Your Presidents’ Day Reading List

Stephen King's 11/22/63

When it comes to presidential politics, nonfiction often rules the day. And although historical accounts and biographies of U.S. presidents are fascinating (see in particular Jon Meacham’s riveting biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion), there’s a lot to be said for a well-written story about the equally cutthroat world of fake politics. In that spirit, we therefore present to you our six favorite fictional President’s Day reads.

I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb
Twelve-year-old Oliver Watson has fooled everyone around him into thinking he’s a dimwit, when in fact he’s a rich and powerful (and, yes, evil) genius bent on world domination. Still, he’ll settle for becoming class president of Gale Sayers Middle School if it will impress his archnemesis (who also happens to be his father). A staff writer for the Harvard Lampoon, author Josh Lieb went on to serve as an executive producer of The Simpsons and a writer for The Daily Show—and his wickedly funny YA book will appeal to children and adults of both the evil genius and non–evil genius variety.

11/22/63, by Stephen King
In this exploration of the social and political landscape of 1950s America, an English teacher is sent back in time, to 1958, to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. King’s sprawling chronicle of an era of both great innocence and appalling evil was named a top ten book of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review.

Election, by Tom Perrotta
Though perhaps overshadowed by a clever film adaptation starring the memorable adversarial duo of Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, Perotta’s darkly funny, subversive tale of an overachieving high school student’s battle of wills against her idealistic English teacher stands on its own as a quirky, cynical read. It has all the makings of a political thriller—scandal, intrigue, betrayal, and ravenous ambition—but since it’s set in a high school, you know the stakes are going to be higher and the schemes even more diabolical.

American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld’s prose is as sharply honest as it is lyrical. Her widely praised third novel follows the early life and ascension to the White House of a fictional first lady, purportedly inspired by the eventful life of First Lady Laura Bush. A thoughtful, searing portrait of an America dominated by a wartime president, it is by turns tragic, beguiling, and unsettling.

Capital Crimes series, by Margaret Truman
The only daughter of President Harry S. Truman, Margaret Truman had a long, varied career as an entertainer. She trained as an opera singer and made regular appearances on several radio and television shows, including What’s My Line? Most successfully, Truman leveraged her unique experience in the White House to write a series of mystery novels set in and around Washington, D.C., the titles of nearly all of which began with the word “murder,” which kind of gives you an idea of the type of cozy read you’re in for.

Duck For President, by Doreen Cronin
When Duck decides that his chores on the farm are too difficult, he launches a successful election campaign to replace Farmer Brown. Duck soon discovers that running a farm is too much work, so he decides to take it easy and run for governor instead—eventually finding himself in the country’s highest office. This satirical children’s book may hit a little too close to home for some with its pointed skewering of the game of politics, but that’s just part of its prickly charm.

  • Peter White

    I loved the Stephen King book and also recommend Hector’s Juice