Philippa Thomas Online

Life and leadership coaching

American reading – any recommendations?


My favourite thing about the holidays is the chance to sink deep down into fiction. I’ve just turned the final page of a big, emotional, multilayered historical novel by author Ethan Canin about American politics and family, and I really feel I’ve been inhabiting that world. A work called “America, America” was always going to be ambitious wasn’t it! It’s great reading for a political junkie like me, as it weaves together a fictional community with all the real events of the presidential primary campaign of 1972. It also reminds me of another novel that kept me thinking long after I put it aside – “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve just realised they were published within months of each other in 2008; intriguing to have a male and female narrator to compare. Anyone else with recommendations for big novels about American politics, let me know!


Author: philippathomas

I've been a BBC newswoman for 30 years: reporting from around the world. Currently to be seen anchoring BBC World News TV. Main interests - politics, psychology, reading, trekking, and all things American. I began this personal blog as a 2011 Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard. You can also find me talking daily news on Twitter at @PhilippaBBC, coaching @positivecoachi3, and life & travel on Instagram at @philippanews. Thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “American reading – any recommendations?

  1. Not politics, but anything by Richard Ford!

  2. I recommend “The Federalist,” (by Alexaner Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison); and, “The Political Writings of Thomas Jefferson,” edited by Merrill D. Peterson. Also, ” Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’ Great Discovery to the War on Terror,” by Larry Schwartzkopf; “The Five Thousand Year Leap– A Miracle that Changed the World,” by W. Cleon Skousen; “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. Finally, these last few: “The Real George Washington (American Classic Series),” by Jay A. Parry and Andrew M. Allison; “The Real Thomas Jefferson (An American Classic),” by Andrew M. Allison, The Real Benjamin Franklin (American Classic Series), by Andrew M. Allison. Hope this helps! — Shel Sagone

  3. Anything by Tom Wolfe but maybe Bonfire, Right Stuff, or Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (politics is peripheral but pervasive in these, and they capture the US)

    Anything by Hunter S Thompson about Nixon. Maybe Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Compare its version of 1972 with the one above.

    (2 above are quasi-novels, “the new journalism” in a formerly ubiquitous TW phrase that’s no longer used)

    Any Chris Buckley novel, maybe The White House Mess or his fairly recent Supreme Court one

    Primary Colors though I’m not sure how well it stands up today

    All the King’s Men

    Democracy by Henry Adams

    Other Washington novelists — Ward Just, Gore Vidal — I haven’t read. Best recent DC novel, non-politics, was that one by an African novelist set near Logan Circle, I cannot recall title but I think it had Beautiful and Heaven in it.

  4. David and Shel, thank you for your suggestions. I have Hunter Thompson in the stack waiting to be read but that’s a lot more food for thought. I am very glad to have a Cambridge Public Library card…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.