A Reading List for Midterm Elections

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

The 2018 midterm elections are important. How important, you ask? (Have you been following the news at all?) To put it this way: all of the seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, dozens of governorships, and a bunch of state legislature positions are all up for grabs. The outcome of the midterm election could impact legislation in Congress, the investigations regarding the Trump regime, SCOTUS nominations, and countless state laws. Roe vs Wade is in the balance, families are being indefinitely detained, every day brings new appalling stories—this election can be life and death for many people, literally.

A midterm elections reading list, including books on the rise of fascism, resistance movements, and more.  book lists | midterm elections | politics | politics book lists | books about us politics

This election has the power to change things for years, even decades, to come. It also means it’s crucial to become educated about various issues, learn about the candidates, and seek out factual, accurate information. Do your own fact-checking. Don’t fall for sensationalism. Read various news sources. Read books from intelligent people with experience in their fields. Learn about history—namely, the rise of fascism in Europe and the rise of the Third Reich. Read about resistance movements throughout the last century. Ask questions of the candidates at town halls, and remember that they’re supposed to work for YOU.

This is by no means an exhaustive or complete list. In fact, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but such a list would be dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of books long. I’ve tried to include books on a variety of pressing topics, but I’m sure there are some I’ve missed.

A Midterm Elections Reading List

Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj MishraAge of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra

An important, must-read book for the current political and social climate about hatred and anger. Taking a historical perspective, Mishra traces how these movements based in resentment, fear, and individualism take root and flourish.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (Aug 7)

This book blends memoir and reportage, leaving nearly no stone unturned, looking at the opioid epidemic. Macy traces the rise of oxycontin and how it took hold in rural areas, and how it became the widespread problem it is today.

Unsheltered: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (10/16)

This novel is an apt portrait of so many today, set during a fictionalized election that looks very familiar (hello 2016). At its heart is a middle-class family struggling to live paycheck to paycheck between non-tenure jobs, inadequate health insurance, and a house that’s falling down around them, and wondering how they got to where they are when they followed all the “rules.” Paired with a parallel story from the 1800s, the result is powerful.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

Anger can be a powerful, mobilizing force, and this book illustrates this beautifully and brilliantly. This book should be required reading for everyone, but especially women.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (9/18) by Sarah SmarshHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (9/18) by Sarah Smarsh

Blending memoir and reportage, a devastating and smart examination of class and the working poor in America, particularly the rural working poor. An excellent portrait of an often overlooked group.

Mine!: A Celebration of Liberty and Freedom for All, benefiting Planned Parenthood (various)

This comics anthology examines sex myths, women’s health, sexual health, superheroes, and reproductive freedom—and proceeds go to Planned Parenthood, more necessary than ever right now.

Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (9/25) by Ben Fountain

Fountain examines 2016 from beginning to end, also bringing in two different points in history when the U.S. had to essentially reinvent itself from scratch and start again: the Civil War, and the Great Depression. This is not an easy read, but it’s one of the best examinations of 2016 that I’ve read.

Behold the Dreamers: A Novel by Imbolo Mbue

Immigrants are vital to America. This novel takes on the tenuous notion of the American Dream, class, race, and more. A story that is particularly timely.

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

A chilling examination of fascism’s rise in Russia, and how it takes hold in various countries. Necessary reading, no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State Albright is brilliant, and her examination of fascism from a personal, academic, and political viewpoint is what we all need to read.

Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico by Edgardo Miranda-RodriguezRicanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

Filled with art and stories from Gail Simone, Javier Munoz, Gabby Rivera, Sonia Manzano, Rosario Dawson, and more, this comics anthology starring Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and other DC superstars is a must-read. Proceeds benefit hurricane relief for Puerto Rico.

The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

It can be really, really, REALLY hard to remember to hold on to hope sometimes, with the constant barrage of news stories. But activists and hope have always been present, and this book reminds us of such.

The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service by Laura Kaplan

Before abortion was legal, it still existed in the United States. This is the story of the service Jane, who helped pregnant people avoid unregulated and dangerous abortionists, and helped them get safe abortions.

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America by Darnell L Moore

A powerful memoir by Moore, a Black Lives Matter activist, about survival, resistance, creating change, race, and more.

Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism by Nadya TolokonnikovaRead & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism by Nadya Tolokonnikova (10/9)

Part of the #Resistance? A must-read, by someone who’s been there on the front lines against fascism.

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back by Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal

This midterm election could drastically affect healthcare access and policies. Right now, our healthcare system is merely about business and profit. Read this to learn more about how we got where we are, and what needs to be done.

What books are you reading to learn more about current issues and events, and what matters most to you?


Looking for more? Check out Understanding the US Political System: A Reading List.