The Covid-19 pandemic has made for a quieter political season. Rallies are off, primaries have been delayed or canceled, once heated ideological debates have temporarily cooled. It may not be the run-up to the elections some hoped for, but it may be one more conducive to contemplation. Forthcoming political books give readers much to think about. They include memoirs by controversial figures, studies of leading politicians, and examinations of the country’s recent, turbulent political past.
In their own words
The memoir offers a dreamlike scenario to politicians: plenty of space to make one’s case without interruptions from opponents or inquisitive reporters. This season’s political memoirs come from new and established figures on both sides of the aisle, including Stacey Abrams, John Brennan, and two former Trump White House officials.
Dare to Fly
Martha McSally. Dey Street, June
The Republican senator from Arizona, who is facing a challenge from Democrat Mark Kelly (husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords), offers life advice culled from her noteworthy career with the U.S. Air Force: McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat.
Jon Tester. Ecco, Sept.
Drawing on rural bona fides—Tester grew up on his family’s farm and today manages it with his wife—the Democratic senator from Montana makes a case for how Democrats can win over voters in red states such as his own.
John Brennan. Celadon, Sept.
Former CIA director Brennan is known for his willingness to confront President Trump. In this memoir, which is embargoed, he reflects on career milestones and life lessons, according to a statement made by Celadon’s president and publisher at acquisition.
Our Time Is Now
Stacey Abrams. Holt, June
Abrams, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Georgia in 2018 and who is frequently mentioned as a possible running mate for Joe Biden, draws on research and personal experience to argue for stronger voter protections, increasingly a topic of debate as the 2020 elections near.
The Room Where It Happened
John Bolton. Simon & Schuster, June
The former national security advisor’s book about his 519 days working for the Trump administration promises to make headlines, and in fact already has: the New York Times reported in January that, in the book, Bolton confirms Trump wanted to freeze aid to Ukraine until its government assisted with investigations into the Bidens.
She Will Rise
Katie Hill. Grand Central, Aug.
Since resigning from Congress in late 2019 amid reports that she’d had an affair with a campaign staffer, former California Democratic representative Hill has been outspoken about misogyny in U.S. politics, which she believes shaped the narrative around her scandal. Here she reflects on the events that led to her resignation and offers advice to women seeking to effect political change.
Speaking for Myself
Sarah Huckabee Sanders. St. Martin’s, Sept.
The former White House press secretary details her time working for President Trump and the challenges she faced during her tenure, some public and some private: among the topics she discusses are her faith and the difficulty of being a working mother.
This Is What America Looks Like
Ilhan Omar. Dey Street, June
Omar, a progressive Democratic representative from Minnesota and a member, along with congressional colleagues Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, of “The Squad,” chronicles her struggle as a refugee from Mogadishu, her experience as an immigrant in the U.S., and her historic election: she is the first Somali-American and among the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
Use the Power You Have
Pramila Jayapal. New Press, July
Subtitled A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change, this memoir by the Democratic congresswoman from Washington State—the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives—describes her decades advocating for immigrants and pressing for progressive platforms.
As long as American politics remain a melodrama, readers will crave character studies. Three books about Trump and two about women who fiercely oppose him are among this season’s political portraits.
John Yoo. All Points, Aug.
Yoo, a constitutional scholar and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is known as the author of the so-called torture memos, which provided a legal framework for the torture of prisoners during the “war on terror.” Here, in what PW’s review called a “sober-minded yet myopic account,” he asserts that Donald Trump is not despoiling the Constitution but rather fulfilling its vision of presidential power.
Carl Hoffman. Custom House, Sept.
A former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Wired and the author of Savage Harvest, Hoffman applies his experience reporting on extreme situations in far-flung locales (a deathly ferry in Indonesia, cannibalism in New Guinea) to Trump rallies here in the U.S. The author embeds himself in the MAGA community and explores the gatherings, and their figurehead, from a sociological perspective.
Molly Ball. Holt, May
Ball, a national political correspondent at Time, presents the speaker of the House as an underappreciated and resilient figure, taking readers on a tour of her legislative accomplishments and the political battles she’s waged. “Even readers who don’t entirely agree with Pelosi’s agenda,” PW’s review said, “will gain respect for her accomplishments and tenacity.”
Reclaiming Her Time
Helena Andrews-Dyer and R. Eric Thomas. Dey Street, Oct.
Washington Post features reporter Andrews-Dyer and Elle.com senior staff writer Thomas offer an illustrated celebration of longtime Democratic California congresswoman Maxine Waters. The book covers her childhood in St. Louis, highlights of her legislative career, and her high-profile disputes with President Trump.
White House, Inc.
Dan Alexander. Portfolio, Aug.
A Forbes senior editor looks at the ethical issues raised by Donald Trump’s insistence on maintaining control of his businesses while in the White House. Alexander trains his eye on those in Trump’s circle as well; Jared Kushner and Wilbur Ross, for instance, also have what the author sees as problematic business interests.
The November elections are likely to sharpen debates about the major forces driving American politics, including immigration, nationalism, and religion in politics. Forthcoming books by journalists and academics address these issues.
Dare to Speak
Suzanne Nossel. Dey Street, Aug.
The CEO of PEN mounts a defense of free speech that’s attuned to the contemporary, increasingly fraught discourse environment. Weighing rights as well as respectfulness, she considers the ethical complexities inherent in internet trolls, cancel culture, college protests, and career-ending Tweets.
Empire of Resentment
Lawrence Rosenthal. New Press, Oct.
Xenophobic nationalism is only the latest face worn by the adaptable force that is right-wing populism, says Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher at the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies. The author proposes that right-wing populism is not an emergent phenomenon but a flexible one that molds itself to the reactionary cause of the moment.
Geraldo Cadava. Ecco, June
Cadava, a professor of history and Latino and Latina Studies at Northwestern University, “offers essential context on a voting bloc with an outsize influence on American politics,” PW’s review said. He takes readers back to the Cold War, when Republican politicians worked to woo Cuban emigres, and considers the relationship between Latinos and the GOP at a time when the latter has become increasingly hostile to immigration.
In Defense of Populism
Donald T. Critchlow. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Sept.
“Populist” has, for many, become a pejorative in recent years, but Critchlow, founder of the Institute for Political History and a professor of history at Arizona State University, makes the case that citizen-led, grassroots movements are essential to party renewal, for the left as well as the right.
Stuart Stevens. Knopf, Aug.
Stevens, a Republican political consultant who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, asserts that the Republican party, in embracing President Trump, has called into question its “commitment to family values, fiscal prudence, and intellectual rigor,” PW’s review said.“Readers hoping that the post-Trump GOP charts a new path will savor this thoughtful exposé.”
One Billion Americans
Matthew Yglesias. Portfolio, Sept.
To prevent its decline and to stave off competition from other global powers, the United States needs massive population growth, Vox cofounder Yglesias proposes. The author explains how the U.S. can grow through family and immigration policy, how it can manage the increased strain on its education and housing systems, and why a population boom would be an advantage.
Al Sharpton. Hanover Square, Sept.
The activist, minister, and founder of the National Action Network looks back to the Obama presidency and considers the Trump era, highlighting figures who have emerged to oppose the current president.
Say It Louder!
Tiffany Cross. Amistad, July.
Despite voting restrictions and other forms of suppression, African-American voters form an essential Democratic constituency, says Cross, a political analyst and Harvard Institute of Politics resident fellow. She also looks at the political opportunities and continued hurdles African-American voters face.
Sarah Posner. Random House, June
Posner, an investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the American Prospect, Rolling Stone, and numerous other publications, explores white evangelicals’ embrace of Trump, who, she suggests, has not always lived his life in a Christly manner. She paints a picture of a religious right that is pursuing a racist, xenophobic, and anti-democratic political agenda, in what PW’s review said “will be a must-read for those interested in the connections between the Trump presidency and evangelicalism.”
Correction: A previous version of this article listed the incorrect imprint for Liar's Circus.