News & Politics

Eight Books Mr. Obama Should Read

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. 

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos  

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.