When I picked up this book, I had my doubts.  The Whole Damn Deal: Robert  Strauss and the Art of Politics (PublicAffairs, $29.99) is about political rainmaker Robert Strauss, and the author, Kathryn F. McGarr is his great-niece. Then I started reading. And I couldn’t stop. Not only is Strauss endlessly interesting (especially to those of us who suffered through the Democratic Party’s struggles and triumphs in the late 20th century), his great-niece is a terrific researcher who knows how to weave a tale. She is a young Stanford grad and aspiring historian whose book grew out of her studies at Columbia Journalism School. And while she can’t conceal her affection for the man she is writing about, she refused to give him editorial license, working hard to maintain her literary independence without severing her family ties. The end result is a fascinating—and highly entertaining—chronicle of one of Washington’s most skillful, colorful, and irrepressible players. One can’t help wondering after reading this book: What if Bob Strauss were pulling America’s political strings today?

The Whole Damn Deal: Robert Strauss and the Art of Politics Cover Image
ISBN: 9781586488772
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: PublicAffairs - October 11th, 2011

In Ron Suskind’s thorough depiction of the financial and political worlds of the first years of the Obama administration, he says that “confidence is the public face of competence.  Separating the two—gaining the trust without earning it—is the age-old work of confidence men.” This simple statement lays bare the themes Suskind explores in Confidence Men (HarperCollins, $29.99), his fast-paced, highly detailed investigation of the inner workings of Washington D.C. and New York City since the financial crisis of 2008. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer introduces us to numerous characters—predominantly male, boorish, and sexist—who once confidently acted as masters of the universe, yet were brought down to Earth by the recent financial shake-up. Be grateful there are journalists like Suskind to give us insight into what happened and why.

Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061430466
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Harper Perennial - June 19th, 2012

For those who read the initial installments of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (Little, Brown, $27.99) in The Washington Post, this book offers an even more extensive, astonishing, alarming, and ultimately dismaying look at the growth of America’s classified world. Authors Dana Priest and William M. Arkin go beyond startling statistics about the rising numbers of security clearances, intelligence reports, and mysterious office complexes to provide case after case documenting the bloat and chaos of the security state. Among the issues they examine are the proliferation of government anti-terrorism programs, the wasteful redundancy of Northern Command, the adoption by local law-enforcement of programs and equipment originally developed to fight terrorists, and the admission by several top intelligence and military officials that even they don’t fully grasp all the programs under their responsibility. In fact, one of the most revealing aspects of the book is how many of those involved in this secret world are themselves upset about all the duplicative or necessary programs.

Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316182201
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - September 11th, 2012