African captives to freedom in the historic Amistad trial. Not too shabby for a president’s kid!


  1. “Madam Secretary: A Memoir” by Madeleine Albright


madeleine albright

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Madeleine Albright made history when she became the first female U.S. Secretary of State, but her accomplishment did not come out of nowhere. The daughter of a Czech diplomat, Albright and her immediate family fled the Nazis for London before eventually immigrating to America. There, Albright forged a hard-won career as a diplomat—all the while ignorant of the terrible things that befell the relatives she had left behind. Tackling the Yugoslav wars and other conflicts with typical aplomb, Albright shows the strings of political life while never abandoning her reverence for the best of it.


  1. “Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath” by Mimi Alford


mimi alford

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In 1962, 19-year-old Mimi Alford arrived in Washington D.C. bright-eyed and eager to embark on a productive internship in the White House press office. President Kennedy, however, apparently had other plans for her. Alford would remain Kennedy’s secret lover until his assassination the following year. Forced to mourn his loss alone, Alford tried, with little success, to leave her secret in the past. This is her attempt to set the record straight.


  1. “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction” by Patrick J. Kennedy


patrick kennedy

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The youngest son of Democratic stalwart Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy struggled for years with mental illness and substance abuse before deciding to publically seek treatment while serving in congress. Though there is plenty of Kennedy family-dish in here to satisfy most, Kennedy’s focus is not so much on his famous brethren but on his own journey to better mental health for himself and for everyone.



  1. “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken


al franken

Image courtesy of Hachette Book Group


Franken has enjoyed considerable success as both a comedian and a politician, and he puts both skill sets to work in this uproarious and pertinent tale of what happens when a progressive comedian decides to run for office, wins, and the deadlock and difficult victories that follow. In this political climate, perhaps the best guide to all the madness is someone who once laughed for a living.


  1. “What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our daughter, and Me” by Rielle Hunter


Brielle hunter

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To many, Rielle Hunter is simply “the other woman” of presidential candidate John Edwards, the aide who tempted Edwards away from his ailing wife Elizabeth, and into illicit sex and illegitimate fatherhood. Unsurprisingly, the story is a little more complicated than that. Hunter does not shy away from the controversy and cover-ups that came to define her image, but she refuses to let her and her daughter bear the scarlet letter of an outraged public.


  1. “Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage” by Barney Frank


barney frank

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One of the first openly gay politicians on the national stage, Barney Frank has been a trailblazer not only in matters of gay rights but in all matters of important political issues, from abortion and presidential impeachment to financial reform and general economic equality. Frank is living proof that one can be both an open book and a canny operative without sacrificing ideals in the process.


Featured image courtesy of Politico