Are you staring listlessly into the void now that you’ve binge-watched your way through seasons one and two of the Netflix series House of Cards, trying to figure out how to spend your time without Frank Underwood breaking the fourth wall to talk to you through the screen? Here’s a House of Cards–inspired reading list to comfort you in this difficult time:
The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
The canny politico’s handbook is the obvious place to start. Choice quote: “Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”
The Game of Thrones series, by George R. R. Martin
The experience of binge-reading these books is a good substitute for sitting on your couch obsessively clicking through to the next House of Cards episode. And when you’re done, you can plow through the addictive HBO series, which is well made and exciting, if not quite as satisfyingly complex. In Martin’s fantasy world, full of would-be kings, scheming queens, exiles, knights, dwarves, and dragons, when you play the game of thrones, you either win, or you die. Frank and Claire would fit right in.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Historical fiction you can really sink your teeth into, this Booker Prize–winning epic throws you into the high-stakes court of Henry VIII alongside the pragmatic, indispensable Thomas Cromwell.
All the President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
The fascinating true story of how muckraking journalists at the Washington Post took down a sitting president. Truth always has been stranger than fiction.
Personal History, by Katharine Graham
The fascinating true story of the woman at the helm of the Washington Post during the Watergate years and her city, Washington, D.C., which shaped her as she shaped it.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
House of Cards shows us what happens when a weak president is easily manipulated by smarter aides, lobbyists, and government operatives. Makes you nostalgic for Lincoln, doesn’t it? Honest Abe was not only a brilliant thinker and orator, but also a great manager of people. He surrounded himself with talent and then used it to begin healing a nation.
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
A calculating and charming Southern politician rises to prominence in this political classic about ego, ambition, and the American dream.
Thank You For Smoking, by Christopher Buckley
You would never know it from House of Cards, but even lobbyists have limits. This classic Washington, D.C., satire takes on the tobacco industry and its influence over the Capitol.
Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
One of literature’s first and foremost power couples, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are intensely loyal to one another, ravenously ambitious, and ready to throw anyone who stands in their way to the wolves.
Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
Why are we, as a country, so loyal to certain ideas about ourselves, and so outraged by others? Why are we the sort of people who would elect Frank Underwood—or, at least, allow ourselves to be seduced by his sordid TV exploits? Ask the consummate outsider, a French lawyer who traveled the United States for years and wrote up his impressions, kickstarting the field of Sociology in the process. Bonus: Kurt Vonnegut reportedly said that anyone who hasn’t read de Tocqueville is a wimp, so earn your bona fides.
Hey, House of Cards fans—what are you reading to fill the void?