Politics has never been a hotter subject. People are now discussing it at bars, at the dinner table, and even using political parties as an insult. Many of us, particularly those who enjoyed the Obama years, are wondering how things got this way.
Though we all feel somewhat blindsided by the divisiveness of the country, reading the right books about American politics make it crystal-clear how this happened, why this is happening, and that many of the struggles we're dealing with now were bound to come to a head.
Want to learn more about the American political scene of the past, present, and future? These are the books you should be reading right now.
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
One of the most common things that people believe about American politics is that a true dictatorship can't happen in America. Sinclair Lewis blasts this assumption wide over with a speculative fiction book titled It Can't Happen Here.
In it, a dictator slowly gains power and followers — then destroys the very freedoms that he claimed he'd protect. Lewis shows how it would happen in America, and gives us the ominous reminder that we are not an exception to human nature.
Democracy's fragility is laid bare here, in its fully terrifying glory. Few books about American politics have been as prophetic as It Can't Happen Here, and that alone should worry us all.
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray
If you haven't guessed from the rise of the alt right, Charlottesville, and the increasingly large divide between urban and rural communities, there's a huge divide happening among white communities.
Charles Murray doesn't sugar coat this in the least bit, and using 50 years of studies, shows how this divide has been happening — and why it's getting to the point that everything from outlooks to mannerisms to personal finances are starting to get affected by the shift.
Murray slowly shows how different socioeconomic factors eat away or contribute to personal happiness, and why such a huge fraction of America is becoming dysfunctional to the point of becoming violent.
Coming Apart has been called one of the most influential books about American politics in recent years. Needless to say, anyone wondering about the psychology that causes many of the current events today needs to pick up this book.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a book that shows the bare bones of a family knee-deep in a cultural crisis — and it's a crisis that is happening in many rural areas throughout the country.
Though it's a memoir, it's also one of the best books about American politics because of the honest, gritty look into the dysfunction plaguing working-class America right now. It does this poignantly, by taking slices of J.D.'s life in Appalachia and the struggles of his family's transition to middle class from the rough-and-tumble hillbilly world.
Though J.D. Vance eventually graduated from Yale, it's clear that his roots made their mark on him. His memoirs show that he's not alone in that manner, and give insight to why so many people feel disgruntled with the American dream.
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
Anyone can tell you that California is different from New York, or that Texas isn't anything like Missouri. However, on political maps, all we see is red versus blue — and that leaves us wondering why certain states vote the way they do, and why certain state cultures are so different from the ones we see around us.
Colin Woodard does something unusual in American Nations. Rather than look at the Red/Blue divide, he splits the country into various main cultures to help us dissect why politics unfold the way they do.
If you're looking for a book about American politics that makes understanding voter bases easy, this is it. It's also a great choice for people who want to understand why many communities just don't seem to make any sense to you.
Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work by Gillian Thomas
Gender discrimination is still rife in American society, and it's even overlooked at the top echelons of American politics today. (Grab her by the pussy, anyone?)
What's relatively new, though, is that we're now in a time when most people agree that gender discrimination is wrong — and there's actual enforcement of that social contract. Only 40 years ago, this wasn't the case.
Because of Sex shows how sexual harassment became unacceptable in workplaces which were once fully "boy's clubs." As one of the best feminist books about American politics, Because of Sex is both inspiring and ingenious in its own right.
The New York Times rated this book as one of the best in its category, and if you're curious to see America's evolution on women's rights, you'll want to grab a copy, too.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of New America by George Packer
We used to be united. Now, it's clear that America is starting to fracture into different factions. Why is this happening, and for how long has it been going on? Why is it, that for the first time in American history, we can't even seem to talk to our neighbors without feeling like we're in an "us verus them" situation?
This book works by showing us vignettes of various Americans — all of which point out different social problems facing each class. If you're looking for intelligent social commentary and a deeper understanding of America's demoralization, this is the best book about American politics yet.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
With all the accounts of police brutality, the clearly skewed way that police behave with minorities, and the fact that America has the highest incarceration rates in the developed world, it's clear that the prison system is a part of a very sick political wheel.
In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander explains why the prison system is radicalized to encourage mass incarceration, how race plays a factor in incarceration, and who profits from the oppression of felons — and why we can't call ourselves a colorblind society.
This book blows apart the notion that we are a "colorblind" society, and shows how incarceration is the new legal way to oppress minorities and those that go against the grain. Brutally honest and heartfelt, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand institutionalized racism at its core form.
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges
After Charlottesville, it's impossible to deny that many right wing members want to instill a fascist, neo-Nazi regime in America. Many of the people in these cliques belong to Evangelical Christian sects; something jarring to many Christians who were taught to love thy neighbor.
Though it was written in 2008, Hedges accurately predicted many social issues in America right now — and explains why the radical right behaves the way it does. American Fascists also explains the tactics they use to convert others and get their agendas approved.
People who are looking for a chilling (or downright terrifying) glimpse into this group of people will find American Fascists to be one of the most amazing books about American politics ever written.