Sex, Lies & Politics: 11 Novels to Read On Election Day

In many ways, the 2016 election has been just like a bestselling novel: larger-than-life characters, unbelievable scenarios, heroes, villains, unexpected twists, and drama that’s impossible to look away from. But at Off the Shelf, we know that real-life politics can sometimes get a bit tiresome. So, we’ve created this list of historical, humorous, and thrilling fiction to give you a political fix when the news becomes just a little too much.

by Tom Perrotta

While many of us only pay attention to elections that happen every four years, much smaller ones occur every day. Tom Perrotta’s hilariously unsettling tale of Winwood High’s most ambitious candidate, Tracy Flick (adapted into a cult classic starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick), is a great exploration of adolescence and the political system at work on a smaller scale.

Act of Treason
by Vince Flynn

Vince Flynn is one of the most iconic thriller writers of our time, and this explosive adventure cements his place in the canon. A horrific explosion occurs in Washington a month before the election, and CIA agent Mitch Rapp is in charge of tracking down the culprit. As Rapp begins to uncover details of the attack, he realizes that the motive may have been more personal than political.

Echo House
by Ward Just

ECHO HOUSE follows three generations of the Behls family, Washington power brokers who rise, fall, and try to maintain their influence as the world changes around them. This saga spans almost a century of American politics as the Behls run for office, fall out of favor, and cross paths with those who will make history.

Madam President
by Nicolle Wallace

Charlotte Kramer is the 45th President of the United States and the first woman to ever be elected to the highest office in the land. Just as a documentary film crew has been given access to her every move, five major terrorist attacks occur on US soil. This page-turner follows Kramer and her staff as they juggle national security, personal drama, and the reporters on their trail in the midst of chaos.

All the King’s Men
by Robert Penn Warren

A classic of American literature, Robert Penn Warren’s masterpiece tells the story of Willie Stark, a back-country lawyer whose idealism is soon overtaken by his lust for power. Willie builds support by appealing to the common man but begins to wander into the world of dirty politics and questionable ethics.

O: A Presidential Novel
by Anonymous

A PRIMARY COLORS for the modern age, this political page-turner focuses on Cal Regan, the president’s campaign manager, who throws himself at the media, the opposition, and the White House press corps as the 2012 election is kicked into high gear. The author spent years observing politics and delivers revealing portraits of many prominent contemporary figures.

Primary Colors
by Anonymous with Joe Klein

This novel made a splash when it was published, because no one could figure out who had written it. It’s a brilliant behind-the-scenes look at modern politics—with characters who resemble real-life politicians—as seen through the eyes of a congressional aide who watches a Southern governor mix sincerity and strategy in his run for the presidency.

American Wife
by Curtis Sittenfeld

Loosed basely on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush, AMERICAN WIFE is the story of a bookish girl from Wisconsin who marries the charismatic son of a powerful political dynasty and finds herself on the road to the White House. When her husband becomes the most powerful man in the world, she struggles to reconcile her personal views, public persona, and private life.

The White House Mess
by Christopher Buckley

THE WHITE HOUSE MESS is the fictional political memoir of Herbert Wadlough, the personal assistant to President Tucker, whose administration runs from 1989–1993. Through Herbert’s eyes, we see the dysfunction of the Tucker White House, from staff infighting to the president’s troubled marriage—and amazingly, it’s all hilarious.

Washington, D.C.
by Gore Vidal

The final book in Vidal’s Narratives of Empire collection can be read independently of the others, but it is a stunning culmination of the six-volume series if you have the time to read from the beginning. Stretching from the New Deal to the McCarthy era, the story follows three young men in the media, Senate, and House of Representatives as they navigate the ambition and corruption of our nation’s capital.

Dewey Defeats Truman
by Thomas Mallon

A triumph of political historical fiction, Thomas Mallon’s novel is a retelling of the 1948 presidential election, where Harry Truman upset Thomas E. Dewey. As the story switches focus between two candidates vying for the public’s affections and two suitors vying for the heart of a young girl in Dewey’s home state of Michigan, it’s a perfectly woven tapestry about our country on the micro and macro levels.