Eight Books Mr. Obama Should Read

By: Garrett M. Graff

Every new president faces a learning curve, and for Barack Obama it will be especially tough given that the country has a hurting economy, wars in two countries, and a big entitlement-spending problem as well as challenges in energy and healthcare.

Brookings presidential scholar Stephen Hess has been thinking about the transition and has pulled together a book aimed at an audience of one: What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect. Filled with tips, the book also includes a helpful reading list for President-elect Obama to keep nearby.

Here are works Hess recommends after surveying half a century of books on the presidency:

William Safire’s Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, specifically for Abraham Lincoln’s two inaugural addresses, FDR’s first inaugural, and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural.

John P. Burke’s Becoming President: The Bush Transition, 2000–2003.

Charles O. Jones’s Preparing to Be President—which includes Richard Neustadt’s memos to Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton—and his Passages to the Presidency: From Campaigning to Governing .

Bradley Patterson’s new book, To Serve the President: Continuity and Innovation in the White House Staff.

Robert Schlesinger’s White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters.

Fred Greenstein’s The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style From FDR to George W. Bush.

James P. Pfiffner’s The Strategic Presidency: Hitting the Ground Running.

This article first appeared in the December 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here. 

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