Heard on the Hill

Staffer Book List: Read About How to Do Your Job

Five books for congressional staffers

Learn about your job the old-fashioned way. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

You had to read books in school to study. Why not study for your job?

There are only so many things you can do to prepare yourself to be a congressional staffer. And reading is one of them.

Whether you’re new to Capitol Hill and totally lost, or have worked there for years and still feel like you don’t know everything, there is a book for you.

[Congressional Staffer Guide]

1. The Capitol Hill Playbook

By Nicholas Balthazar

This book has great ratings. You hear a lot about it around the Hill. The author cites Niccolo Machiavelli, author of “The Prince,” as a way to explain the way Congress works and the human experience of politics, in general. It touches on the power of friendship in politics and the exclusivity of D.C, as well as the process of running for office, and attributes staffers should have in order to excel at their jobs.

2. Surviving Inside Congress

By Mark Strand, Michael S. Johnson and Jerome F. Climer 

If you’ve been looking for advice, there’s a lot in here. The book details what is expected of staffers and what it takes to operate an office on Capitol Hill. It shows you ways to fit into the unique environment of the Hill and how to become a key player in your office. You should be able to take on any job on the Hill after reading this book. 

3. Congressional Deskbook

By Judy Schneider and Michael Koempel

There are six editions of this book, so it must be good. It’s been updated to keep up with changes in Congress. Learn about Congress, as well as the executive branch, D.C.’s private sector and life as a congressional staffer. Especially helpful is a discussion on the budget process, one of the most difficult things to understand on Capital Hill. Impress everybody with what you know come vote-a-rama time.

4. Senate Procedure and Practice

By Martin B. Gold

Read this book if you want to be a legislative ninja and move your boss’ agenda around all the procedural obstacles. It’s not a particularly fun read. But if you find yourself asking: ‘Why are they putting amendments on a tree?’ or have always wanted to ask someone in your office what cloture means but were too afraid, then grab a copy. You’ll eventually be pulling savvy legislative moves you never knew existed.

5. House Practice

By William Holmes Brown, Charles W. Johnson and John V. Sullivan

Again, not a fun read. This book is available on the Government Printing Office’s website. And who are Brown, Johnson and Sullivan? They are former House parliamentarians. So you know it’s going to be the inside scoop, but it is going to feel a lot like studying. Hunker down, get through the pages, and anything the House of Representatives throws at you will be no challenge.

A shameless plug — check out HOH’s staffer guide and keep up with Roll Call’s news and decoder series. We have everything all in one place.

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