WW Recommends Books & Other Things

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?

The Road Taken: A memoir
By Senator Patrick Leahy
Released August 23 / Available for pre-order

An historic, sweeping memoir from United States Senator Patrick Leahy, currently the chamber’s longest-serving senator and President Pro Tempore.

In his landmark memoir The Road Taken, Patrick Leahy looks back on a life lived on the front lines of American politics. As the senior-most member and de facto dean of the chamber, Senator Leahy has been a key author of the American story. Leahy established himself as a moral leader and liberal pioneer over four decades spanning nine presidential administrations.

American history comes alive in this gripping story of a master political leader and consummate legislator. Leahy takes you inside the room as pivotal moments in our nation’s history play out, from the post-Watergate reform era to path breaking Supreme Court confirmations to stress tests like the impeachment of President Clinton, 9/11 and Congress’s role in greenlighting a disastrous war in Iraq, the January 6th Capitol insurrection, and both impeachment trials of Donald Trump—one of which Senator Leahy presided over, a historic first.

Beautifully written and filled with wonderful stories, Leahy’s memoir is populated by a larger-than-life cast of characters. We meet the major players who would shape the course of American politics, including every President from Ford onward, a fresh-faced Ted Kennedy, a dying Hubert Humphrey, a thirty-three-year-old son of Scranton named Joe Biden, a quick-witted Barry Goldwater, a freshman Senator and trash-talking gym-mate named Barack Obama, and a scrappy newcomer by the name of Bernie Sanders. Through these characters and many more, we see the rise, gradual decline, and push for redemption of a United States Senate that Leahy learns at an early age can be the “nation’s conscience.”

The Road Taken is also a moving personal portrait. Born in Vermont in 1940, Leahy got his first taste of politics at age six after riding his tricycle into the Governor’s office. Twenty-eight years later he became the first Democrat and youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate from Vermont. He writes movingly of his wife of nearly sixty years, Marcelle, his family life, his beloved home state of Vermont, and his unexpected life as an actor with cameos in five Batman movies. Despite being born legally blind in one eye, Leahy became an accomplished photographer, shooting history as he witnessed it. His intimate portraits illustrate the book, showcasing history through the lens of his life.

Full of wisdom and insight, The Road Taken ranks among the greatest political memoirs, revealing a momentous life marked by hard decisions made without regret.

Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future
By Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns

The shocking, definitive account of the 2020 election and the first year of the Biden presidency by two New York Times reporters, exposing the deep fissures within both parties as the country approaches a political breaking point.

This is the authoritative account of an eighteen-month crisis in American democracy that will be seared into the country’s political memory for decades to come. With stunning, in-the-room detail, New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns show how both our political parties confronted a series of national traumas, including the coronavirus pandemic, the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and the political brinksmanship of President Biden’s first year in the White House.

From Donald Trump’s assault on the 2020 election and his ongoing campaign of vengeance against his fellow Republicans, to the behind-the-scenes story of Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate and his bitter struggles to unite the Democratic Party, this book exposes the degree to which the two-party system has been strained to the point of disintegration. More than at any time in recent history, the long-established traditions and institutions of American politics are under siege as a set of aging political leaders struggle to hold together a changing country.

Martin and Burns break news on most every page, drawing on hundreds of interviews and never-before-seen documents and recordings from the highest levels of government. The book asks the vitally important (and disturbing) question: can American democracy, as we know it, ever work again?