books

The First Congress, and the First Earmark?

Could the Capitol have gone to Trenton, N.J.? (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Was Washington, D.C., the first great earmark?  

The Capitol building might not be sitting as the center of a city built along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers if a senator didn't stand to make a nice profit.  

Trent Lott Lets Slip Literary Truth

Lott, second from right, gave a shout-out to his ghost writer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Senate majority leaders Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Tom Daschle, D-S.D., kicked off the publicity tour for their new book, "Crisis Point" by letting slip one of the great truths about being a Washington author.  

When asked whether he or Daschle wrote more of the book, Lott demonstrated some of the candor and wit that earned him respect across the aisle and with journalists during his time running the chamber with his platonic soul mate, Daschle. "He's not in the room," Lott told the audience gathered at the National Press Club on Jan. 19. And so Jon Sternfeld, the New York-based writer and editor who helped assemble the two senators' book about overcoming political dysfunction, got some recognition that rarely comes to folks like him. While Sternfeld's name is on the back jacket cover, it's not on the front cover. Few ghost writers actually get acknowledged for the work they do on behalf of public figures who are the primary authors of memoirs, how-to books and other literary ventures.  

Claire McCaskill's Book Party a Holiday Tradition for Group of Senators

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen on the West Front of the  Capitol. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

When the Christmas tree arrives on Capitol Hill and the large wreaths are hung at Union Station, the senators who remain from the 2006 elections know it is time for a book party at Sen. Claire McCaskill's place.  

Each December since 2007, the Missouri Democrat has hosted the entire group of members with whom she was elected in 2006 — a group that began with eight Democrats, Vermont independent Bernard Sanders and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker — for dinner and a secret book exchange.  "They pick out one of the favorite books they read that year, wrap it without a label, and when they arrive they put it in basket by the front door," McCaskill said. “The fun part of the evening is you have to guess who brought that book.”  

'Stabbing in the Senate' Focuses on Hill Staffers

'Stabbing in the Senate' is a murder-mystery focused on Capitol Hill. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Capturing the real-life drama of Capitol Hill in fiction can be a daunting task, but Colleen Shogan had an advantage: She's been there, done that.  

Shogan, 40, now the deputy director of the Congressional Research Service, used her time as a Senate staffer as the basis of her debut mystery novel, "Stabbing in the Senate," the first installment in her Washington Whodunit series. "I’ve always been a big mystery reader," Shogan said in a Nov. 13 phone interview. In 2011, after she finished reading a mystery novel, she was walking around her Arlington, Va., neighborhood and started thinking about what her own mystery novel would be like, and thought of a mystery focused on Congress.  

Library of Congress Staffers Cleaning House With Used Book Sale

Bargain shoppers, rejoice!  

The Library of Congress’ annual used book sale is taking place Wednesday through Friday at the Madison Building (101 Independence Ave. SE), and everything is priced to move.  

Watch Cory Booker and Claire McCaskill Get Literary

Two-term lawmaker turned memoirist Sen. Claire McCaskill Wednesday is expected to open up to fellow Sen. Cory Booker about her life, career and political agenda during a free-form discussion at George Washington University.  

The collegial chat about the Missouri Democrat’s autobiography, “Plenty Ladylike,” is scheduled to take place in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at GW’s Marvin Center (800 21st St. NW) beginning at 7 p.m. This event is part of the ongoing Newsmakers Series, a joint effort of Politics & Prose and GWU.  

John Lewis Aims to Slay ’Em at Dragon Con

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Civil rights leader/graphic novelist Rep. John Lewis this weekend is lending some local star power to Dragon Con .  

Congressional aide and “March” co-author Andrew Aydin tells HOH the Georgia Democrat is expected to pull double duty at Hotlanta’s fantasy fest, signing on to help welcome “Star Trek” vet Nichelle Nichols Saturday at the Guest of Honor Awards Banquet before settling in Sunday afternoon for a panel discussion and autograph session. Dragon Con organizers declined to share the extent of Lewis’ role in the annual dinner. (Guest speaker? Fellow honoree?)  

Satirist Sticks It to Prickly Presidents

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

SAN DIEGO — Cartoon Network "Regular Show" writer Patrick Baker once dreamed of running for higher office. He realizes, though, that his reframing of history in "The Presidential Dickerbook" — a satirical examination of the most egregious actions of our all-too-flawed commanders in chief — makes that unlikely.  

The fully illustrated guide, which popped onto the scene on July 3 and was on full display here at Comic-Con 2015, takes the measure of each POTUS at his lowest points and ranks them on Baker's proprietary dickometer. “My mind was [on] how many people died as a result of you being rough,” Baker told HOH about his personal yardstick.  

Congressional Bookworms Open Up to C-SPAN

Prefer your C-SPAN coverage a little less combative than vitriolic one-minutes or partisan committee hearings? Then tune that dial over to Book TV’s “Summer Reading” series, a literary love-fest that’s got lawmakers gushing about their favorite page-turners.  

Senior Executive Producer Peter Slen told HOH the quick-hit segments — all prompted by the interrogatory softball, “What are you reading this summer?” — used to focus on Washingtonians from all walks of life. But the team decided to bear down on elected officials this year, and has, to his delight, received an enthusiastic response.  

Mark Russell’s ‘Prez’ Hits the Ground Running

SAN DIEGO — What’s a 19-year-old political neophyte to do after getting propelled into the Oval Office by a viral video-obsessed electorate? The short answer is anything and everything satirist Mark Russell can throw at her in his reboot of the civic-minded comic, “Prez.”  

DC Comics originally toyed with the concept of how an underage POTUS might operate back in 1973 with “Prez: First Teen President;” the short-lived experiment was unceremoniously pulled from spinner racks after just four issues. A lot’s happened since then. And Russell, whose previous work, “God Is Disappointed In You,” presents an irreverent reinterpretation of the Bible, is excited to make the most of his shiny new soapbox.