In this feature of the Washington Watch, WW will primarily recommend books you may find interesting but may also now and then mention a TV program or other things. I welcome your suggestions and your input. What have you been reading or watching that you think WW readers might like?
Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made
by David Gergen
A powerful guide to the art of leadership from David Gergen—former White House adviser to four US presidents, CNN analyst, and founder of the Harvard Center for Public Leadership.
As nations careen from one crisis to the next, there is a growing cry for fresh leadership. Those in charge have repeatedly fallen short, and trust in institutions has plummeted. So, what does great leadership look like? And how are great leaders made?
David Gergen, a leader in the public arena for more than half a century, draws from his experiences as a White House adviser to four presidents, his decades as a trusted voice on national issues, and years of teaching and mentoring young people to offer a stirring playbook for the next generation of change-makers.
To uncover the fundamental elements of effective leadership, Gergen traces the journeys of iconic leaders past and present, from pathbreakers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis, John McCain, and Harvey Milk to historic icons like Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, to contemporary game changers like Greta Thunberg, the Parkland students, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Leadership is a journey that starts from within, Gergen writes. A leader must become self-aware and then achieve self-mastery. You cannot lead others until you can lead yourself. As you start to leap into the world, you begin your outer journey, overcoming setbacks, persuading others, empowering them, and navigating crises—armed a sense of history, humor, passion, and purpose.
By linking lessons of the past with the ever-changing practice of leadership today, Gergen reveals the time-tested secrets of dynamic leadership. An indispensable manual, Hearts Touched With Fire distills experience and wisdom of the past into an invaluable guide for leaders of our future.
FUNNY BUSINESS: The Legendary Life and Political Satire of Art Buchwald
by Michael Hill
Scenes from the life and career of one of the 20th century’s most famous satirists.
Art Buchwald (1925-2007) once wrote, “The satirist has his job laid out. He must wake people up so they will wake themselves.” Few journalists of his time woke up readers as effectively and hilariously. His 50-year career began when he talked his way into a job at the Paris edition of the Herald Tribune even though his only experience was as a part-time stringer reviewing films and plays for Variety. At the peak of his influence, his column appeared in 550 newspapers in 100 countries and was read by Washington power brokers, including presidents. Not bad for a Jewish kid from New York who didn’t grow up in the usual political-leader demographic and who spent years in foster homes after his mother was committed to an asylum.
In this affectionate book, Hill tells the story of Buchwald’s fascinating life, marked by bouts of depression that required hospitalization, through a selection of his funniest articles and speeches and previously unpublished correspondence with members of the Kennedy family, William F. Buckley Jr., P.G. Wodehouse, and others.
Except for a long section on Buchwald’s legal battle against Paramount—he sued them for stealing the idea that became the film Coming to America—the book is a series of short sections that focus on Buchwald’s friendships and writings. The result is a tapas bar of a text, bite-sized snacks that add up to a satisfying whole. It’s an incomplete picture—Hill mentions Buchwald’s play Sheep on the Runway but not his absurdist English-language contributions to the dialogue in Jacques Tati’s film Playtime—yet Buchwald fans will enjoy revisiting his work. Neophytes will get a taste of his style, as in the famous article “J. Edgar Hoover Just Doesn’t Exist,” in which Buchwald claimed the former FBI director was a “mythical person first thought up by Reader’s Digest.”
A heartfelt tribute to one of American journalism’s most influential jesters.
Growing Up Biden
by Valerie Biden Owens
A memoir from Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden’s younger sister, trusted confidante and lifelong campaign manager. Valerie, one of the first female campaign managers in United States history, writes of the role of family, faith, and fate in shaping her life, and the power of empathy and kindness in the face of turmoil and division.
Growing Up Biden details Valerie’s decades-long professional career in politics, and the central role she played in her brother’s life as an insightful adviser, an ever-loyal advocate and best friend.
This memoir, full of candor and warmth, brings readers into the Biden home and shares stories from growing up in Delaware as the only daughter of the close-knit Irish Catholic family. Valerie writes in a compelling, relatable way about the challenges she faced breaking through gender barriers, the elusive nature of confidence, and navigating professional responsibilities while raising children.
by Lee Cole
An indelible love story about two very different people navigating the entanglements of class and identity and coming of age in an America coming apart at the seams—this is “an extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations” (Ann Patchett, best-selling author of The Dutch House).
In the run-up to the 2016 election, Owen Callahan, an aspiring writer, moves back to Kentucky to live with his Trump-supporting uncle and grandfather. Eager to clean up his act after wasting time and potential in his early twenties, he takes a job as a groundskeeper at a small local college, in exchange for which he is permitted to take a writing course.
Here he meets Alma Hazdic, a writer in residence who seems to have everything that Owen lacks—a prestigious position, an Ivy League education, success as a writer. They begin a secret relationship, and as they grow closer, Alma—who comes from a liberal family of Bosnian immigrants—struggles to understand Owen’s fraught relationship with family and home.
Exquisitely written; expertly crafted; dazzling in its precision, restraint, and depth of feeling, Groundskeeping is a novel of haunting power and grace from a prodigiously gifted young writer.
What Will I Do with My Love Today
Written by Kristen Chenoweth
Illustrated by Maine Diaz
A wonderful addition to children’s books by celebrities and picture books about love and friendship, Kristin Chenoweth’s whimsical adventure about adopting a dog reminds young readers they have an abundance of love and kindness to share with all of God’s creatures.
What Will I Do with My Love Today? is a sweet adventure picture book by celebrity Kristin Chenoweth, known for debuting the role of Glinda in Broadway’s Wicked and her Emmy Award–winning performance in Pushing Daisies. This heartfelt story follows young Kristi Dawn around New York City as she shares her love through acts of generosity–from singing in the church choir to helping a neighbor weed her garden. When she meets a lonely dog looking for a home, Kristi Dawn shows that adoption is one of the most loving and life-changing gifts of all.
Through delightful rhyme and examples of child-friendly (and pup-friendly!) acts of generosity and kindness, Chenoweth shares the powerful message that the more love you give, the more love you get back! This jacketed picture book
- is perfect for ages 4 to 8
- tells a meaningful story alongside playful illustrations from Maine Diaz
- is a great gift for baby showers, adoption parties, soon-to-be older siblings, and dog-loving kids
- is a meaningful way to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Dog Day, and National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day
- is a fun gift for fans of Kristin Chenoweth or other celebrity children’s book authors
An inspiring read-aloud, What Will I Do with My Love Today? encourages kids to look for ways to be kind and loving every day–because that’s the best way for love to grow!