3 Summer Reads to Make Wonks Wonkier

Learn about vice presidents, baseball and an infamous building

Three new books capture a capital city in transition. (Courtesy University of Nebraska Press and Harper Collins)
Three new books capture a capital city in transition. (Courtesy University of Nebraska Press and Harper Collins)
Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:00am

If lying on the beach and learning about Mike Pence, the relationship between baseball and presidents, or Watergate sounds like a good time to you, here is your summer reading list.

These three books are either just out or soon to be released and give insight into D.C. institutions.

The authors explained their writing processes and why these institutions were ones to explore at this moment in history. 

First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power

By Kate Andersen Brower

When Kate Anderson Brower, a CNN contributor, started her book about vice presidents before the 2016 election, she thought she would be looking at the relationship between Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton.

But “the dynamic between Donald Trump and Mike Pence is more fascinating than anything I had imagined. I think looking at how Pence is trying to please his mercurial boss while at the same time gunning for his job is especially interesting,” she said.

She said she finds that the relationship between modern presidents and vice presidents “has unraveled” over time, with the exception of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

“I think the very personal nature of this dynamic is fascinating, how they negotiate leading the country while pleasing their boss whose job they almost always pine for (with the modern exception of Dick Cheney who did not want to become president after being George W. Bush’s VP),” she said.

The book drops today.

The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball & the White House 

By Curt Smith

Curt Smith, who was a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush from 1989 until the end of his term, is well-versed in the presidency. And in baseball.

“These are the two aspects of life that I know about — the relationship between these two great American institutions,” Smith said. “I have found over the years that politicians tend to be — and this is bipartisan and also nonpartisan true across the board — politicians tend to be among the most rabid and zealous sports fans.”

Smith’s book, which was released Friday, features a different chapter for every president exploring their relationship with America’s pastime.

“I look at how they dealt with baseball and how baseball dealt with them,” Smith said. You can skip ahead to read about your own favorite president, and then backtrack to read about the others, he added.

The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address

By Joseph Rodota

Joseph Rodota, who worked in the Ronald Reagan White House, started writing his book about Watergate in the fall of 2015, around the 50th anniversary of the infamous complex’s original opening.

“[I] thought perhaps I had missed the moment. Beginning last spring, around the time President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, ‘Watergate’ began showing up more frequently in my Google news alerts and has kept up a very steady pace ever since ever since,” Rodota said.  “There appears to be a nostalgia for a time when the nation’s capital was gripped by ongoing political, legal and constitutional conflict, centered around the White House.”

It all began when he passed by the Watergate and decided to do some research on the building.

“I discovered the Watergate was one of the few famous buildings in America yet to be chronicled in a book,” he said. “And it turned out the Watergate story is dramatic and surprising — before the first shovel of dirt was turned.”

Rodota’s book was released in February.