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What to Read Next (No. 194): On Trumpy Literature
While all presidential literature fascinates me, I have yet to really delve into the Trump phenomenon. And it is indeed a phenomenon: the industry of books on our 45th president and all that surround(ed) him are dramatic enough to have produced a book of its own called What Were We Thinking by Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada. (It’s a title that’s high on my list.)
At this point, the books are just so divisive; I’d rather wait 10 years and see how history treats him rather than the flash-bang effect of the moment.
That said, I needed to read something about Mr. Trump for my presidential reading project. Below, you’ll see my picks and what I thought of ‘em.
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Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher
One the biggest challenges of my presidential reading project was choosing a biography of Donald Trump. It’s a general rule that the more recent the POTUS, the harder it is to find an objective bio, but it’s especially true of Trump. There’s just not much middle ground to be found in the literature.
After quite a bit of research (using some tips that I outlined here), I was glad to land on Trump Revealed. Published in mid-2016 by a couple Washington Post staffers, it quickly gained more traction, and importance, once Trump actually won the election.
While there’s no doubt that the book is as objective as possible, it is—perhaps obviously—still rather damning. There’s just no getting around the fact that the guy is not a great businessman (outside of sometimes successfully wielding a strong arm) and that he has zero empathy, kindness, or compassion towards the human condition.
The real surprise, as a reader, is that all of this was well-known prior to his election. The four years of 2016 to 2020 should not have been as surprising as they were for anyone who really paid attention to the man’s background.
Equally fascinating was the astounding impact that The Apprentice had on his fame, reputation, and image. Television shaped the Trump we all saw (and still see) more than is obvious at first blush.
Ultimately, Trump Revealed was an easy-reading, always-interesting, and vitally important journalistic account of the man who shocked the world to become America’s 45th president.
Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him by Stephen Mansfield
One of the first books in the Trump publishing explosion, Choosing Donald Trump is all about the faith (or lack thereof) of Donald Trump and also how the evangelical Christian community worked to get him elected.
When the ‘16 election cycle started, it obviously seemed pretty unlikely that Trump would emerge the victor in his own party, let alone the entire election. Mansfield follows that evolution as evangelicals turned their support to a number of candidates before finally, almost desperately landing on Trump—a man who plenty of evangelicals said was too morally bankrupt to hold the position of POTUS.
Another fascinating character that plays a role here is Paula White. I didn’t know a whole lot about her before reading this, but it quickly became clear how big of a factor the preacher and televangelist was in moving the evangelical crowd in Trump’s direction.
Mansfield is well-known as a pretty conservative Christian cultural critic and thinker; it was easy to see some of the disbelief of how his own community chose Trump—a disbelief that has not gone away in the last handful of years.
Really interesting read.
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