1948 – Truman v. Dewey The Naked and the Dead Norman Mailer
In 1948, while continuing his studies at the University of Paris, Mailer published his first, The Naked and the Dead, based on his military service in World War II. A New York Times best-seller for 62 weeks, it was hailed by many as one of the best American wartime novels and named as one of the “one hundred best novels in English language” by the Modern Library.
1956 – Eisenhower v. Stevenson The Organization Man: The Book That Defined a Generation William H Whyte
In light of the perceived decline of American society Whyte’s doubts were prescient to say the least. Regarded as one of the most important sociological and business commentaries of modern times, “The Organization Man” developed the first thorough description of the impact of mass organization on American society. During the height of the Eisenhower administration, corporations appeared to provide a blissful answer to postwar life with the marketing of new technologies, television, affordable cars, space travel, fast food and lifestyles.
1960 – JFK v. Nixon To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is ostensibly a novel about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s Southern United States. However its moral stance—through Atticus—and practical conclusions—through Scout—have given it an unique position in US literature and society. Surprising then that Ms. Lee’s only other book, Go Set a Watchman, is widely considered to be a first draft of Mockingbird and was released shortly before her death and painted a much darker picture of the main protagonists.
1968 – Humphrey v. Nixon Sun Signs Linda Goodman
This was the height of the Sixties cultural revolution: Haight Ashbury, hippies, free love, alternatives and, of course… astrology. Everybody and their brother were into the planetary configurations that made you who you were and how the main influence, your sun sign put you in one of twelve convenient pigeon holes. Over two million copies sold made it seem like at least two million ‘experts’ at every party you went to. Happy days indeed when all you needed was love and this horoscopic bible.
1996 – Clinton v. Dole Primary Colors Anonymous
In a presidential election year that seems like no other, this barely disguised, but fictional, account of President Clinton’s 1992 campaign and every outsider’s battle with the Establishment, was a NYT best-seller for months with the author’s identity the subject of many a Georgetown soiree. It turned out to be veteran journalist Joe Klein. Well worth the read for an insider’s insider view of why anybody who expresses the least desire to be a politician should be barred for life.
2000 – Bush v. Gore White Teeth Zadie Smith
In an election year when every thinking person questioned the ‘rightness’ of the world, along came Zadie Smith to make you realize we are in fact on the right path and, as evidenced by the madness of the current election cycle, we have to keep our eyes on the future and our lives out of the hands of the knuckledraggers. Her first novel was met with universal critical acclaim, comparisons with Dickens and Rushdie, and appreciation from literary lovers worldwide while topping best-seller lists.