This summer, the Republican and Democratic parties held their quadrennial proms and crowned a king and a queen, and in the months that followed, the rest of us endured their frenetic campaigning for supreme ruler of school. It’s kind of like winning the Hogwarts House Cup.
But it’s no kid fantasy that the constant barrage of political news has driven many library patrons to disengage by burrowing between book covers, plugging in earbuds, or binging on small-screen gems. Consider some of these books, movies, and podcasts to help readers understand this tumultuous election cycle or escape it. Steer readers disenchanted with both candidates towards Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic (2011). This compulsively readable history about the presidency and untimely death of James A. Garfield will provide great conversation starters about where the country might be today had Garfield survived.
Louisa Adams may not have had the unforgettable epistolary influence of her mother-in-law Abigail Adams, but she wielded an equitable though quieter power during the John Q. Adams administration. She was the only first lady not born on American soil and her engaging life story is told in Louisa (2016) by Louisa Thomas. Voters missing “The Bern” should cue up Unbought and Unbossed (2004), a documentary on Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman. Another fiercely independent thinker and politician, Chisholm never won the presidential nomination, but she made an indelible stamp on elections.
We all feel like Beltway outsiders, but none of us more than Beth in Jennifer Close’s novel The Hopefuls (2016). Beth tolerates plenty of shameless name dropping and power brokering from her husband Matt’s colleagues. But does she have enough stamina for a campaign trail slog with Matt and their new power-couple friends, Jimmy and Ashleigh, as they seek the White House?
Is there such a thing as political fantasy? Meet Elphaba before she turned to the dark side and became the Wicked Witch of the West. In Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1996), Elphaba shares a dorm room with Galinda, the most popular witch ever. Once Elphie’s political consciousness is raised at university, she becomes an animal rights activist, enraged with the Wizard’s political corruption. Forget the Broadway treatment and follow Elphaba’s underground movements in this layered and thoughtful tale.
Need a warmer, fuzzier depiction of the US president? Look no further than Michael Douglas leading the country and falling in love with Annette Benning in The American President (1995). Don’t miss Douglas’s chief of staff, Martin Sheen, practicing for running the country in the television series The West Wing (1999). And if you think the current election cycle is a clown show, then you need Bulworth (1998). Warren Beatty stars as a disillusioned politician who puts out a contract on himself and adopts the language of hip hop to talk to the populace. Does the best person always win the White House? A screen gem from the ’60s proves that ruthless politicking has always been in play. Look for Henry Fonda turning in a chilling performance in The Best Man (1964), and
then check out Robert Redford struggling with the media circus in The Candidate (1972).
Looking for a more perfect union on television? Recent Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus brings the funny (and the serious) to the Oval Office in Veep (2012). There’s nothing funny or warm about Frank Underwood in House of Cards (2013). His subtly vile way of manipulating his way into the presidency may make us glad he’s not running for office this year, but sorry his intelligent, competent wife, Claire, isn’t.
Stick a podcast in your ear and consider Keepin’ It 1600. Former speechwriters and aides to President Obama break down the 2016 election week by week. Hosts Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer are admitted Democrats, but are more policy wonk/election nerds than partisan.
Here in the middle of the map, Kansas and Missouri are lucky enough to get their own government geek podcast, Statehouse Blend, from local NPR affiliate, KCUR. We keep up with what’s going on in our political backyards with two KCUR reporters, Sam Zeff for the Sunflower State and Brian Ellison for the Show Me State. Look for all these podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher.
Still running scared from November? Make room in your knapsack for André du Broc’s How to Move to Canada: A Discontented
American’s Guide to Canadian Relocation (2016) as you sneak across the border.