Washington Week

Friday Nights on PBS

Reading Lists

All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid

Matt Bai

  • A trenchant look at what really happened during the Gary Hart scandal and how it helped change both politics and journalism forever.

Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir

Robert Timberg

  • I am a huge Robert Timberg fan. His 1995 book, "The Nightingale's Song" is one of my favorites. But this is a story about Timberg's own remarkable life. A Naval Academy graduate who was horribly wounded in the Vietnam War, he tells the story of his life and how he coped after disfiguring wounds. He is not easy on himself for those he hurt along the way.

City of Rivals

Jason Grumet

  • It's a great read for policy and political junkies about what has changed in Washington in recent history to turn the mood so sour--and what can actually be done to get Washington, DC working again. Author Jason Grumet is President of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice

Howard Schultz, Rajiv Chandrasekaran

  • On its face, this is a book urging us to do more to support veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. But beyond the advocacy is a gripping narrative of life on the battlefield and life after the battlefield for a whole generation of Americans that most of us never really know.

Growing Up in the South

Suzanne Jones

  • This season I’m reading short stories, starting with an anthology of southern writers, “Growing Up in the South." . It includes Peter Taylor’s terrific “The Old Forest,” based in Memphis in the 1930s.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Bryan Stevenson

  • Stevenson is one of the most eloquent and potent advocates for reform of the criminal justice system, and he tells his own story as a page-turner, filled with gripping details about his efforts to free innocent people and highlight inequities in courts that favor the wealthy and well-connected.

Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America

Jonathan Darman

  • Most people wouldn’t put Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan in the same category, but this dual biography takes these opposite poles of American politics, finds the larger parallels and explores how their journeys shaped our country for generations.

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Megan Marshall

  • This is a gripping biography of a pioneering feminist thinker and journalist who chronicled 19th-Century America at home and abroad. Fuller's personal life held its own drama, and Marshall's biography captures her exceptional mind and how she lived.

Midnight in Siberia

David Greene

  • A terrific look deep inside Russia, with real tales from real people.

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Ari Shavit

  • If you were to read only one book on Israel and the Palestinians, this is the one. An unsparing history of the Jewish state by an Israeli who is both a passionate Zionist and an eloquent critic of his own country.

On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller

Richard Norton Smith

  • Just starting this biography of Nelson Rockefeller by the acclaimed presidential historian, already clearly the definitive account of one of America’s most fascinating modern politicians.
  • This is a big and impressive book, though I have only begun to dig into it. The original Rockefeller Republican was huge figure in American politics for a generation, just as the Rockefeller family was in American life for decades. He’s found a worthy biographer in the eminent historian Richard Norton Smith.

Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War

James Risen

  • A vigorous and well-reported examination of the enormous – and very profitable-- “homeland security-industrial complex” that rose in response to demands for safety after 9/11. Disclosure: Risen, the New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing the warrantless wiretapping program and faces prison for refusing to testify against an accused leaker, is a friend of mine.


Karen Russell

  • I once lived and worked as a reporter in Florida, which inspired a friend in the Sunshine State to share this novel. It instantly rekindled my vivid recollections of Florida’s quirky inhabitants and exotic environments. Russell’s first novel, describing a failed tourist attraction populated by alligators and one decidedly eccentric family, is at once magical and believable, thanks to superb writing. It was nominated for the 2012 Pulitzer prize.

The Circle

Dave Eggers

  • A disturbing vision of technological omniscience — a Brave New World for the Google-Facebook era.

The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington

Gregg Herken

  • Yes, there was a time when the world of Washington seemed to revolve around those infamous Georgetown dinner parties and friendships, where policies were debated and influenced by a group of close-knit government officials, columnists and others. Gregg Herken takes you back to an era that has long since passed but that held great sway in his heyday.

The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House

Chuck Todd

  • In addition to covering the White House on a daily basis, hosting a daily television program and now the host of “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd has produced a sharply observed and critical analysis of President Obama’s tenure in the White House.

The True American : Murder and Mercy in Texas

Anand Giridharadas

  • A riveting true-life drama about a a man in Texas looking to kill Muslims after the 9/11 attacks, and the immigrant survivor who turns this into a story of love and forgiveness.

Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David

Lawrence Wright

  • Award-winning author Lawrence Wright first wrote this story in the form of a play, which was performed at the Arena Theatre last spring. Now he’s written it in book form, the riveting story of how three leaders found their way to produce the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

We Are Not Ourselves

Matthew Thomas

  • The heroine of this moving novel is a striving Irish-American named Eileen Tumulty who never stops pushing herself, her husband and their son to ascend and acquire. It’s how she responds to a hitch in her plan that will linger with readers.

Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

Jim Holt

  • Profound existential philosophy made accessible — even fun — through storytelling, wit, and literary style