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Your must-read holiday book list from members of Congress

Getty Images, Luis Alvarez

Once I flew on Air Force One and sat in Oval Office meetings. Now I find myself crawling around a dark basement loading shelves and looking for utility hookups. I’ve opened a small bookshop in my hometown. It’s an apt place for a store named Theodore’s: Theodore Roosevelt used to live up the road, where he consumed books voraciously. (There are 7,000 volumes preserved on the shelves of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.) 

So, in the spirit of Roosevelt, I asked prominent pols on both sides of the aisle what books they would recommend as holiday gifts. The results are refreshingly bipartisan, if a tad wonky. 

Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.): Elijah Cummings’s book “We’re Better Than This.” Jeffries calls it “a must read for all who care about America’s march toward a more perfect union.”

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.): “Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid” and “Premonition: A Pandemic Story.” He calls the books “Two well-written reflections on the failure of our public health system and the unnecessary loss of life from a mismanaged response to Covid.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.): “An Ugly Truth.” “If you want to understand the power Facebook wields over our society and why we need clear rules of the road for big tech companies, read this book.”

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.): “Simply put, Frances Perkins is my role model. And I would encourage everyone to read Kirstin Downey’s inspiring biography, titled ‘The Woman Behind The New Deal,’ which illuminates Frances Perkins’ career.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.): “The First Man of Rome.” “A compelling portrait of the personalities and politics that shaped the last days of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Roman Empire by one of the greatest authors of our era.”

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.): “Bus Ride to Justice.” “The book is written by [Rosa] Parks’ lawyer Fred Gray who at 90 is a living legend as a leading civil rights lawyer of our times having represented Parks, MLK and even John Lewis and the 600 protesters who dared to March for Justice in Selma. An inspiring read from a first-hand participant to history who I just nominated to President Biden as deserving of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.): “Victoria’s Voice: Our Daughter’s Dying Wish To Share Her Diary and Save Lives.” “It should be on everyone’s reading list with Opioid and Fentanyl deaths in the U.S. recently surpassing 100,000 annually. Featuring the diary of Victoria ‘Rikki’ Siegel who’s dying wish at 18 years old was to share her diary and save lives from drugs from beyond the grave.”

Rep. French Hill (R-Ark): “Three Days At Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy.” “With America once again facing rapid inflation and simultaneously very expansive monetary and fiscal policies, Jeff Garten’s intimate story of President Nixon’s abandonment of the gold standard and Bretton Woods brings home the economic risks of today’s policy debates.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): “Katrina: A History.” “Details all of the horrendous mistakes made by the Corps of Engineers and politicians in Louisiana to set the stage for the catastrophe that was Katrina.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio): “The 33 Strategies of War.” “Our country is in the midst of a great power competition with China. It is the defining relation of our time. It is imperative for us to study and understand what approaches have worked and not worked throughout history. This book is our bible.”

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.): “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out.” “A must read for anyone concerned about the intractable conflicts that we are pulled into – and eager to figure out how we get out… It profiles a city council in California, a synagogue in New York, former gang leaders in Illinois, and a few others to illuminate strategies for overcoming high conflict.”  

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.): “The Great Upheaval.” “We’ve all heard of the American, French and Russian revolutions but this book is a deep dive into what leaders of those nations were dealing with during and after the revolutions.”

As for me, as a new retailer, I’m fascinated by “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” It studies the behavior of consumer, providing vital takeaways for anyone trying to sell a candidacy. 

Happy reading! 

Steve Israel represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives over eight terms and was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. Follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Billy Long Congress Earl Blumenauer Elijah Cummings French Hill Hakeem Jeffries Joe Biden John Lewis Newt Gingrich Rosa DeLauro Steve Israel Terri Sewell Tim Ryan Tom Cole

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