Democracy the Novel

Slate readers pick their favorite political book.

Democracy: An American Novel

The readers have spoken. Last week, prompted by the release of the anonymously authored O: A Presidential Novel, I listed my favorite political novels and asked readers to share theirs. I had picked Washington, D.C.; The Best Man; and Advise and Consent. I knew my list was inadequate and wanted your help filling out my bookshelf, or at least helping me seem more learned around the office, which is a constant battle.

Your clear favorite was Democracy, by Henry Adams. Written in 1880, it proves my point that we must reach pretty far back into history to find a decent tale about Washington. Readers said that the book captures the conflict of interests and struggle for power that has the city locked up so tight to this day.

Like O, Democracy was published anonymously, and the mystery of its authorship lasted for almost 40 years. It was only until Adams died that his publisher revealed that the author of one of the great nonfiction works of all time History of the United States During the Jefferson and Madison Administrations could also write compelling fiction.

Things have changed. The anonymity of the author of O didn’t last a week. That’s if Time magazine’s Mark Halperin is correct. He reports that Mark Salter, a former close aide to John McCain, is the author of the book. The publisher boasted that the book was written by someone who “was in the room with President Obama.” By this standard I will soon be writing a thinly veiled authoritative novel about Bob Dylan.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. Runner-up choices included Thank You for Smoking, Christopher Buckley’s comic novel about a tobacco lobbyist (which was made into a film), Seven Days inMay, a thriller also made into a film about a military plot to overthrow the president, Echo House, the story of three generations of a powerful Washington family, and Gore Vidal’s Burr about one of the most infamous founders.

In the coming months, the Slate Political Gabfest will hold an audio book club on Democracy. Stay tuned for details.

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