Summer Book Picks From 10 Notable Washingtonians
This season has seen a rush of political memoirs, tempting new mysteries, and more—making the biggest vacation decision not where to go but what to read.
Chief White House correspondent, Fox News
My vacation is blazing-hot desert days in, say, Palm Springs—better than stifling DC humidity. I’ll play early-morning golf, then hit the pool to read. I’m starting to write a book about Jackie Robinson, and The Last Hero, Howard Bryant’s 2011 biography of Hank Aaron, is going to be my spark to finish it.
Restaurant Eve chef and coauthor of My Irish Table
When I’m working, I wind up reading the same three to four sentences over and over, so I usually stick to fast-paced CIA thrillers, like those by Vince Flynn. I like to read slightly more challenging books on vacation. This season I’m looking forward to Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin—completely different, which will be entirely welcome.
Executive director, Center for Responsive Politics
My reading will be a bit heavy at first. There was a recent 60 Minutes piece on members of Congress engaging in insider trading, so I’m going to page through last fall’s Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer. After that, I have a list from my book club, in which I’m a perennial member in bad standing. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch I’ll never finish, but next up is Peter Heller’s novel The Dog Stars.
Washington bureau chief, ABC News
First I’ll read Next Life Might Be Kinder, a novel by Howard Norman, a Maryland author. I like mysteries and adventure in the summer, so I’m excited to have the latest books from two favorite mystery authors lined up: By Its Cover by Donna Leon and Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes. For a two-week beach trip in August: Flying Shoes by native Washingtonian—and fellow Walt Whitman High School grad—Lisa Howorth, a fictionalized account of her stepbrother’s murder in the 1960s.
Washington Post foreign-affairs columnist whose latest spy novel is The Director
I’m encouraging people to read Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), about World War II and among the finest military histories ever written. Everything the US touched nearly went wrong, so it ends up being a story of persistence as much as inevitable victory. I’m sort of a serial monogamist when it comes to authors, so once I started this, I had to finish.
Heather O’Beirne Kelly
Military and veterans’ mental-health advocate
Fiction is the perfect antidote to the journals and appropriations bills that constitute much of my work reading. I’ve preordered The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, who sets her mysteries in a village outside Quebec. I also just picked up the new memoirs by New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff (How About Never—Is Never Good for You?) and Roz Chast, one of his contributors (Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?).
Owner, Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot
I love New Orleans and wish for it to be my home one day. I gobble up all I can about it, and next on my list is Flood of Lies: The St. Rita’s Nursing Home Tragedy by James A. Cobb Jr.
Georgetown law professor, former deputy assistant secretary of State for human rights
When I get to Nantucket, I transition from legal tomes. My list includes David Grossman’s To the End of the Land, a brilliant, subtle depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian divide by an opponent of the West Bank occupation, and Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia, which uses T.E. Lawrence’s story to explore the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Lastly, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a 700-page slog but indispensable for understanding the middle class’s decline.
Washington bureau chief, Wall Street Journal
I’ll tote the Timothy Geithner and Hillary Clinton books on vacation this year, and Robert Timberg’s Blue-Eyed Boy. I was a White House correspondent with him, and his memoir about his horrific injuries in Vietnam and the men he met, who formed the genesis of the book, is sure to be compelling.
To kick off the summer, I’m reading Robert Gates’s memoir of his time as Defense Secretary, Duty. I’m a military brat who only wanted to attend West Point, so it’s interesting to see how he got where he did and how haunting the job really was. On our family beach trip: Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner—the wi-fi at our place in Litchfield Beach, South Carolina, is terrible, so I plan to have a little something to exercise my brain.