Reading List for Washingtonians

A guide to some of the past year’s most acclaimed books about Washington, D.C.

d.c. books
January 15, 2014

By Julyssa Lopez

2013 came and went, bringing with it plenty of literature about the nation’s capital. From provocative tell-alls about Washington politics to lighthearted fiction set in the city, we’ve gathered some of the most talked-about releases that every D.C. resident should consider adding to his or her bookshelf.

The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin: In this highly anticipated historical account, Dr. Goodwin examines the Progressive Era, the relationship between Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the history of the muckraking press. The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian shared insights about her book with the George Washington University community when she visited Lisner Auditorium in November as part of the “Newsmaker Series,” cohosted by D.C. bookstore Politics & Prose.

“Man Alive!” by Mary Kay Zuravleff: The Washington Post included this quirky family drama on its list of notable fiction of 2013. Ms. Zuravleff, a rising Washington-based novelist, crafts the comedic story of pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Owen Lerner, who abandons his lifestyle after being struck by lightning in a D.C.-area suburb.

“This Town” by Mark Leibovich: The chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine got the city talking when he offered this salacious, behind-the-scenes look at Washington’s most powerful political players. Mr. Leibovich uncovers D.C. secrets and gossip while providing a critical, no-holds-barred account of what goes on inside the Beltway.

The Butler” by Wil Haygood: Eugene Allen worked as a butler in the White House for 34 years, serving eight American presidents. Mr. Haygood, a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, chronicles Mr. Allen’s life in this vivid memoir. The book also includes a foreword penned by director Lee Daniels, whose film based on Mr. Allen is generating Oscar buzz.

“The Gamble” by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck: GW’s own associate professor of political science Dr. Sides and UCLA professor Dr. Vavreck combine narrative and statistical data to shed light on the 2012 election. The book received praise from the Washington Post, the New Yorker and the Los Angeles Times. In an interview with George Washington Today, Dr. Sides explained his goal was to give political scientists a voice in conversations about elections.

“The Mole: The Cold War Memoir of Winston Bates” by Peter Warner: In this witty fictional memoir, Winston Bates is a Canadian spy with no training or particular talent who is planted in D.C. after World War II. The story chronicles major events—the Bay of Pigs, Watergate and the Vietnam War—from the unlikely character’s perspective. Washingtonian called the work “an accomplished spy novel that’s wise to Washington’s ways.”

“Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: The two seasoned political reporters behind 2010’s “Game Change” talked to more than 500 sources to put together this narrative of what really happened during President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. The book is full of personal anecdotes from President Obama’s campaign, which Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heilemann discussed at GW’s Lisner Auditorium while kicking off a tour promoting the book during the “Newsmaker Series.”

“You Are One of Them” by Elliott Holt: Jenny and Sarah, two best friends living in an affluent part of D.C. during the Cold War, write letters to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov asking for peace. Jenny’s letter is published in a Russian newspaper, and she becomes a child ambassador to the Soviet Union. During a trip abroad, Jenny’s plane crashes and every passenger is pronounced dead. Ms. Holt’s novel takes a mysterious turn when Sarah receives a letter 10 years later suggesting Jenny may be alive.

Arts & Culture, Julyssa Lopez