FCDW Book Club News:
The FCDW book club reads and discusses timely and relevant books. We meet the 4th Thurs of each month at the FC Library. Please feel free to join us even if you haven’t had the opportunity to read the book.
We select books a couple months in advance, and welcome member suggestions. Please let us know your ideas for 2020.
November 2019: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.
No Book Club in December
October 2019: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”
September, 2019: Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World
Shannon Watts was a stay-at-home mom folding laundry when news of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary flashed across the television screen. In one moment, she went from outraged to engaged and decided to do something about it. What started as a simple Facebook group to connect with other frustrated parents grew into Moms Demand Action, a national movement with millions of supporters and a powerful grassroots network of local chapters in all 50 states. Shannon has been called “the NRA’s worst nightmare”—and her army of moms have bravely gone up against the gun lobby, showing up in their signature red shirts, blocking the hallways of congress with their strollers, electing gun sense candidates and running for office themselves, proving that if the 80 million moms in this country come together, they can put an end to gun violence.
Fight Like a Mother is the incredible account how one mother’s cry for change became the driving force behind gun safety progress.
August 2019: West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House
When we elect a president, we elect with them an entire team that will join them in the West Wing to help run the country. Each of these staffers has a story to tell, and in West Wingers, Barack Obama’s White House staff reveals how these extraordinary citizens shape the presidency and the nation.
In these moving and revealing personal stories, eighteen Obama staffers bring us deep inside the presidency, offering intimate accounts of how they made it to the White House, what they witnessed, and what they accomplished there. We hear from a married gay staffer pushing the president towards marriage equality; a senior aide working to implement the Affordable Care Act while battling Stage IV cancer; a hijab-wearing Muslim adviser accompanying the President to a mosque. In each one we see the human face of government, staffers devoting themselves to the issues that have defined their lives.
June 2019: The Mueller Report
“The Mueller report is that rare Washington tell-all that surpasses its pre-publication hype…the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency. It was delivered to the attorney general but is also written for history. The book reveals the president in all his impulsiveness, insecurity and growing disregard for rules and norms; White House aides alternating between deference to the man and defiance of his ‘crazy s—‘ requests; and a campaign team too inept to realize, or too reckless to care, when they might have been bending the law. And special counsel Robert Mueller has it all under oath, on the record, along with interviews and contemporaneous notes backing it up.” —Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post
May 2019: The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump
On March 16, 2018, just twenty-six hours before his scheduled retirement from the organization he had served with distinction for more than two decades, Andrew G. McCabe was fired from his position as deputy director of the FBI. President Donald Trump celebrated on Twitter: “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy.”
Important, revealing, and powerfully argued, The Threat tells the true story of what the FBI is, how it works, and why it will endure as an institution of integrity that protects America.
March 2019: Fascism: A Warning
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state
A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”
Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times. Written by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.
February 2019: Becoming
An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
January 2019: Fear: Trump in the White House
With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.
Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.
November 2018: The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It
Two core components of liberal democracy—individual rights and the popular will—are increasingly at war with each other. As the role of money in politics soared and important issues were taken out of public contestation, a system of “rights without democracy” took hold. Populists who rail against this say they want to return power to the people. But in practice they create something just as bad: a system of “democracy without rights.” The consequence, as Yascha Mounk shows in this brilliant and timely book, is that trust in politics is dwindling. Citizens are falling out of love with their political system. Democracy is wilting away. Drawing on vivid stories and original research, Mounk identifies three key drivers of voters’ discontent: stagnating living standards, fear of multiethnic democracy, and the rise of social media. To reverse the trend, politicians need to enact radical reforms that benefit the many, not the few.
The People vs. Democracy is the first book to describe both how we got here and what we need to do now. For those unwilling to give up either individual rights or the concept of the popular will, Mounk argues that urgent action is needed, as this may be our last chance to save democracy.
October 2018: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history.
He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women’s rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear—a struggle that continues even now.
September 2018: It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America
Bestselling author and longtime Trump observer David Cay Johnston shines a light on the political termites who have infested our government under the Trump Administration, destroying it from within and compromising our jobs, safety, finances, and more.
No journalist knows Donald Trump better than David Cay Johnston, who has been following him since 1988. It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America goes inside the administration to show how the federal agencies that touch the lives of all Americans are being undermined.
Under Donald Trump conflict of interest is passé. When Trump isn’t in Washington, he stays at one of his properties, where the taxpayers pick up the tab for staffers, Secret Service, and so on, all at full price. And back in Washington, everyone now knows that the Trump International Hotel is the only place to stay if you want to do business with the administration. Meanwhile sons Donald Jr. and Eric run an eyes-wide-open blind trust of Trump holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest—but not the reality.
August 2018 Selection: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the U.S. election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency.
RUSSIAN ROULETTE is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry. After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.
The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no “third-rate burglary.” It was far more sophisticated and sinister — a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won. And millions of Americans were left wondering, what the hell happened? This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle — including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn — and Russia.
June 2018 Selection: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
In his book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.
Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.
April 2018 Selection: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
“This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you’re worried about what all this means for America’s future, you should be” – NPR
An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.
March 2018 Selection: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
With extraordinary access to the West Wing, Michael Wolff reveals what happened behind-the-scenes in the first nine months of the most controversial presidency of our time in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.C
Since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the country?and the world?has witnessed a stormy, outrageous, and absolutely mesmerizing presidential term that reflects the volatility and fierceness of the man elected Commander-in-Chief.
Feb 2018 Selection: Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream
Dreamers is a movement book for the generation brought to the United States as children—and now fighting to live here legally
Of the approximately twelve million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, as many as two million came as children. They grow up here, going to elementary, middle, and high school, and then the country they call home won’t—in most states—offer financial aid for college and they’re unable to be legally employed. In 2001, US senator Dick Durbin introduced the DREAM Act to Congress, an initiative that would allow these young people to become legal residents if they met certain requirements.
And now, more than ten years later, in the face of congressional inertia and furious opposition from some, the DREAM Act has yet to be passed. But recently, this young generation has begun organizing, and with their rallying cry “Undocumented, Unapologetic, and Unafraid” they are the newest face of the human rights movement. In Dreamers, Eileen Truax illuminates the stories of these men and women who are living proof of a complex and sometimes hidden political reality that calls into question what it truly means to be American.
Jan 2018 Selection: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
Note: Since this book was selected, Sen. Franken has admitted to sexual harassment & this will be a part of our discussion in Jan.
In many ways, Al Franken is the perfect interlocutor for this odd current moment, with its attendant Kathy Griffin press conferences and presidential gripes at Rosie O’Donnell and Onion headlines come true. When it’s hard to distinguish between a real Senate hearing and Saturday Night Live, get you a man who can do both. Franken, a 15-year veteran of the NBC comedy show, and, most recently, a two-term U.S. senator from Minnesota, certainly has some insight into the contemporary era of dysfunction. Or, as he succinctly summarizes it late in Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, his seventh book, “Lately, things have been trending crapshow.”
The most remarkable thing about Giant of the Senate, though, is how neatly (and disconcertingly) it fuses two completely disparate genres: polemical comedy and political memoir.
Nov. 2017 Selection: The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman
Professor Allan J. Lichtman, who has correctly forecasted thirty years of presidential outcomes, makes the case for impeaching the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
In the fall of 2016, Distinguished Professor of History at American University Allan Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Donald J. Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidential election.
Now, in clear, nonpartisan terms, Lichtman lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority.
The Case for Impeachment also offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.”
Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself.
Sept 2017 Selection: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by a network of some of the richest people on the planet and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
August 2017 Selection: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
A groundbreaking examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility. It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.
June Selection: This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class by Elizabeth Warren.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been at the forefront of progressive politics over the last year. Warren sees Trump’s rise as part of a larger narrative of economic inequality in this country. She argues that the government’s lack of investment in the middle class created the conditions “where Donald Trump could deliver the knockout blow.”
“Are we just going to let Donald Trump and these Republicans in Washington just totally turn our government over to those with money and power?” Warren asks. “The rich and the powerful have been running our government for about 35 years now, and they have really made it work great for those at the top — for everyone else, not so much so. What I argue in this book is it is time for the rest of us to fight back, all of us, and that we can do it, and we can make our voices heard.”
May 2017 selection: An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal
Health care is a trillion-dollar industry in America, but are we getting what we pay for? Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, a medical journalist who formerly worked as a medical doctor, warns that the existing system too often focuses on financial incentives over health or science.
“We’ve trusted a lot of our health care to for-profit businesses and it’s their job, frankly, to make profit,” Rosenthal says. “You can’t expect them to act like Mother Teresas.”
Rosenthal’s new book, An American Sickness, examines the deeply rooted problems of the existing health-care system and also offers suggestions for a way forward. She notes that under the current system, it’s far more lucrative to provide a lifetime of treatments than a cure.