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Your Capitol Hill Summer Reading List

From a congressional whodunit to lawmaker memoirs to Civil War time travel

California Sen. Barbara Boxer writes about the difference between toughness and anger in her latest book, "The Art of Tough." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
California Sen. Barbara Boxer writes about the difference between toughness and anger in her latest book, "The Art of Tough." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It turns out Ben Rhodes isn’t the only aspiring author in #‎ThisTown . More than a few Washington authors got their start drafting bills on Capitol Hill before trying for a best-seller. From former Hill staffers to party leaders to a congressman who calls himself only “X,” here are a few of the latest reads from authors with Capitol Hill ties for your summer recess reading pleasure.

The Art of Tough,’ by Barbara Boxer

No woman makes it through more than three decades in national politics without being tough and Boxer’s latest book lays out all the gritty details. Part memoir, part motivational manual, Boxer recounts her career in Congress and defines “the art of tough,” including knowing when to stand your ground and how to know the difference between toughness and anger. Boxer even kicks off the book with few choice quotes from her harshest critics, including: “[Barbara Boxer] is quite possibly the biggest doofus to ever enter the Senate chamber, including janitorial staff, pizza delivery kids, and carpenter ants.” Read the book to understand the context — you’ll be glad you did.

Duplicity,’ by Newt Gingrich

The former House Speaker teams up with Pete Earley on Gingrich’s latest — a political thriller with a female president, a charismatic billionaire challenger declaring, “It’s time for America,” and an evolving terrorist threat against the country that plays out at an American outpost in Africa. Sound familiar? Throw in a female Marine as the hero and a Somali-American congressional candidate, and you’ve got a page-turning beach read from the Hill’s most famous former backbencher.

The Other Side of Life,’ by Andy Kutler

Kutler worked for eight years as a Senate staffer before going on to the Secret Service as a senior policy adviser and eventually life as a part-time author with his award-winning debut novel. The book opens at the outset of Word War II, when Naval officer Mac Kelsey is gravely wounded aboard the USS Nevada in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Slowly dying, Kelsey is transported to another time and place, with a Union cavalry regiment on the eve of the American Civil War. Even if you think historical fiction with a twist of time travel isn’t your genre, Kutler’s meticulous research and detailed writing will take you along for the ride. And who knew legislative staffers have such elaborate imaginations?

The Long Game,’ by Mitch McConnell

The Senate majority leader’s new memoir has already made headlines for mocking President Barack Obama as a condescending know-it-all and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid as a rhetorically challenged “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” But the real story of the book is how a polio-stricken two-year old in Alabama grew up to become one of the most powerful men in the country. Without the gifts of family money, movie star looks or obvious charisma, McConnell rose through the national ranks of the GOP with patience, diligence and a readiness to dogfight anyone he needed to. It’s a rare look inside McConnell’s thinking and a hard-won lesson in what it takes to win the long game in Washington.

Homicide in the House,’ by Colleen Shogan

A government shutdown, a lightweight chief of staff and a murdered House leadership staffer — what’s not to love? This is the second book in Shogan’s three-part mystery series that started with a stabbing in the Senate and now makes its way across the Capitol plaza for a House-side whodunit. When she’s not writing murder mysteries, Shogan is a top executive at the Library of Congress. But she got her insider knowledge of hideaways and hearings the old-fashioned way — as a staffer to former Sen. Joe Lieberman. Where she got the idea to make the Speaker’s gavel the murder weapon in this fast-moving caper we’ll never know.

The Confessions of Congressman X,’ by ‘Congressman X’

Speaking of mysteries, “Congressman X” is the nameless Democratic House member behind this scathing takedown of life behind the curtain on Capitol Hill. Among the gems of wisdom Rep. X shares: “Seniority sucks;” “My main job is to keep my job;” and “Election campaigns are a pain in the a–, unless I win, in which case it’s a nice ego boost.” Not since “Anonymous” wrote “Primary Colors” has Washington been so obsessed with figuring out who wrote a piece of semi-fiction, but the real mystery is how such a charmer got elected to Congress in the first place.  

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy

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