By Clifford Michel
With the Iowa Caucus less than a year away, both political junkies and those unfamiliar with national politics are beginning to peek their interests as the 2016 elections come into view.
Whether you’re an extreme right conservative or a hardcore Marxist, only good can come out of keeping up with the pop-political culture.
Yes, politics may cause arguments, but at the end of the day it still determines how our public goods are dealt and our dominant ideologies are viewed.
So for those of you that are coming of age in the next election cycle, here are some reads that’ll give you a layered understanding of the American political landscape:
“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn
Zinn’s 2003 best seller fundamentally changed how history is studied and taught in the United States. The book takes an intense focus on the perspective of the common person, instead of the political elites and ideological triumphs.
Zinn begins with the pillages of Columbus and ends with the beginnings of the war on terror.
Though the book is lengthy (well over 600 pages) Zinn’s prose and to-the-point descriptions of the U.S.’s already colorful history is sweet, sharp, and simple.
Zinn also has a knack for causally mixing in names of prominence with little known character traits and historical tidbits, which is always fun.
Few have disagreed with the ideas that Zinn has put forward, but those who have still admit that it’s an extremely original way of observing U.S. history.
While Zinn’s focus may seem a bit distant from the political issues of the day, they strongly reflect the struggles and discourse that Americans have fought for throughout their history and gives an holistic look on how essential public goods came about and how it impacted everyday life.
In 2016, everything from education to fracking will be debated and a firm understanding of our country’s political history and how it affects citizens will be more than useful when you’re watching Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush try to piece together their policy plans.
“World Order” or “On China” by Henry Kissinger
Kissinger, the famed and controversial political scientist who served as both Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, played an extremely prominent role in foreign affairs from 1969-1977. Even today, potential Republican candidates want to be connected to him.
Before getting into his two books, allow me to underscore Kissinger’s past influence and controversies.
When he won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for helping the U.S. withdraw from Vietnam, two judges resigned and another individual who was to share the award with Kissinger refused. His intense trust in pragmatism and realism resulted in non-intervention during a military coup of Chile and a genocide in Bangladesh.
In “On China” Kissinger assesses what is probably the most important relationship in the world as well as the risks that accompany dealing with a nondemocratic regime. Kissinger’s experience with China expands far past his official post in government and he offers tons of details on this complex–but ultimately essential–partnership.
“World Order” is the more recent of Kissinger’s two books and some argue that it’s the elderly statesmen’s final attempt to be considered as an asset to those in power and flex his insight and experience.
His ploy may’ve not been successful, but the book sure has. “World Order” tip-toes through the increasingly global world we live in. Kissinger leads the reader through countless examples of how international affairs affects different countries and how there will probably never be true world order.
Putting aside Kissinger’s stark stances on certain political matters, Kissinger’s two books gives a grounded portrayal of foreign affairs in both theory and reality.
No, this isn’t a critically acclaimed book. This is me, telling you (reader) to avoid any presidential candidate’s novel at all costs. Just save yourself the 400 to 500 pages of propaganda and fake introspective reflections