With the election season winding down and Christmas right around the corner, you may be interested in finding books about how the government works. Win or lose, as a citizen, it’s always a good thing to be informed about the institutions that control our laws and governance. Whether you are going to law school or just want to brush up on the basics, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In fact, we even have a book for how to enact the change in government you want to see! Plus we also have some bonus recommendations! Here are 3 books about how the government works and how to affect change.
- A User’s Guide to Democracy by Nick Capodice & Hannah McCarthy
- The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
- Politics is For Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by Eitan D. Hersh
A User’s Guide to Democracy by Nick Capodice & Hannah McCarthy
The Hosts of NHPR’s Civics 101 radio show came together to create this impressive (over 300 pages) work to inform the public about government structure. The writers of this book break down the basics of each branch of government and put them into simple words to understand. If you know next to nothing, or very little, this is the perfect place to start. This book also breaks down the basics of each branch’s power, checks and balances, and influences.
In addition, A User’s Guide to Democracy covers items like elections, voting, federalism, important documents to the foundation of the United States, Supreme Court cases, and how to influence politics. The best part? There are illustrations done throughout the book by Tom Toro to crack a joke or further drive home the point. Both the writers and illustrators do a great job of breaking the monotony of talking government with clever jokes and informative pictures. A User’s Guide to Democracy is one of those books about how government works that can help lay the foundation for politics. Reading just this one book and referring to it often will not only make you a more informed citizen, but also help you engage with politics in a healthier way.
The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
Technically, we’re cheating with this suggestion as the Federalist Papers were written as essays. However, they have now been collected in one long format. The Federalist Essays were created to defend the creation and passage of the Constitution. Founding fathers Hamilton, Madison, and Jay all take a crack at defending the ideals behind the constitution. Why are these essays to be considered as necessary to learn about government?
The answer is two-fold. One, you begin to understand the care and compromise that went in the development of the constitution. Second, you realize that even basic rights and liberties we take for granted had to be fought for. This is the defense for the document that governs our entire system by the words of our founders. Here is the full text online. However, you will have to do some research to fully understand the history behind every argument.
Politics is For Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by Eitan D. Hersh
So we’ve covered two books about how the government works and the motivations behind it. But what about affecting the government? Truth be told, there are a number of books that talk about this subject. However, we’re going to recommend Politics is For Power for the fact that it has applicable actions to our present time. It covers the use of social media, slacktivism, political hobbyism and its ineffectiveness, along with how to acquire real political power. This book can be tough to swallow, but it often points to more effective methods of activism and engagement.
It’s about getting off our phones and doing more than arguing with our uncle on Facebook. In fact, the book has a lot to say about empathizing with one another and making structural change.
If you want to read more books about how the government works, you should also study history. Studying history will help you trace the lines to our political formations today. Even more importantly, reading history books gives you a grasp on just how much foreign policy actually affects our policies. Check out these titles as well:
Alexander Hamilton: Ron Chernow
1776: David McCullough
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and 1776 : Doris Goodwin
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism: Doris Goodwin
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