The Best History & Current Affairs Books of September 2019

As we head into the final quarter of 2019, history isn’t slowing down to let you catch your breath. The best history and current events books coming this month include a fascinating rumination on leadership from General Jim Mattis, an analysis of our current president by Bill O’Reilly, a book about one new Supreme Court justice and a book by another, and more.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, by Jim Mattis and Bing West
General Jim Mattis looks back over a storied military and political career that has taught him more about leadership than most people could ever hope to learn. Divided into three sections, Mattis’ memoir reflects on what it means to lead men directly into battle, to coordinate huge forces while being far from the front lines, and finally what it takes to weigh the needs of an entire nation when crafting strategy. Mattis, who started his career as a common recruit and became a four-star general and then, briefly, Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump, brings humility and wisdom to an uncommon memoir, a book with something to teach everyone who reads it, no matter their position or profession.

The United States of Trump: How the President Really Sees America, by Bill O’Reilly
Framed as a nonpartisan analysis of President Trump’s worldview and political beliefs, O’Reilly’s latest draws on direct interviews conducted with Trump as well as research into his life and experiences. The result is an attempt to offer fresh insights into how our 45th president sees both his country and the world beyond it. O’Reilly, who has known Trump personally for decades, has the inside track, and uses the skills he’s employed in his bestselling Killing series to trace the origins and evolution of Trump’s politics from his childhood all the way through the most recent developments in the White House. This is a fascinating and unprecedented in-the-moment study of a sitting president.

The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly
Journalists Pogrebin and Kelly, who broke several stories about Brett Kavanaugh even as his confirmation hearings descended into chaos, believed that the FBI investigation into allegations against him was truncated and crippled. Here, they finally present the sum total of their investigations into the Supreme Court justice’s upbringing, education, and young adulthood. The result is a portrait of a privileged, contradictory man—a portrait colored by never-before-seen testimony from people who knew Kavanaugh at key moments in his life. As Kavanaugh settles into a lifetime role on the Supreme Court that will allow him to influence America’s way forward for decades to come, this book offers a glimpse into the mind that will be making those consequential decisions.

Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic, by Jason Chaffetz
A former Utah congressman and chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform offers his perspective on how the country has changed in the wake of President Trump’s election, painting the Democratic party and the progressive movement as irrationally angry and willing to ignore or destroy both political norms and legal restrictions in order to attack conservative positions and leadership. With a healthy dose of inside baseball from his time in congress, Chaffetz accuses many on the Left of deception, corruption, and following an unconstitutional agenda hidden behind accusations of fascism and claims of resistance.

Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy, by Seth Abramson
Legal and political analyst Abramson delivers a book that reads more like a summer spy thriller than reality, positing that in 2015, George Nader met with various leaders of the Arab world to unveil a plan reshape the political reality of the entire planet—with Donald Trump’s help. Abramson suggests that Nader pitched these leaders a pro-U.S. and pro-Israel alliance designed to contain the ambitions of Turkey and Iran, and that they threw their money, influence, and other resources behind Trump, who they expected to be friendly to Russia and belligerent towards Iran. It’s an intriguing argument, and, if you buy into it, a terrifying glimpse into realpolitik in the modern age.

A Republic, If You Can Keep It, by Neil Gorsuch
Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch made headlines when President Donald Trump nominated him to our nation’s highest court. In this book, Gorsuch seeks to define his views on the constitution, our system of government, and the rights that every American citizen enjoys. With speeches, essays, and personal notes, Gorsuch reflects on a life spent studying, interpreting, and defending the laws of the nation, and presents his arguments concerning his role as a justice—and everyone’s role as a citizen—in keeping this republic healthy for future generations of Americans. At the same time, Gorsuch offers glimpses of the personal events in his life that have shaped him just as much as his legal education and practice. Considering the immense influence Gorsuch will have on America over the coming years, this is an essential read for any enlightened citizen.

Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI, by Josh Campbell
Former FBI special agent and law enforcement analyst for CNN Campbell was part of the team that accompanied FBI Director James Comey to Trump Tower to brief the newly-elected president about the Steele dossier, putting him in a unique position to observe the sustained attack that the White House launched against the FBI. Campbell details the early days of the so-called Russia investigation (code-named Crossfire Hurricane), beginning with in-the-room-when-it-happened, firsthand knowledge and continuing the saga with an insider’s keen instincts in the wake of his 2018 resignation. Campbell paints a picture of a historically independent and crucial law enforcement agency that is demoralized and in danger of being politically compromised—or even destroyed—by an out of control presidential administration. His years of access lend gravitas to the incredible events he details here.

The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History, by Lee Smith
Smith and Nunes present their narrative of a conspiracy to not only target and destroy President Trump, but the very institutions that sustain our republic—a conspiracy only revealed, Nunes says, due to his investigations as head of the House Intelligence Committee. The plot begins in 2016 with the FBI investigation into Russian infiltration on the upcoming elections—but Nunes claims that investigation never targeted any Russians, rather working to undermine first Trump’s campaign, and then his administration. Nunes believes his investigations expose efforts by the “deep state” to protect its own interests over those of the nation at large.

Laughing with Obama: A Photographic Look Back at the Enduring Wit and Spirit of President Barack Obama, by M. Sweeney
Shifting gears from current controversies, M. Sweeney follows up his similarly positive books Hugs from Obama and Go High with one filled with gorgeous images of former President Barack Obama throughout the years. It’s a book to remind readers (of a favorable political persuasion, anyway) how warm, human, and truly funny Obama is. Photos of the 44th president laughing, smiling, and looking joyful are paired with some of the former commander-in-chief’s funniest remarks and one-liners from throughout his administration and beyond. For anyone in desperate need of a bit of optimism or a reminder that American politics can occasionally produce humor or even joy, this book will serve as a mental palate cleanser.

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, by Eric Foner
Wars have far-reaching consequences, and Pulitzer Prize winner Foner takes a deep dive into those of the Civil War, most notably the so-call Reconstruction Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—and their enduring impact on our constitution and system of government. Foner notes that these amendments marked the first time equality was specifically extended to all Americans, and went contrary to tradition by charging the federal government with enforcement of the rule of law they established, rather than the states. Foner sees this change as ushering in a second iteration of the United States—one that floundered almost immediately, but which he sees as still viable; the book is shot-through with optimism and a belief that we can still be a country in which all citizens are truly equal.

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