Julian E. Zelizer's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Julian E. Zelizer recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Julian E. Zelizer's favorite book recommendations of all time.

From authors of the national bestseller One Nation After Trump, a revelatory investigation of the surging political division and antagonism in America today

Hyperpartisanship has gridlocked the American government. Congress's approval ratings are at record lows, and both Democrats and Republicans are disgusted by the government's inability to get anything done. In It's Even Worse Than It Looks, renowned scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein present a grim picture of how party polarization and tribal politics have led Congress -- and the United States...
Recommended by Julian E. Zelizer, and 1 others.

Julian E. ZelizerNorm Ornstein and Thomas Mann are a great team; they’ve been writing and opining about Congress for decades. They’re really easy to listen to and fun to read. They know how to explain what’s going on to a lay audience. Most importantly they’re always very balanced in their coverage. (Source)

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From the 1910 overthrow of Czar Joseph Cannon to the reforms enacted when Republicans took over the House in 1995, institutional change within the U.S. Congress has been both a product and a shaper of congressional politics. For several decades, scholars have explained this process in terms of a particular collective interest shared by members, be it partisanship, reelection worries, or policy motivations. Eric Schickler makes the case that it is actually interplay among multiple interests that determines institutional change. In the process, he explains how congressional institutions have... more
Recommended by Julian E. Zelizer, and 1 others.

Julian E. ZelizerSchickler offers some of the best analytical work that we have on the institution. He shows that to understand Congress you can’t just look at political moment. Disjointed Pluralism looks at different periods of congressional reform—such as the early 20th century, and the 1970s—and shows that during periods of reform, we usually don’t get rid of the system that came before. Reforms are layered on... (Source)

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To understand American politics and government, we need to recognize not only that members of Congress are agents of societal interests and preferences but also that they act with a certain degree of autonomy and consequence in the country’s public sphere. In this illuminating book, a distinguished political scientist examines actions performed by members of Congress throughout American history, assessing their patterns and importance and their role in the American system of separation of powers.

David R. Mayhew examines standard history books on the United States and identifies...
Recommended by Julian E. Zelizer, and 1 others.

Julian E. ZelizerDavid Mayhew is one of the great political scientists in America. The book does a really nice job, for lay people and for experts, of creating categories of the different types of actions that members of Congress have done since the start of the country. Mayhew methodically shows that many of the ideas that become the New Deal came from Robert Wagner, a member of Congress during the 1930s, rather... (Source)

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Master of the Senate

The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson’s brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority... more

Robert GreeneMy favorite bio I've read for my upcoming book. (Source)

James PurnellYes. Perhaps it’s only for the true believers. It is quite an enterprise to read, but compelling partly because Lyndon Johnson was such a beautifully unattractive character. He was a horrible bully who humiliated his staff and who found a way of endearing himself to the oil barons of Texas by launching a McCarthyite campaign, before McCarthy, against the electricity regulator. He ruined this... (Source)

Julian E. ZelizerI always tell people that this is one of the first books you should read if you’re really interested in congressional history. It’s a wonderful book, the third part of Caro’s multi-volume biography of President Lyndon Johnson that focuses on his time as Senate Majority Leader. It’s also a splendid history of the Senate itself. (Source)

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In The Field of Blood, the historian Joanne B. Freeman offers a new and dramatically rendered portrait of American politics in its rowdiest years. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that today's hyperpolarized environment cannot compare with the turbulent atmosphere of the decades before the Civil War, when the U.S. Congress itself was rife with conflict. Legislative sessions were routinely punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slug-fests. Congressmen drew pistols and waved bowie knives at rivals. One representative even killed another... more

Ezra Klein"Field of Blood" is an amazing book that really puts modern politics in perspective. And @jbf1755 is just brilliant — we did a podcast on political violence that I still think about often: https://t.co/RC3KoHkdXx https://t.co/8M7mFXieX0 (Source)

Jeff Stein@jbf1755 Joshua Giddings was the best part of your book (Source)

Julian E. ZelizerThe book’s point is that in the nineteenth century, Congress was an incredibly contentious place. Today, we think the parties can’t get along, but back in the nineteenth century, tensions were so severe that members were physically fighting on the floor of Congress. The book is well-written, and it brings Congress to life through these stories. Freeman conveys the flavor of the floor in a way... (Source)

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