If, like many of us, the gifts you receive for the holidays are usually based on the slim amount of knowledge your friends, relatives and clients know about ‘The Real You,’ you have long since exhausted the useful items branded with your favorite sports team logo, single-use kitchen items and booze or booze-consumption-related items.
So how about that next tier of gifts for the discerning campaign professional: books. If reading something longer than a tweeted headline is still your thing, you may find yourself on the receiving end of ‘An Important Book’ this holiday season. For those searching for the right one to gift, let us be your Rudolph.
Herein we’ll try to winnow the list from Bill O’Reilly alt-history and Ron Chernow’s bio-of-someone-who-is-important to something that may provide you insight into how to be better at your job. The first tier here is undoubtedly ‘Books By People We Know,’ and this year you have several boffo selections, including but not limited to:
Forget The Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Jason Stanford, Bryan Burrough and Chris Tomlinson. As many of you know, Jason is one of the best people in the business and his book does not disappoint. Alamo and the reaction to it encapsulate much of the discourse in 2021 America. Receiving and reading this will allow you to form your own opinion on the contents before scheduling a knee jerk Facebook response.
Another recent one is Sasha Issenberg’s door stopper about the fight to legalize gay marriage, The Engagement, which is a book about how to change hearts and minds over the long run masquerading as a history of a social movement. Or maybe it’s an extension of the themes explored in his other campaigns book, The Victory Lab. You would be hard pressed to find an author in America who better understands the mechanics of campaigns.
And we cannot forget Chuck Rocha’s Tio Bernie, which is about the last Bernie Sanders campaign for president, as well as Chuck’s personal journey as a self-described “Mexican Redneck” busting into the hallowed halls of power and demanding a seat at the table.
Honorable Mention (only because it’s not brand new in ’21) is Rick Ridder’s Looking For Votes in All The Wrong Places, which manages to encapsulate the simultaneous feelings of “There’s really no blueprint for what we do,” and “You’re not gonna believe this shit” endemic to a career in campaigns.
This also goes for Bob Shrum’s No Excuses, which is akin to a book by Marv Levy or Mark Richt – someone who reached the peak of their profession without having won the big one. Still, you can learn a lot, if you’re willing to read it with a fresh perspective.
Raymond Strother’s mostly forgotten bio Falling Up is the best type of Horatio Alger book, and gives further insight into how the world of political consulting has changed and grown since the middle of the 20th Century.
Apparently during the Ford/Carter/Reagan era there was a fascination with political consultants, and not just with ones on the level of today’s celebrity strategists like Carville, Axelrod, Rove or Parscale. In fact, that fascination led to a series of books such as The New Kingmakers, which looks at the men (they’re all men) who led the top-tier campaigns of that era.
But if you’re looking for something that can make everyone you know in the advertising side of the business better, scour eBay or a local bookseller and find The Responsive Chord by Tony Schwartz. An eccentric mad man from Manhattan, this book was recommended to me by both Joe Slade White (may he rest in power) and Chris Mottola – two guys who were the best of the best for their respective sides when it comes to ad making.
Each of these selections is sure to pique your interest a little further than, say, Kayleigh McEnany’s memoir or the Bob Woodward and Bob Costa joint work about President Trump.
David Mowery, aka The Chairman, is Founder of Mowery Consulting Group based in Montgomery, AL. He is the host of The Now More Than Ever Podcast available on iTunes and wherever fine pods are purveyed.