The 2016 campaign season is in full swing already, but it's still a long way until Election Day. Why not fill your time until then reading a few great political books? Cosmopolitan.com asked campaign and political consultants on both sides of the aisle to name their favorites and compiled this list of must-reads. With these memoirs, analyses, how-tos, and political biographies, you'll not only feel better informed about women in the political sphere, you just may be inspired to launch a campaign of your own.
If you want to run for office:
Running for Office: The Strategies, Techniques and Messages Modern Political Candidates Need to Win Elections, Ronald Faucheux
Touted by political consultants as the definitive guide to prepping a campaign run, Faucheux's book is the basic handbook for every line item on the to-do list — from deciding why you want to be a candidate to figuring out how much staff you will hire and what sort of funds you need to raise — all before you plan your first foray into elected office.
Every Day Is Election Day: A Woman's Guide to Winning Any Office, From the PTA to the White House, Rebecca Sive
Any person can run for office — it just takes dedication and prep work. Sive explains the obstacles women candidates in particular face, such as being seen as too aggressive or emotional or not assertive enough, and how to overcome those hurdles, whatever office you have in mind. Sive offers numerous examples of women who have successfully navigated campaigns at all levels of government to inspire future politicians to do the same.
Off the Sidelines: Speak Up, Be Fearless, Change the World, Kirsten Gillibrand
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's goal in her political memoir isn't just to get more women into elected office, but to help them find their own paths to becoming more actively involved in standing up for policies that directly impact women in their everyday lives. It offers the type of advice any woman can take up whether she wants to be a politician, an activist, or just get more involved in her local community.
Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities, and More Opportunity for Women, The Independent Women's Forum
Conservative leaders have their own vision for a better government and are recruiting women to actively engage in making it a reality. In this book, the team of female policy experts from the Independent Women's Forum explain how cutting taxes, promoting school choice, and providing more private health care and education options can lead to more opportunities for women and their families to thrive.
Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead, Madeleine Kunin
Through a series of interviews with women leaders like House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Susan Collins, this former Vermont governor uses the stories of former and current female politicians and activists to encourage and inspire other women to break through any real or imagined hurdles stopping them from running for office.
If you want to read political commentary:
Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for Women, Rebecca Traister
With Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Sarah Palin in the race, the 2008 election offered more presidential ticket female contenders than ever before, and some of the worst sexism in politics yet. Traister's book analyzes the election through a feminist lens, focusing on female candidates and their treatment in the media, the role of women pundits in the coverage, and her own personal thoughts about the rampant sexism during that election cycle.
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America, Melissa Harris-Perry
The professor and MSNBC host writes a must-read on how the negative stereotypes of African American women have been used to rein in their political and social power. With its analysis of "shame" as a form of social control and the double-edged sword that is the depiction of the "strong black woman," Harris-Perry's book provides a resource for dismantling the tactics used to silence women of color.
Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism From Suffrage Through the Rise of the New Right, Catherine Rymph
In recent years, the GOP have elected more female politicians than ever before, even while facing accusations that its platform is increasingly anti-woman. But is the Republican Party really waging a "war on women," as critics claim, and if so, is this a recent development? Rymph details the long and complicated history of the feminist struggle within the Republican Party and shows that the GOP's relationship with its own female party members has been a constantly evolving one.
Notes From the Cracked Ceiling, Anne Kornblut
Can a woman win the White House? Political reporter Kornblut says maybe, but in her book, she details the many ways in which both Hillary Clinton's and Sarah Palin's candidacies faltered and failed. The book features insight from female politicians on both sides of the aisle about where the campaigns went wrong and what women really need in order to finally break through into the most powerful elected office in the world.
If you want to be inspired by current political voices:
Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, Lilly Ledbetter
Paycheck fairness is a right, and all people, regardless of gender, should get equal pay for equal work. In this book, Lilly Ledbetter, the woman behind the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, tells her own story of pay discrimination and how she fought to end it.
My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
Sotomayor went from growing up in a housing project in the Bronx in New York to becoming a member of the highest court in the land. In her inspiring biography, she candidly discusses overcoming her childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic and how her dream to be a girl detective like Nancy Drew eventually put her on the path to becoming the Supreme Court's first female Hispanic justice.
Condoleezza Rice: An American Life: A Biography, Elisabeth Bumiller
Although not a memoir, the biography ties together the same threads as Rice's own two books, from her upbringing in the highly segregated South to her role as secretary of state during the politically charged Bush years, creating a fascinating narrative of one woman breaking through multiple barriers to find her own power.
If you want a look at historical women in politics:
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, Jill Lepore
Few people know that founding father Ben Franklin's biggest influencer was actually his sister, Jane. In Lepore's historical work, you can witness Jane navigating the limited role of a woman in early American history in part through correspondence with her brother.
Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists, Jean Baker
Women's right to vote in the United States is less than a century old. Baker's approachable book gives a brief overview of the five most prominent American suffragettes and details both their public and private efforts to bring gender equality to the voting booth.
Senator Hattie Caraway: An Arkansas Legacy, Nancy Hendricks
Few people can name the country's first female senator, and that's a shame. But while Caraway may have first gotten her seat due to her husband's death, she won it back by becoming a formidable politician.
The Woman Behind the New Deal, Kristin Downey
Before there was Elizabeth Warren, Frances Perkins was the original champion for the economic stability of the common American. The country's first female Cabinet secretary, she was the quintessential groundbreaker for work/family balance, even in the middle of the Great Depression. Through this book, Downey brings Perkins's political legacy back to the spotlight where it belongs.
Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, Linda Hirshman
What could be better than a biography about the first female Supreme Court justice? A biography about the first two female Supreme Court justices, of course. The book examines how, despite being appointed from different sides of the aisle, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked together in a male-dominated court to serve as the voice for equality and opportunity for women.
If you want to hear from political insiders:
Why Women Should Rule the World, Dee Dee Myers
A White House press secretary in the early years of the Clinton administration, Myers was the first woman to ever hold this position. She even became the inspiration for CJ Cregg of The West Wing. In her best-selling memoir, she explains why women should be in charge of pretty much everything, but especially the government.
All's Fair: Love, War and Running for President, Mary Matalin and James Carville
When a Republican strategist and a Democratic strategist get married, you would expect them to fight like cats and dogs. Instead, they wrote a book together that delves into both sides of the party divide when it comes to campaigning and politics.
What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era, Peggy Noonan
As campaign season continues, the Republican candidates will be talking about former President Ronald Reagan incessantly. In Noonan's memoir, she shares the personal details of being one of the first female speechwriters in the Oval Office and working intimately with Reagan, offering unique insight into the president so many GOP politicians say is their inspiration.