Five Incredible Books About Real-Life Political Scandals

After seeing the trailers for the most recent series of American Crime Story, which centres on the Monica Lewinsky, and I couldn’t help but think about the impact that the scandal had on the world, both in terms of politics and popular culture.

Monica Lewinsky has become a byword for risky sex in the music scene, but in literature she is the perfect example of a young woman who finds herself faced with sexual harassment and contempt in a political arena.

The scandal has been covered extensively in books, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was at University, I read a fair few books about the scandal, and about other political disasters that have helped to shape the world that we live in today.

Real-life political scandals are a fascinating way to learn more about a society and the values that it holds dear, as well as the ways that it holds its politicians accountable for their transgressions.

If you’re eager to check out some intriguing non-fiction books about political scandals, some of which you may have heard of and want to know more about, and some that you might never had heard about before, then here’s a list of five awesome texts to start you off.

I’ve tried to choose books from political arenas and authors from around the world, so there’s something for everyone, wherever you’re from and whatever aspect of politics you’re interested in learning more about. This list is just a brief intro: hopefully it’ll wet your appetite and get you wanting more books about real-life political scandals.

5. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?: Vladimir Putin is one of the world’s worst living dictators who has caused incredible hurt to minorities and wealthy oligarchs alike. While his rule over Russia is not one specific scandal, but rather one long-running grift, this book is still about the evil that this disgusting man has committed and the lasting legacy that he will leave on Russia, the USA and the rest of the world. Russian Scholar and Writer Karen Dawisha uses a variety of different sources, including insiders from Putin’s regime, Stasi archives, newspapers, journalists and more to put together a comprehensive overview of the impact that Putin’s regime has had. The book was published in 2014, so it is slightly dated, but it’s still a very well-researched insight into how Putin’s Russia has affected the global stage and had an impact on the lives of individual citizens as well.

4. A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President: The book that inspired the latest series of American Crime Story is definitely worth a read if you want to learn more about how Bill Clinton’s affair with a young member of the White House staff destroyed his political power and ruined the trust that the American people once had in their leader. Initially published in 1999, not long after the impeachment trial that bought the scandal to light, Jeffrey Toobin’s book is a full overview of the allegations made by Paula Jones and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The book has since been updated and expanded to include more information on how the scandal evolved and developed over time. Toobin offers a complete timeline of the allegations and how they led to Clinton’s impeachment and the legal ramifications of his actions, both those that can be proved and those that were alleged. It’s an intriguing read that will give you a complete account of the scandal that you can’t really find elsewhere.

3. No Expense Spared: The UK’s MP expenses scandal almost tore Gordon Brown’s cabinet apart with its wild allegations of immense greed during a time of economic austerity for the rest of the country. Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner were the Telegraph journalists who led a team of reporters who studied the expense reports and eventually broke the story, so their book is a first-hand account of how they came to realise the true scope of the information they had and how the story changed the way that the British public views its politicians. The book covers everything from the funnier side of the expenses reports, such as the costly duck house and moat cleaning through to the tales of house flipping, downright lies and fraud, all in an engaging and understandable way. The writers break down the scandal and explain the impact it had on the UK’s political world and what has changed since the scandal broke.

2. No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison: This incredible autobiography by Behrouz Boochani is brilliant and poetic even before you learn the true cost to the writer that the book came at. It was written on a phone as WhatsApp messages and was smuggled out of the prison to be translated and then published. Following on from the recent American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a rise in prejudice against refugees of that country and many others, this book about the writer’s desperate journey to Christmas Island and subsequent imprisonment in a facility run by the Australian government on Manus Island is a timely reminder that displaced people are not the enemy. It is a deeply human and heartbreaking tale that is all the more vivid and scary because it’s entirely true.

1. The Man Who Sold America: Joy-Ann Reid’s incredible book is a timely reminder of how the Trump administration worked to profit from the presidency and privatise as much as possible before his defeat in the 2020 election. The book, written before the election and updated later, gives an in-depth insight into America’s national accounts and how Trump and his cronies plundered them. It also explores how the former president made it clear that America was for sale and the ways in which he desperately tried to buy foreign favour before he was ousted. If you’re interested in a very recent political scandal and how it could impact the future of what was once the greatest nation in the world then this could be the book for you.

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