Recommended reading

Listed below is a collection of books that all Americans should read and understand.  If we do not understand where we are, how can we be expected to do something about it?

The Impostors:  How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics, by Steve Benen

For decades, American voters innocently assumed the two major political parties were equally mature and responsible governing entities, ideological differences aside. That belief is due for an overhaul: in recent years, the Republican Party has undergone an astonishing metamorphosis, one so baffling and complete that few have fully reckoned with the reality and its consequences.

Republicans, simply put, have quit governing. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen charts in his groundbreaking new book, the contemporary GOP has become a “post-policy party.” Republicans are effectively impostors, presenting themselves as officials who are ready to take seriously the substance of problem solving, but whose sole focus is the pursuit and maintenance of power. Astonishingly, they are winning–at the cost of pushing the political system to the breaking point.

Despite having billed itself as the “party of ideas,” the Republican Party has walked away from the hard but necessary work of policymaking. It is disdainful of expertise and hostile toward evidence and arithmetic. It is tethered to few, if any, meaningful policy preferences. It does not know, and does not care, about how competing proposals should be crafted, scrutinized, or implemented. This policy nihilism dominated the party’s posture throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, which in turn opened the door to Donald Trump — who would cement the GOP’s post-policy status in ways that were difficult to even imagine a few years earlier.

How Republicans murdered the American republic – slowly, one step at a time.


Dark Money, by Jane Meyer.

Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?

The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the rise of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views also played a key role by bankrolling a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.


Winner-Take-All Politics, by Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have fallen behind. Why do the “have-it-alls” have so much more? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

Part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey, Winner-Take-All Politics shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the super-rich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.


Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, by Ari Berman

Countless books have been written about the civil rights movement, but far less attention has been paid to what happened after the dramatic passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965 and the turbulent forces it unleashed. Give Us the Ballot tells this story for the first time.


Ratf***ed: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count, by David Daley.

David Daley’s “extraordinarily timely” (New York Times Book Review) account uncovers the fundamental rigging of our House of Representatives and state legislatures nationwide.


American Amnesia:  How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson.

Like every other prospering democracy, the United States developed a mixed economy that channeled the spirit of capitalism into strong growth and healthy social development. In this bargain, government and business were as much partners as rivals. Public investments in education, science, transportation, and technology laid the foundation for broadly based prosperity. Programs of economic security and progressive taxation provided a floor of protection, and business focused on the pursuit of profit – and government addressed needs business could not.

The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the 20th century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. And as the advocates of antigovernment free-market fundamentalism have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain how – and why – they must be stopped.


Give Us The Ballot:  The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, by Ari Berman.

The adoption of the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965 enfranchised millions of Americans and is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement. Yet fifty years later, we are still fighting heated battles over race, representation, and political power – over the right to vote, the central pillar of our democracy.

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, 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.



It Was All a Lie:  How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, by Stuart Stevens.

Stuart Stevens spent decades electing Republicans at every level, from presidents to senators to local officials. He knows the GOP as intimately as anyone in America, and in this new book he offers a devastating portrait of a party that has lost its moral and political compass.

This is not a book about how Donald J. Trump hijacked the Republican Party and changed it into something else. Stevens shows how Trump is in fact the natural outcome of five decades of hypocrisy and self-delusion, dating all the way back to the civil rights legislation of the early 1960s. Stevens shows how racism has always lurked in the modern GOP’s DNA, from Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation to Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens and states’ rights rhetoric. He gives an insider’s account of the rank hypocrisy of the party’s claims to embody “family values,” and shows how the party’s vaunted commitment to fiscal responsibility has been a charade since the 1980s. When a party stands for nothing, he argues, it is only natural that it will be taken over by the loudest and angriest voices in the room.

It Was All a Lie is not just an indictment of the Republican Party, but a candid and often lacerating mea culpa. Stevens is not asking for pity or forgiveness; he is simply telling us what he has seen firsthand. He helped to create the modern party that kneels before a morally bankrupt con man and now he wants nothing more than to see what it has become burned to the ground.


It Can Happen Here

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder.

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.

It Is Happening Here

The Plot to Hack America:  How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Stole the 2016 Election, by Malcolm Nance.

Nance is a retired US intelligence officer and senior official.  In this first of his series of books describing the destruction of America by Donald Trump aided by Vladimir Putin, Nance describes how Russia conspired with WikiLeaks to swing the 2016 election to Trump.


The Plot to Destroy America:  How Putin and His Spies are Undermining American and Dismantling the West, by Malcolm Nance.

In the greatest intelligence operation in the history of the world, Donald Trump was made president of the United States with the assistance of a foreign power. For the first time, The Plot to Destroy Democracy reveals the dramatic story of how blackmail, espionage, assassination, and psychological warfare were used by Vladimir Putin and his spy agencies to steal the 2016 US election – and attempted to bring about the fall of NATO, the European Union, and western democracy. It will show how Russia and its fifth column allies tried to flip the cornerstones of democracy in order to reengineer the world political order that kept most of the world free since since 1945.  

Career US Intelligence officer Malcolm Nance will examine how Russia has used cyberwarfare, political propaganda, and manipulating our perception of reality – and will use it again – to weaponize American news, traditional media, social media, and the workings of the Internet to attack and break apart democratic institutions from within and what we can expect to come should we fail to stop their next attack.  

In his 35-year career in intelligence, Nance specialized in cryptology, national security policy, counter-terrorism intelligence. He has utilized top secret Russian-sourced political and hybrid warfare strategy documents to demonstrate the master plan to undermine American institutions that has been in effect from the Cold War to the present day. Based on original research and countless interviews with espionage experts, Nance examines how Putin’s recent hacking accomplished a crucial first step for destabilizing the West for Russia, why Putin is just the man to do it.  


The Plot to Betray America:  How Team Trump Embraced Our Enemies, Compromised Our Security, and How We can Fix it, by Malcolm Nance.

Seduced by the promises of riches dangled in front of them by Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration eagerly decided to reap the rewards of the plan to put a Kremlin-friendly crony in the Oval Office. And instead of interfering, the Republican Party’s faithful William Barr, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos, and Jeff Sessions among others did everything they could to facilitate Trump’s damage to national security to fill his own pockets. Through in-depth research and interviews with intelligence experts and insiders, Nance charts Trump’s deep financial ties to Russia through his family’s investments, including those of Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner, and the corrupt behavior of his other double-crossing pro-Moscow associates. 

Only by untangling the spider web of personal and financial relationships linking the White House to the Kremlin can we start to free ourselves from the constricting clutches of our foreign adversaries and work to rebuild our fractured nation. 

In this geopolitical pause-resister, The Plot to Betray America ultimately sketches the tracks and blueprint of the Trump administration’s conspiracy against our country – and how we can still fight to defend democracy, protect our national security, and save the Constitution.


A Very Stable Genius, by Philip Rucker and Carol Leoning

Trump frequently refers to himself as having “a very high IQ” and of being “a very stable genius.”  He does not have a very high IQ.  In fact, his intelligence ability is at best average and likely below average.  As for the “stable genius” part . . . he is neither stable nor a genius.


Trump/Russia:  A Definitive History, by Seth Hettena.  

In the early 1990’s, a famous but not very bright real estate “tycoon” — a regular in Manhattan gossip columns and on celebrity chat shows — found his world collapsing around him.  He had gone bankrupt on three multi-million-dollar projects in a row.  Facing numerous suits, isolated and desperate for cash, but cut off by American banks, he turned to dark sources in Russia.

Thus began decades-long deal-making and money laundering that ended with that same incompetent tycoon in the White House.


Proof of Collusion:  How Trump Betrayed America, by Seth Abrahamson.

This book tells in detail with verified names, dates and places:

  • How Trump worked for 30 years to expand his real estate empire into Russia while being rescued from bankruptcy by Putin’s uber-wealthy friends,  Kremlin agents, and the Russian mafia.
  • How Russian intelligence gathered compromising information on Trump during his multiple trips.
  • How Trump recruited Russian allies and business partners while running for president.
  • How Trump surrounded himself with advisors who have sketchy ties to Russia and who engaged in clandestine plots with Russia.
  •  How Trump aides and family members held clandestine meetings with Russian agents and lied about it.


COLLUSION:  Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia Helped Trump Win, by Luke Harding.

Every bizarre detail of the Trump-Russian collusion that put Trump in the White House.


The Apprentice:  Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy, by Greg Miller.

In 2020, we Americans are living in the wake of the greatest political crime of history:  A foreign government, led by a brutal dictator, co-opted and compromised an American real estate tycoon, then by secretly interfering in the 2016 election, put that some tycoon — now their puppet — in the White House.



More to come.