Book recommendations from Congress | The Hill

Book recommendations from Congress | The Hill

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These days, I’ve shelved electoral politics for the pursuit of happiness: owning a small independent bookstore on Long Island. I remain in touch with former colleagues on both sides of the aisle who can agree on at least one thing: they love reading. Here’s my annual list of books with special meaning to members of the House and Senate in the past year. (Space limitations didn’t allow me to include every contribution. You can contact me at for the full list).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): “Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure,” by Maggie Jackson. “Maggie Jackson, a friend of mine from college, wrote one of my favorite books of the year. Maggie shows you how to harness the power of uncertainty to broaden your thinking and take on the challenges before you. It’s helpful advice to keep in mind in Washington as we work to address complex issues like the emergence of AI.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” by Beverly Gage. “This book looks at 20th-century America through the fascinating and revealing lens of the life of J. Edgar Hoover. Much to digest here that still applies to American policies and politics. After reading about Hoover’s attacks on Dr. King and the civil rights movement, I am especially pleased that the new FBI Headquarters will have its home in majority Black Prince Georges County, Maryland.” 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY): “Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It,” by John Ferling. “I’m one of the tens of millions of Americans who have an insatiable appetite for reading about our nation’s founding era — an eternally interesting time with historic ties to my district in Upstate NY, which is home to many Revolutionary War battlefields. This year, I read John Ferling’s ‘Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It,’ which was a page-turner delving into many of the lesser known founders and everyday American patriotism and sentiment that set the stage for turning the world upside down and embarking on the greatest form of government ever known to mankind — of the people, by the people, for the people. Highly recommend this read for history buffs, military strategists, revolutionary war aficionados and all proud Americans.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin,” by Timothy Snyder: “This book serves as an examination and comparisonof how millions of Soviets, Jews and many other Europeans were murdered as a matter of state policy before, during and after World War II. While historians have examined these mass killings separately, Snyder concentrates on the Bloodlands — Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and other Baltic states — that became the sites for forced famine, concentration camps and open-air massacres carried out by the Nazi and Soviet regimes. ‘Bloodlands’isa heartbreaking but necessary read, to ensure we are vigilant of the conditions that lead to the rise of these policies — racism, antisemitism and minority rule — and recommit ourselves to a world where democracy prevails.”

Rep. French Hill (R-AR) “The Spy Masters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future,” by Chris Whipple: “As a new member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I enjoyed reading Chris Whipple’s book. This sweeping look at the past six decades at the Agency is based on first-hand accounts. It provided me helpful perspective in my oversight role over America’s intelligence apparatus.” 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA): “The Candy House,” by Jennifer Egan: “It’s about technology and the social media of the future, but not really about either. I have a hard time describing this book other to say the writing is amazing with multiple narrative styles; the characters are fascinating and complicated; and you will want to keep reading, but you can’t explain why.

Rep. Marcus Molinaro (R-NY): “A Man of Iron: The Turbulent Life and Improbable Presidency of Grover Cleveland,” by Troy Senik: “President Grover Cleveland’s biography was my favorite for its look at an often forgotten, principled leader who rose from mayor of Buffalo to governor of New York to president, all within about four years. I often find inspiration from figures in history I don’t entirely understand, and of course liked that it had a heavy dose of Upstate New York political history.”

Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA) “And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle,” by Jon Meacham. “In reading this book, I felt as if I met and knew Lincoln personally. What he did during one of America’s most challenging times makes me think we can save our democracy today.”

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey:“Covey explains how we are in control of our lives and what habits are needed to reach our full potential. His book has guided me personally and professionally in becoming a better person and legislator during the past year.”

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl: “Not sure I would call it my ‘favorite’ book but the most meaningful to me, which I read before October 7. The idea of keeping hope and a clear mind in the midst of horrific conditions resonated with me. And to be able to remain optimistic while suffering was a great lesson in perseverance that we all can benefit from.”

Rep. Rick Larson (D-WA) “Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe,” David Maraniss: “Growing up, I learned that Jim Thorpe was the 20th century’s greatest athlete for his wins at the 1912 Olympics, his college football career at Carlisle and his life in pro baseball and football. Maraniss’s book shows that Thorpe was more than just an athlete. He was a Native American man trying to cope with the racism of his time and create a path for others to follow despite the odds built against them.” 

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) The Bible: “In one book, there is the received wisdom of millennia, the emotional nakedness of King David, the moral clarity of the prophets, the simple but profound beatitudes and exposition of God’s love and grace towards humanity in the epistles. I read it every day.”

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 director of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. Follow him @RepSteveIsrael

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