I need some interesting, relatively non-partisan books on politics
March 20, 2014 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to brush up on my understanding of American politics today. Could anyone point me in the direction of an accessible, well-regarded book that approaches an interesting political phenomenon, or American politics in general, in a relatively non-partisan way? I'd prefer to stay away from highly ideological works about how either conservatives or liberals are leading America to its doom.
posted by Chuck Barris to Law & Government (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think some of Larry Sabato's books might work for you. He's a Poli Sci professor at the University of Virginia and pops up on the radio and talking head shows around election time.
posted by LionIndex at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

thank you for your amusing post title. the premier non-partisan voice in american political theater is the league of women voters.
posted by bruce at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Life of the Parties by James Reichley
posted by lharmon at 6:14 PM on March 20, 2014

For a good book on the last presidential election, check out The Message: The Reselling of President Obama. Wolffe is a liberal and a supporter of Obama but he pulls no punches in the sharpness of his portrayal of the brutality of the campaign trail. See also Game Change and its sequel.
posted by zeusianfog at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2014

Seconding Larry Sabato!
posted by BurntHombre at 7:22 PM on March 20, 2014

Very little in actual political science is (directly) ideological or otherwise advocacy for anything. Where it tends to fall down is the accessibility, since it tends to be by dorks for dorks. If you can don't mind figures and tables, and occasionally having to skip past methodological sections, then some books that an interested undergraduate should be able to get through and might find interesting:

Dave Rohde, _Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House_, about the resurgence of party in Congress since the 1960s. If you like that, it's sort of followed and complemented by Cox and McCubbins' _Setting the Agenda_ and argued against by Krehbiel's _Pivotal Politics_ (which is more technical but does a decent job of explaining itself).

John Hibbings and Elizabeth Thiess-Morse, _Congress as Public Enemy_ and/or _Stealth Democracy_, about how and why Americans just don't like democracy very much.

Skip Lupia, _The Democratic Dilemma_, about whether Americans know enough to cast reasonable votes (yes).

I'll admit I haven't read Gelman, Park, Shor, Bafumi, and Cortina's _Red State, Blue State_ but it's supposed to be reasonably accessible (Gelman is good at explaining things) and is about how and why voting patterns differ across states.

If you can define your interests a little more, I might be able to offer some better suggestions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:29 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

America's Constitution: A Biography: http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Constitution-Akhil-Reed-Amar/dp/0812972724
posted by mulligan at 9:20 PM on March 20, 2014

Response by poster: In response to ROU Xenophobe's comment, I'll try to refine my question a bit:

I'm looking for something that explains a major political movement or trend of today. For example, I'd like to know more about where the Tea Party came from, why politics seems so polarized since the 90's, or what it's really like to be a member of Congress. Also, accessibility is a priority for me. I'm just not very good at ploughing through academic writing. I definitely need something intended for the general public.
posted by Chuck Barris at 9:31 PM on March 20, 2014

Jill Lepore has a book on the Tea Party.

Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal is worth checking out. It has a POV, but it's not ranty.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:48 AM on March 21, 2014

Not directly about politics, but Taxing Ourselves by Slemrod is a great (and accessible) book about tax policy. It will help you understand the debates about income tax vs flat tax vs nat'l sales tax, various loopholes and how they got there, etc.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:49 AM on March 21, 2014

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