28
Aug
12

Book Lust: Political Reading List 3

BOOK 1: THE BLAIR YEARS: THE ALISTAIR CAMPBELL DIARIES

A revelatory account of Tony Blair’s tumultuous leadership, The Blair Years gathers extracts from the diaries of the man who knew him best: Alistair Campbell – Blair’s spokesman from 1994 to 2003, his press secretary, strategist, and closest confidant. It is a compelling chronicle of contemporary British politics and the rise of the New Labour, providing the first important record of a remarkable decade in Britain’s history.

Here are the defining events of the time, from the Labour Party’s new dawn to the war on terror; from the death of Princess Diana to negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland; from Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq to the Hutton Inquiry of 2003, the year Campbell resigned his position. Here also are Blair’s relationships with world leaders and heads of state, including presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But above all, here is Tony Blair up close and personal, making the decisions that affected the lives of millions, the decisions that affected the lives of millions, under relentless and frequently hostile pressure.

Often described as the second most powerful figure in Britain, Alistair Campbell is no stranger to controversy. Feared and admired in equal measure, hated by some, he was pivotal to the founding of New Labour and the sensational election victory of 1997. Campbell spent more waking hours alongside the prime minister than anyone, and his diaries – at times brutally frank, anyone, and his diaries, always engrossing – take the reader right to the heart of government.

The Blair Years is a story of politics in the raw, of progress and setback, of reputations made and destroyed, under the relentless scrutiny of a twenty-four-hour media. Unflinchingly told, it covers the crises and scandals, the rows and resignations, the ups and downs at No. 10 Downing Street. But amid the landmark events are insights and observations that make this a remarkably human portrayal of some of the most influential people in the world.

A completely riveting book about life at the very top, told by a man who saw it all.

AUTHOR: ALISTAIR CAMPBELL AND RICHARD STOTT

Alistair Campbell was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, in 1957. A graduate of Cambridge University, his first career was in journalism. He was by Tony Blair to be his press secretary when Blair became leader of the Labour Party. He worked for Blair – first in that capacity, then as official spokesman and directory of communications and strategy from 1994 to 2003. Since his resignation, he has been engaged mainly in writing, public speaking and working for Leukaemia Research, where he is chairman of fund-raising. He has continued to act as an adviser to Blair and the Labour Party, including during the 2005 election campaign. Campbell lives in London

Richard Stott, who began editing the diaries three years ago, is an award-winning journalist who was twice editor of the Daily Mirror. He writes a political and current affairs column for the Sunday Mirror.

BOOK 2: CLEOPATRA: A LIFE

Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnet, and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassinations were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and – after his murder – three more with his protégé. Already, she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra’s supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff’s is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.

AUTHOR: STACY SCHIFF

Stacy Schiff is the author of Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer-Prize; Saint-Exupery; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Boo Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. The recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City.

BOOK 3: FROST/NIXON

Following the resounding success of the eponymous West End and Broadway hit play, Frost/Nixon tells the extraordinary story of how Sir David Frost pursued and landed the biggest fish of his career – and how the series drew larger audiences than any news interview ever had in the United States, before being shown all over the world.

This is Frost’s absorbing story of his pursuit of Richard Nixon, and in no less revealing of his own toughness and pertinacity than of the ex-President’s elusiveness. Frost’s potential sponsors, and Nixon as negotiator are nothing short of hilarious, and his insight into the taping of the programs themselves is fascinating.

Frost/Nixon provides the authoritative account of the only public trial that Nixon would ever have, and a revelation of the man’s character as it appeared in the stress of eleven gruelling sessions before the cameras. Including historical perspective and transcripts of the edited interviews, this is the story of Sir David Frost’s quest to produce one of the most dramatic pieces of television ever broadcast, described by commentators at the time as “catharsis” for the American people.

AUTHOR: SIR DAVID FROST WITH BOB ZELSNICK

Sir David Frost is the only person to have interviewed the last seven presidents of the United States and the last six prime ministers of Great Britain. He has been awarded all the major television awards, including the Emmy Award (for The David Frost Show – twice) in the United States and the BAFTA Fellowship in the United Kingdom, their highest honor.

Often described as “a one-man conglomerate,” Sir David has worked variously as an author, film and television producer, publisher, lecturer and impresario, and co-founded two network companies in the United Kingdom, LWT and TV-am.

Sir David hosts Frost Over the World, his weekly current affairs program for Al Jazeera English, as well as a series for the BBC and ITV. He is the executive producer of the remake of the film The Dam Busters, with Peter Jackson and Universal.

He lives in London, Hampshire, and on British Airways.

BOOK 4: GAME CHANGE: OBAMA AND THE CLINTONS, MCCAIN AND PALIN, AND THE RACE OF A LIFETIME

In 2008, the presidential election became blockbuster entertainment. Everyone was watching as the race for the White House unfolded like something from the realm of fiction. The meteoric rise and historic triumph of Barack Obama. The shocking fall of the House of Clinton – and the improbable resurrection of Hillary as Obama’s partner and America’s face to the world. The mercurial performance of Sarah Palin. But despite the wall-to-wall media coverage of this spellbinding drama, remarkably little of the real story behind the headlines has yet been told.

In Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, two of the country’s leading political reporters, use their unrivalled access to pull back the curtain on the Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Palin campaigns. How did Obama convince himself that, despite the thinness of his resume, he could somehow beat the odds to become the nation’s first African American president? How did the tumultuous relationship between the Clintons shape – and warp – Hillary’s supposedly unstoppable bid? What was behind her husband’s furious outbursts and devastating political miscalculations? Why did McCain make the novice governor of Alaska his running mate? And was Palin merely painfully out of her depth – or troubled in more serious ways?

Game Change answers those questions and more, laying bare the secret history of 2008 campaign. Heilemann and Haplerin take us inside the Obama machine, where staffers referred to the candidates as “Black Jesus.” They unearth the quiet conspiracy in the U.S. Senate to prod Obama into the race, driven in part by the fears of the senior Democrats that Bill Clinton’s personal life might cripple Hillary’s presidential prospects. They expose the twisted tale of John Edward’s affair with Rielle Hunter, the truth behind the downfall of Rudy Giuliani, and the doubts of those responsible for vetting Palin about her readiness for the Republican ticket – along with the McCain campaign staff’s worries about her fitness for office. And they reveal how, in an emotional late-night phone call, Obama succeeded in wooing Clinton, despite her staunch resistance, to become his secretary of state.

Based on hundreds of interviews with the people who lived the story, Game change is a reportorial tour de force that reads like a fast-paced novel. Character driven and dialogue rich, replete with extravagantly detailed scenes, this is the occasionally shocking, often hilarious, ultimately definitive account of the campaign of a lifetime.

AUTHOR: JOHN HEILEMANN AND MARK HALPERIN

John Heilemann is the national political correspondent and columnist for the New York magazine. An award-winning journalist and the author of Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era, he is a former staff writer to The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Halperin is editor-at-large and senior political analyst for Time magazine. He is the author of The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President and the co-author of The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008. He has covered six presidential elections, including during his decade as the political director of ABC News. He lives in Manhattan.

BOOK 5: UTTER INCOMPETENCES: EGO AND IDEOLOGY IN THE AGE OF BUSH

The problem wasn’t just Iraq. It didn’t even start with Iraq. It was bigger than Iraq.

In fact, it was everything George W. Bush touched, from the very early flop on energy policy to the walking fiasco named Alberto Gonzales. Even adding the tragicomedy of Hurricane Katrina doesn’t come close to describing governmental catastrophe of the Bush administration. The collapse of the Bush presidency is a broadly acknowledged fact. Everyone who’s anyone, from politicians to comedians, has taken shots at this ever-growing target. By any fair assessment, much of the past seven years has been disastrous. The challenge is to understand why.

Few analysts have stepped aside, abandoning easy hits and quick gibes, and analyzed the totality of the Bush administration. Now bestselling author Thomas Oliphant does just that. With his keen, experienced eye, he asks the simplest of questions: How could some of the smartest, most experienced and political savvy people in Washington screw up so badly.

After all, this was the team led by a man with an MBA. They came to Washington with the mission to run the government in an orderly, businesslike manner. Instead, chaos has ensued. How did this happen?

From domestic policy to international goofs, from soaring energy prices to the health care crisis, Timothy Oliphant tackles it all, closely inspecting the initial projections and promises of Bush and his key senior officials, and the ways in which they lost control of those well-publicized and overconfident plans. By comparing their rhetoric to their dismal record, Oliphant provides a historic analysis of the Bush administration – showing how a system so seemingly competent and mechanized could fail so miserably, and with such frequency.

In the wake of the Republican loss of Congress and unmet promises for future change, and as the presidential campaign to choose Bush’s successor heats up, Oliphant provides a rigorous examination of what went wrong and what this means for the next administration. Utter Incompetents is at its heart a searching look at the George W. Bush administration, its policies and the legacy that it will leave behind on January 20, 2009.

It is also the substantive backdrop for the next president.

AUTHOR: THOMAS OLIPHANT

Thomas Oliphant has been a correspondent for The Boston Globe since 1968 and its Washington columnist since 1989. He is a native of Brooklyn, a product of La Jolla High School in California, and a 1967 graduate of Harvard. He was one of three editors on special assignment who managed the Globe’s coverage of Boston’s traumatic school desegregation, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. He has also won the writing award given by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Face of America, and CBS News’ This Morning. He has been named one of the country’s top ten political writers and one of Washington’s fifty most influential journalists by Washingtonian magazine. Mr. Oliphant lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, CBS correspondent Susan Spencer.

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my read shelf:
Jowana Bueser's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

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