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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the White House: Self-Reflection Edition

After every election cycle, the media and both campaigns usually take the time to analyze strategy and come up with ideas for the political parties moving forward. A public version of this analysis occurred between Democrat and Republican senior campaign staffers at the Harvard Institute of Politics Kennedy School on November 30 and December 1 (audio to all interviews/forums/roundtables available here).

All this analysis is great for political junkies, but if you REALLY want to know what happened in American politics in 2016, you’ll be surprised and excited to learn that seven autobiographies and tell-alls written by the main players will be available for public consumption by the end of the year.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the early release copies. Here are my reviews:

1. The Old Man and the Scream by Bernie Sanders

Plot summary: The Old Man and the Scream tells the story of a battle between an aging, experienced politician, Sanders, and everyone in the pocket of Wall Street. The story opens with Sanders having gone 84 days without catching a break, and now being seen as a “screaming old man,” a label that his aides hope will disappear if they can just get him to stop screaming.

Review: Self-aware, humorous, biting. A scathing indictment of anyone who’s ever done business with Goldman Sachs. Would not recommend audiobook if you don’t have ear plugs, as Sanders is the recorded audio voice (and he tends to scream).

4.5 out of 5 stars

2. Pride and Prejudice by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon

Plot summary: Conway (“Pride”) and Bannon (“Prejudice”) are an unlikely pairing. Still, they realize they’re perfect together as Bannon revels in the darkness and Conway gloats over their surprise electoral victory (“hashtag-he’s-your-president”).

Review: Fascinating, if not horrifying. A great hate-read if you want to be angry all day but you promised yourself you’d stay off Twitter.

4 out of 5 stars

3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Ted Cruz

Plot summary: Testing his theory that in every man dwells both a good and an evil force, Cruz, a so-called principled conservative, develops a formula that separates the two sides of himself, turning him into an unprincipled suck-up named Ted Cruz. Thinking he has found the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries, Cruz soon realizes he is becoming addicted to his darker self as he descends from his RNC “vote your conscience” side into his weak and pathetic side. For the remainder of 2016, Cruz fights Cruz to regain control of his body, sometimes devolving into bizarre, passionate rants praising Texas queso along the way.

Review: Hardly a profile in courage. Disturbing, yet fascinating. Horrifying imagery (“queso is made to be scooped up with tortilla chips, dribbling down your chin”).

2.5 out of 5 stars

4. A Walk in the Woods by Hillary Clinton

Plot summary: Clinton describes her post-election attempt to walk the trails in the woods near her home in Chappaqua, NY with her husband Bill. The book is written in a humorous style, interspersed with more serious discussions of matters relating to the trail’s history and the surrounding sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals, and people. Each chapter includes a different selfie with an overwhelmed fan and some words of wisdom (usually an iteration of “don’t give up”).

Review: Surprisingly void of pantsuit-related prose. Delightful and lighthearted. One may get the distinct impression that Clinton wants nothing more than to be left alone, yet she welcomes the company and selfie requests nonetheless.

4.5 out of 5 stars

5. Heart of Darkness by Tony Schwartz (author of The Art of the Deal)

Plot summary: The book begins in the penthouse of Trump Tower, a skyscraper that looks over the city of Manhattan. The “anonymous” narrator, the Campaign Chairman, the Russian Prime Minister, and Trump sit in silence. Trump begins telling them about the time he was given a small loan of a million dollars from his father.

Review: A disturbing story of humanity at its worst. Reminder that rich, white men often succeed at the expense of the minorities and marginalized groups they exploit. Chilling.

3.5 out of 5 stars

6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by Vladimir Putin

Plot summary: This book is a spy “novel” by Vladimir Putin himself. It follows the endeavors of a narcissistic, ageing Manchurian Candidate (“Donald Drumpf”) to win the American presidency with the help of the Russian government and Wikileaks.

 

Review: Gripping, paranoia-inducing, far-fetched to the umpteenth degree. Makes you really glad that nothing like this could ever actually happen in America.

5 out of 5 stars (because why risk angering our Russian overlords?)

7. America and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year by Uncle Sam

Plot summary: From the moment the ball drops and 2015 comes to a close, things just do not go America’s way. A running gag throughout the book occurs when Americans repeat several times that they want to move to Canada because they think it’s better there. The book ends with the Canadian immigration website crashing and America coming to the slow realization that it made a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mistake.

Review: A must-read if you love screaming in anguish. In short, “Fuck 2016.”

0 out of 5 stars

Al HL

Northeastern '16

I was a student. Now I am not.
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