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If you’re trying to make sense of the Capitol riot, read these books


On January 6, the world watched as the US Capitol was attacked by pro-Trump rioters. Since then, each day has been filled with revelations about how it was plotted and carried out. Many are still trying to process the initial shock.

While seeing Confederate and Trump 2020 flags draped all over the Capitol was a shocking sight for some, others were not surprised.

“It was simply the culmination of the past four years under Trump’s presidency,” said librarian Djaz Zulida.

Zulida is a job information resource librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library system. Soon after the riot, the library set out to compile books that would help put this insurrection into perspective.

“While a book list is not the end all, be all as far as resources, this felt like a place where we could begin, a place where we could encourage a conversation, and to filter out some of the noise and give people a little bit of a framework, focusing on a number of different issues,” Zulida said.

Zulida combed through the library’s resources and learned that the library could use more books that discuss the 25th Amendment, which lays out a process for orderly transition of power in the case of death, disability, or resignation of the President. They included “Birch Bayh: Making a Difference,” a book about the man that authored the amendment.

“I assumed, of course, that the amendments are written by politicians,” Zulida said. “But I had no idea that there was one person so specifically, wrapped up in the details of putting together the language and the idea and turning that into a constitutional amendment.”

This is the list of more 30 books they compiled and a description of the book’s relevance to the subject.

“Stupid Wars: A Citizen’s Guide to Botched Putsches, Failed Coups, Inane Invasions, and Ridiculous Revolutions” by Ed Strosser and Michael Prince

A humorous look at epic fails in historical upheavals, putsches, and coups. Looking through a sardonic lens can help us process events that were quite serious and devastating.

“How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives” by David Priess

From the calumny and chaos of John Tyler’s presidency to Andrew Johnson’s drunken swearing-in, the conduct of several Presidents have been less-than stellar.

“Will He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020” by Lawrence Douglas

This book by legal scholar Lawrence Douglas, published in May 2020, addresses what turned out to be the very real fear of a less-than-peaceful transition of power by the 45th president.

“Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump” by David A. Neiwert

This 2017 book reports on the beliefs and conspiracy theories of the so-called ‘alt-right,’ offshoot of conservatism that mix racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism.

“We Should Have Seen It Coming: From Reagan to Trump — A Front-Row Seat to a Political Revolution by Gerald F. Seib

The trajectory of the modern conservative movement and how it evolved into a populist movement that Trump rode to power, written by the executive editor of the Wall Street Journal.

“American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution” by A. Roger Ekrich

A detailed look at political crisis and national identity in the early years of the United States.

“The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents” by Corey Brettschneider

A detailed primer on the important parts of constitutional law dealing with the office of President by a professor of political science at Brown University who teaches constitutional law and politics,

“American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics” by Kathleen Sears

A wide-ranging primer on the actual workings of US government and politics.

“Burning the Reichstag” by Benjamin Carter Hett

This book examines the many accounts of the German Reichstag fire of 1933 that helped solidify Adolf Hitler’s power in Germany. It disputes claims that the fire was perpetrated by one individual as it investigates Nazi involvement as well as looking at how the fire was used to boost the Nazi Party and discredit the Communist Party.

“Birch Bayh: Making a Difference” by Robert Blaemire

A three-term Indiana senator, Bayh helped write the 25th Amendment on presidential disability and succession and the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. He is the only non-Founding Father to author two constitutional amendments.

“Hitler’s First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich” by Peter Fritzsche

Documents the suppression of dissent and dissenters and the ascendance of Nazi power that turned Germany from a divided republic into a one-party dictatorship.

“Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics” by Lawrence O’Donnell

The MSNBC host details the political upheaval, assassinations, and dirty tricks in the 1968 elections.

“Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today” by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson

From gerrymandering to presidential succession, a husband-and-wife team break down some important pieces of the Constitution, examines its flaws and offer some potential solutions.

“A Most Wicked Conspiracy: The Last Great Swindle of the Gilded Age” by Paul Starobin

An examination of the political corruption and greed of party bosses, elected officials and robber barons in America at the turn of the 20th century.

“Surviving Autocracy” by Masha Gessen

Defining autocracy and how close Americans came to autocratic rule during the Trump presidency in informative, concise chapters. The book stems from an essay the author wrote for the New York Review of Books.

“Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office” by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes

The authors, the executive editor and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, detail Trump’s rejection of political norms and expectations for presidential behavior.

“The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President” by Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld

Two Wall Street Journal reporters document questionable actions by Trump before and during his presidency.

“If This Be Treason: The American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal” by Jeremy Duda

Journalist Jeremy Duda examines the line between dissent and treason by looking at several historical moments in which Americans were accused of treason but others found their acts worthy of praise.

“American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery” by Craig Unger

This book explores the kompromat, or compromising information, that Russia may have amassed on major political figures and how Russia may have attempted to target Donald Trump when he was a New York businessman.

“Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House” by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz

The story of Spiro T. Agnew, Nixon’s vice president, and the bribery and extortion ring he ran while in office.

The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation” by Brenda Wineapple

A recounting of President Andrew Johnson’s abuse of executive orders that led to him becoming the first US president to be impeached.

“The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President” by Jill Wine-Banks

The Watergate scandal and Nixon impeachment as told by Jill Wine-Banks, a trial lawyer on the special prosecutor’s Watergate task force.

An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson” by Andro Linklater

Gen. James Wilkinson was charismatic and complicated soldier who fought for the United States in its earliest days yet repeatedly acted against the country and even spied on it.

“Night of Camp David” by Fletcher Knebel

A 1965 novel about an American president coming unhinged and ranting about conspiracies, it was republished in 2018.

“Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide” by Cass R. Sunstein

An accessible primer on impeachment’s past, present, and future.

“The Case for Impeaching Trump” by Elizabeth Holtzman

Attorney, politician, and author Elizabeth Holtzman lays out the requirements for an impeachment and the necessity of one.

How Did We Get Here?: from Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump by Robert Dallek

A historian looks at the personalities and politics from the early 20th century until now and how we’ve arrived in our current political milieu.

“The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America’s Best -— and Worst -— Chief Executives”

A survey of leading historians and presidential biographers on the best and worst of America’s presidents.

“Richard Nixon: The Life” by John A. Farrell

The life and political career of Richard Nixon, the 37th President who resigned before he could be impeached over the Watergate scandal. He remains the only president ever to resign the office.

“The Trial of Adolf Hitler” by David King

The book recounts the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of Adolf Hitler and others for treason after a failed coup attempt in Germany that became known as the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler turned the 1924 trial into a launching pad for himself and the Nazi Party.

“It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, with an introduction by Michael Meyer and a new afterword by Gary Scharnhorst

Lewis’s 1935 novel about fascist presidential candidate Berzelius Windrip and how a US president turns into a dictator.

“1876” by Gore Vidal

Vidal’s historical novel is written in the form of a journal detailing the life of character Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler in the 1870s with a focus on the disputed presidential election of 1876.

“Rutherford B. Hayes” by Trefousse L. Hans

A historian chronicles the disputed 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden.

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