19 Shorts Every American Should Read to Understand Politics Today

These 19 Vintage Shorts Political Selections should be essential reading for every American, especially considering the state of our country today. Each short is informative, eye-opening, inspiring, and perhaps best of all, easy to incorporate into any busy schedule. Ranging from ten to thirty pages long, these political shorts cover important material with no fluff, making them accessible to every reader.

In crucial times like these, we need more stimulating writing that prompts us to make informed decisions – ones that impact our present and our future. So as midterm elections approach, be sure to dive in to these eBook shorts and share them with everyone you know.

  • The cover of the book Istanbul Letters

    Istanbul Letters

    “Why do some forms of violence—the beheading of journalists by the Islamic State, a bombing in Ankara, or the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando—make us feel so threatened, while other forms—the 372 separate mass shootings in America in 2015 or the 4,219 Syrians killed that same September—do little to challenge our sense of safety?”

    From his base in Istanbul, Elliot Ackerman has written letters and essays that explore how global and seemingly remote issues like terrorism, US foreign policy, and other geopolitical forces play out and wreak distress upon the quotidian lives of civilians. Here assembled into a haunting piece, the fragments of a year’s notes open a window into life under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s oppressive and nationalistic right-wing regime, the civil war in Syria, and the disintegration of the old order in the Middle-East. 

    Exposing how a pervasive rhetoric of fear can shape a society and written with intimacy and a tremendous amount of compassion, this is an astute political commentary and first-person travel narrative par excellence.

  • The cover of the book Thirteen Tactics for Realistic Radicals

    Thirteen Tactics for Realistic Radicals

    from Rules for Radicals

    From the founder of modern radical activism in America, Saul Alinsky, whose the bestselling classic Rules for Radicals has reinvigorated the political left in America. “Organizational genius” Alinsky lays out the thirteen rules that all have-nots must follow to wage a successful campaign against the haves. Wielding tremendous influence to this day, and used as a bible by leading organizers since it was first published almost fifty years ago, these vital words of wisdom are written with humor, wit and unassailable power.

    Crucially impactful on both President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s political philosophies and dedicated to the American political tradition—Alinsky’s thirteen tactics will remain powerful and relevant, a must-read, for anyone interested in how to enact constructive social change for years to come.

  • The cover of the book A Young Woman on Her Own

    A Young Woman on Her Own

    from A Woman in Charge

    From the definitive, humanizing biography of one of the most powerful and widely misunderstood women of our time: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Carl Bernstein sheds light on Hillary’s political development during her four years as an impressionable but fierce undergraduate at Wellesley.

    In thick, Coke-bottle glasses, here is an ambitious young student—galvanized by the assassination of Martin Luther King and the women’s liberation movement—fighting to be recognized by the East coast elite. Bernstein reveals a side of Hillary not often seen in a tender, heartening, and measured depiction of her even-keeled transformation from a Barry Goldwater conservative raised in a staunchly anti-communist household in Illinois into an “agnostic intellectual liberal” and an impassioned progressive dedicated to peaceful and pragmatic reform.

  • The cover of the book Insider Baseball

    Insider Baseball

    from Political Fictions

    Almost three decades ago, iconic and incomparable American essayist Joan Didion’s now-classic report from the Dukakis campaign trail exposed, in no uncertain terms, the complete sham that is the modern American presidential run.

    Writing with bite and some humor too, Didion betrays “the process”—the way in which power is exchanged and the status quo is maintained. All insiders—politicians, journalists, spin doctors—participate in a political narrative that is “designed as it is to maintain the illusion of consensus by obscuring rather than addressing actual issues.” The optics of presidential campaigns have grown ever more farcical and remote from the needs and issues most relevant to Americans’ lives, and Didion’s elegant, shrewd, and prescient commentary has never been more urgent than it is right now.

  • The cover of the book The Real Costs of American Health Care

    The Real Costs of American Health Care

    Despite all attempts to make it otherwise, the American health care system remains arcane, bloated, inefficient, and damaging to our health. We pay high premiums, endure exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, see little to no information about treatment options, and suffer often meager and sloppy care. The Affordable Care Act was an unambitious reform not likely to have an impact on these fundamental problems. But, politics aside, health care doesn’t have to be this complicated. And, its costs don’t have to be this high.

    In this provocative and convincing essay, David Goldhill outlines the myriad misconceptions that plague American health care, and makes a radical case for reform. There is no panacea, but if we want to preserve our health and our pocketbooks, we need to normalize health care and enable a competitive, dynamic and diverse exchange where providers will be held accountable to the Americans they care for.

  • The cover of the book Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?

    Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?

    from The Righteous Mind

    As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible – he has explained the origins of morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum.

    Drawing on twenty-five years of groundbreaking research, Haidt shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and why we need the insights of each if we are to flourish as a nation. Here is the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation


    and the eternal curse of moralistic aggression, across the political divide and around the world.

  • The cover of the book The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay

    The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay

    from The Paranoid Style in American Politics

    A timely reissue of acclaimed historian Richard Hofstadter’s authoritative and unforgettable essay. First published in 1964 and no less relevant half a century later, The Paranoid Style in American Politics scrutinizes the conditions that gave rise to the extreme right of the 1950s and the 1960s, and presages the ascendancy of the Tea Party movement and, now, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    Fringe groups can and do both influence and derail American politics, and Hofstadter remains indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand why paranoia, a persistent psychic phenomenon with an outsize role in American public life, refuses to abate.

  • The cover of the book The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

    The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

    from The Oath

    The bestselling and prizewinning author of The Nine and American Heiress tells the dramatic and gripping insider’s story of the momentous ideological war fought between the Obama White House and the Supreme Court.

    President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts could not be more different. Obama, a legal conservative grappling with the second amendment among other issues, believes in the close interpretation of the Constitution, incremental change, and pragmatism over ideology. But, for Roberts the law is all about winning. And, from the moment he botched Obama’s oath of office in 2009, the relationship between the Court and the White House has been fraught.

    This is essential history that unravels the forces that have shaped the Roberts Court over the last eight years. The nation is preparing to vote for its next president, and it bears remembering that the future of the Supreme Court will also be on the ballot.

  • The cover of the book The Way We Live Now

    The Way We Live Now

    from The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies

    In this selection from her searing cultural history of the last half century, Susan Jacoby chronicles the menacing surge of anti-rationalism in contemporary American life and the degradation of public speech in presidential rhetoric, radio broadcast, television, and internet media where homogenized language and thought reinforce each other in circular fashion.

    At today’s critical political juncture, in which boastful ignorance has infected public discourse at the highest levels of government and throughout ordinary social media, this impassioned, tough-minded work challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flight from intellectualism, facts, and truth have cost us as individuals and as a nation.

  • The cover of the book On the Border of Truth

    On the Border of Truth

    From Lies, Incorporated

    In a post-truth political landscape, there is a carefully concealed but ever-growing industry of organized misinformation that exists to create and disseminate lies in the service of political agendas. This is especially true today for immigration reform, which has become severely limited under President Trump’s first term in office and affecting millions of people’s livelihoods and families. Scrutinizing the dangerous misinformation purveyed by organizations like John Tanton’s The Center of Immigration Studies and others, On the Border of Truth is a powerful look at the organizations and people that have been pushing a coordinated assault on truth for years before the 2016 election.

  • The cover of the book The End of History Not

    The End of History Not

    from Collusion

    In December 2016, the Guardian reporter and former Moscow bureau chief Luke Harding, quietly met Christopher Steele, who’s infamous dossier sparked one of the most sensational scandals to rock modern political and the biggest threats to the Trump campaign and presidency.

    In the explosive first pages of the #1 New York Times bestseller Collusion, Harding chronicles Steele’s incredible background as an MI6 officer on the Moscow desk and the secret sources behind one the most incendiary and devastating reports in American and Russian political history.

  • The cover of the book The Bad News

    The Bad News

    From Moral Disorder

    “We don’t like bad news, but we need it. We need to know about it in case it’s coming our way.”

    This delicious, contemptuous and poignant micro-story is the first in the acclaimed collection, Moral Disorder, from towering author and #1 New York Times Bestseller, Margaret Atwood.

    The bad news arrives in the form of a paper, which Tig carries up the stairs to Nell who is wallowing in bed. A year from now, they won’t remember the details, but for now, the bad news sits between the aging couple as they prepare their breakfast together and Nell imagines them in Southern France as the barbarians invade Rome on what is beautiful day, safe and quiet, for now, from the bad news coming their way.

  • The cover of the book Between Politics and Sanity

    Between Politics and Sanity

    From Michelle Obama

    From the definitive biography of the former First Lady, this is an inspiring window into the life of Michelle Obama as she navigated adversity and made her mark in the early White House years that followed her husband Barack Obama’s historic victory.

    Deeply researched and told with a storyteller’s eye for detail, Peter Slevin highlights how Michelle became an admired and beloved American icon as she learned to inhabit the office with purpose, grace and humor–even as she faced unprecedented public scrutiny of her policy initiatives, her fashion choices and her day-to-day family life.

  • The cover of the book Work Doesn't Work

    Work Doesn't Work

    From The Working Poor

    At the bottom of America’s working world, millions live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight of poverty and prosperity. Many are trapped for life in a perilous zone of low-wage work that keeps middle-class comforts and necessities forever beyond their reach despite the often long and hard hours they put in at their jobs, as bank tellers, food service employees, copyeditors, car washers and others.

    In his authoritative study of how our country has consistently and still is failing its working poor with low wages, diminished benefits and rampant instability, bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David K. Shipler draws on researched facts and scores of personal testimonies to paint a bleak of the short shrift that so many of us, even in a booming economy, are bound by.

  • The cover of the book The Freedom to Be Free

    The Freedom to Be Free

    From Thinking Without a Banister

    This lecture is a brilliant encapsulation of Arendt’s widely influential arguments on revolution, and why the American Revolution—unlike all those preceding it—was uniquely able to install political freedom.

    “The Freedom to be Free” was first published in Thinking Without a Banister, a varied collection of Arendt’s essays, lectures, reviews, interviews, speeches, and editorials—which, taken together, manifest the relentless activity of her mind and character and contain within them the articulations of wide and sophisticated range of her political thought.

  • The cover of the book Election Night 2016

    Election Night 2016

    From Dark Money

    The last presidential election was a stunning political upset when Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman, won in a political coup, with no experience whatsoever. But along with this outsider, on the night of his victory, longtime conservative operator David Koch was standing, and smiling, amid a throng of revelers.

    In her electrifying and much-lauded bestselling book, Jane Mayer reveals that the era of the Koch brothers and big money in American politics is far from over, despite how much discussion there is to the contrary. Rather, the secret figures behind the moneyed American oligarchy continue to wield tremendous influence over the political agendas of the Trump administration, the Republican Party today, the radical Right, and all corridors of power in Washington.

  • The cover of the book What Is Fascism?

    What Is Fascism?

    from The Anatomy of Fascism

    Based on a lifetime’s worth of research, esteemed historian Robert Paxton explores what fascism is and how it has come to have a lasting and continued impact on our history. In the concluding section of his authoritative book, The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton makes the convincing and radical case that existing definitions of the popular, nationalist, and conservative political view are lacking, and offers up his own brilliant explication—drawn from concrete historical actions—thus transforming our understanding of this dangerous ideology and of why it takes hold when and where it does.

  • The cover of the book Why Do They Vote That Way?

    Why Do They Vote That Way?

    from The Righteous Mind

    To understand what drives the rift that divides our populace between liberal and conservative, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has spent twenty-five years examining the moral foundations that undergird and inform two differing world views: the political left and right place different values of importance on order, care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and liberty.

    From one of our keenest dissectors of moral systems, Why Do They Vote That Way? explains how deeply ingrained moral systems have estranged conservatives and liberals from one another while crossing the political divide in a search for understanding the miracle of human cooperation.

  • The cover of the book The Evil Empire Speech, 1983

    The Evil Empire Speech, 1983

    Crucially relevant over thirty years after its delivery, President Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire speech to the National Association of Evangelicals is a classic of the American rhetorical tradition.

    In 1983, when he delivered this address, Reagan outlined the principles of freedom and liberty that defined the foundation of American democracy, the faith and religiosity that underpins those principles, and the importance of diligently keeping the growing threats of dictatorship in the Soviet Union, now Russia, in check and triumphing over them.