Books to brush up your politics

Posted: September 23rd, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, La Mesa Reads | No Comments

By Jake Sexton

Last month, my colleague Heather wrote about a variety of conspiracy theories that have been spread about conservative politicians this year, most of them hilariously ludicrous. I’ll lightly touch on a few for liberal politicians, and give some relevant book recommendations. But then we’ll move onto more educational topics, because the election is on its way.

Outgoing President Barack Obama is no stranger to conspiracy theories, and one of the most widespread was the idea that he was not actually born in the United States. This conspiracy theory refused to die, no matter how much counter-evidence was presented, and is still with us in disturbing numbers. A substantial number of Americans seem to think that the president was born in Kenya, so why not celebrate it by reading “A Grain of Wheat,” by Kenya’s most renowned novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o? It’s a powerful tale of secrets, friendships and betrayal set during the Kenyan struggle for independence from Britain.

clinton-1Recent conspiracy theorists have also surmised that Hillary Clinton has a mysterious illness or injury that she hides from the public. Their evidence is that she took a bad fall some months back, and recently left early from a political event because of pneumonia and dehydration. Some folks are worried (or maliciously gleeful) about the state of her health. For people who want to know more about the effect of brain injuries in general, you could read “Concussion,” the new book by Jeanne Marie Laskas about the epidemic of traumatic brain injuries in professional football.

But let’s get into some actual election information.

First, how to vote. If you haven’t already, register with the San Diego Registrar of Voters at At that same site, you can find your polling station, see sample ballots, and apply to receive mail ballots so that you don’t have to wait in line on Election Day. Your deadline to register is 15 days before the election, or Oct. 24. Even if you think your vote for president won’t matter, there will still be plenty of local offices, ballot initiatives and state propositions that are just waiting for you to weigh in.

trump-2As for our presidential candidates, you can start by reading their own words. Within the past year, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have published books, both probably written with a healthy dollop of help from unnamed ghost writers. Earlier this year, Trump released his book “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again” (later re-titled “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America”) with his political proposals for the presidency. Last year, Hillary Clinton released a biography called “Hard Choices” about her time as Secretary of State. And just this month, she and vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine released a book with their proposed policies for the country called “Stronger Together.”

As for criticism of the candidates, it’s hard to find fairly written books, and these are the least biased ones I can find. “The Making of Donald Trump” is highly critical of the candidate, but is written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, David Cay Johnson, and is a compilation of 30 years of reporting about the businessman and candidate. “Trump Revealed” by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher is a similar look at the candidate’s roots and rise, by a pair of long-time political reporters from the Washington Post. On the other side, we have “Who Is Hillary Clinton?,” an anthology of critical articles and essays from The Nation magazine, edited by Richard Kreitner. And although it’s on the older side, “A Woman in Charge” is an in-depth biography of the candidate by famed investigative journalist Carl Bernstein.

So get out there, do your homework, and be a smart voter in November!

News from Our Friends

The Friends of La Mesa Library will be part of Oktoberfest this year, selling high-quality art and photography books and signing up new members. Visit our booth on Friday through Sunday, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, to join the Friends, find a gift book, or just say “guten tag” to our generous volunteers.

—Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave. or get information online at

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