Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

General Description (from
Even before the book was out, its juiciest bits were everywhere: Sarah Palin was serene when chosen for V.P. because it was “God’s plan.” Hillary didn’t know if she could control Bill (duh). Elizabeth Edwards was a shrew, not a saint. Overall, the men from the campaign garner less attention in these anecdote wars than the women and tend to come off better—but only just: Obama, the authors note, can be conceited and windy; McCain was disengaged to the point of recklessness; and John Edwards is a cheating, egotistical blowhard. But, hey, that’s politics, and it’s obvious that authors Heilemann (New York Magazine) and Halperin (Time) worked their sources well—all 200 of them. Some (including the sources themselves) will have trouble with the book’s use of quotes (or lack thereof). The interviews, according to the authors, were conducted “on deep background,” and dialogue was “reconstructed extensively” and with “extreme care.” Sometimes the source of a quote is clear, as when the book gets inside someone’s head, but not always. Many of the book’s events were covered heavily at the time (Hillary’s presumed juggernaut; Michelle Obama’s initial hostility to her husband’s candidacy), but some of what this volume delivers is totally behind-the-scenes and genuinely jaw-dropping, including the revelation that senators ostensibly for Clinton (New York’s Chuck Schumer) pushed hard for Obama. Another? The McCain camp found Sarah Palin by doing computer searches of female Republican officeholders. A sometimes superficial but intensely readable account of a landmark campaign (librarians take note: the exceedingly flimsy binding may reflect the publisher’s haste to rush the book to press). –Ilene Cooper

Why the President Should Read This Book
You could say Obama doesn’t need to read this book because he lived it. But I’m not thinking about Obama, I’m thinking about future Presidents and leaders. As I was reading the book I was struck by the vivid insider perspective. There may be another book out there that has such a perspective, but it’s hard for me to imagine, and there certainly is no other book as recent as this is. If someone wants to know what it’s like to be part of a presidential campaign, or perhaps any major campaign, this book shows it inside and out. And if you’re thinking of running for office, this book should be a real confidence booster, because nobody comes out of this book smelling like roses. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking “Are these really the best people we could find to run this country?!”

Personal Notes
I filed this one under “biographies” because it is biographical in nature, except that it only shows slices of the lives of those involved in the 2008 Presidential campaign. I could have created an “elections” category, but what else would go in there? Or I could have created a “Pure Politics” category, but almost everything could go in there, because for a politician everything is political. In the end, the book “felt” biographical to me, hence it gets filed here.