The Year’s Political Reads 2009

Bookwise, Obamamania in 2008 manifested in the re-release of two autobiographical works by the President. “The Audacity of Hope” (2006) and “Dreams From My Father” (1995) re-emerged and sat on the best-seller list alongside even better-selling anti-Obama books.

In 2009, no such unifying entity drove publishing sales, but multiple political books still populated non-fiction best seller lists like Publisher’s Weekly, The New York Times, and Amazon. Among the dozens of political titles, a trio of autobiographical works of very different flavors stood out.

“True Compass” by Senator Ted Kennedy
The publisher of Ted Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass,” moved up the release date to after the senator’s death in August. Whether sales surged on sentiment or curiosity about the last major figure of America’s proxy royal family, the book occupied a spot on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list for months.

Reviews: The New York Times called it “deeply affecting,” the Washington Post “engaging and at times moving…but…(with) the air of having been written by committee.”

Revelations: Kennedy was convinced brother John Kennedy would have ended America’s involvement in Vietnam, and he thought that the Warren Commission “got it right” concerning his brother’s assassination. Of the famous Chappadquidick incident, Kennedy wrote that Mary Jo Kopechne‘s death “haunts me every day,” but that admission hasn’t satisfied all.

“Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities” by Elizabeth Edwards
When Elizabeth Edwards appeared on “Oprah,” divulging what she’d been told about the start of her husband’s affair, she gamely went where no spouse likes to tread.

Reviews: Despite the sordid nature of the former VP nominee’s dalliance (Hunter claims Edwards is the father of her child) an Entertainment Weekly review said Elizabeth writes in “lovely, unfettered prose” about her cancer and her son’s death, and that the book lives up to its billing as an inspirational meditation on coping with tragedy.

Revelations: “You are so hot,” she quoted Rielle’s Hunter’s opening come-on to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. That sort of candor runs throughout her book. “I cried and screamed, I went to the bathroom and threw up,” she writes of her reaction to her husband’s confession.

“Going Rogue” by Sarah Palin
Whether you’re a Democrat who goes into paroxysms of disbelief that many consider her a viable candidate, or a Republican electrified by adherence to old-school conservative positions in a suprising new package, no doubt can exist that Sarah Palin has inserted herself into the American limelight.

Reviews: As political persuasion sharply colors opinion of the former veep candidate, so does it dictate assessment of her book. A former editor at the Wall St. Journal says Palin “comes across as… capable of mastering complicated issues,” while the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani writes the book is “part cagey spin, part earnest autobiography, part payback hit job.” Then there’s McCain campaign strategist John Weaver: “She reminds me of Jimmy Stewart in the movie Harvey, complete with imaginary conversations…” But perhaps AP called it most correctly: “Going Rogue has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto.” 2012, anyone?

Revelations: Palin says the McCain campaign wouldn’t even allow her to speak to the Alaskan press after the announcement of her selection as running mate. She also claims the campaign billed her $50,000 for being vetted.

A Conservative Renaissance — On Paper
They may have been routed at the polls, but they’re still going strong on bookshelves. Riding a wave of resentment by those not feeling the Obama magic, these conservative books registered big sales this year. The big winner: Glenn Beck, whose three books have added nicely to his projected income of $18 million in 2009.

  • “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense” by Glenn Beck
  • “Arguing With Idiots” by Glenn Beck
  • “Liberty and Tyranny” by Mark R. Levin
  • “Culture of Corruption” by Michelle Malkin
  • “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity” by Bill O’Reilly

And other notables destined for the stockings of political junkies:

  • “The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons Behind Barack Obama’s Historic Victory” by David Plouffe (campaign manager)
  • “On Rumors: On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done” by Cass R. Sunstein (legal scholar and head of White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs)
  • “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box” by Madeleine Albright (first female Secretary of State)
  • “End the Fed” by Congressman Ron Paul
  • “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with the Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect” by Ronald Kessler (published in August, well before the Salahis crashed the White House state dinner)

2010: The return of the Bushies
Coming soon: Condi, Laura, Rumsfeld, Rove, W, and Cheney all have their say in print.

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