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Readings and Extra Credit


By the final week of the course, every student should have read at least one of these books: You should be able to find them in the library. For your convenience they are listed here as links to the Barnes and Noble Web site.

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, by Daniel Boorstin... From the Publisher: First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of "pseudo-events" -- events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported -- and the contemporary definition of celebrity as "a person who is known for his well-knownness." Since then Daniel J. Boorstin's prophetic vision of an America inundated by its own illusions has become an essential resource for any reader who wants to distinguish the manifold deceptions of our culture from its few enduring truths.

The Selling of the President, 1968, by Joe McGinniss... From Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek: Shows how a clutch of salesmen, cameramen, and speechwriters adjusted Richard Nixon's image by manipulating television -- or us -- on his behalf....From Brills Content: This 1969 classic showed telvision's power in packaging a politician into a product like a bar of soap. In the 30-plus years since its publication, the book still resonates with what remains the most formidable challenge for a candidate: image control.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman... From the Publisher: Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonfuls of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs. In this eloquent, persuasive book, Neil Postman alerts us to the real and present dangers of this state of affairs, and offers compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media onslaught. Before we hand over politics, education, religion, and journalism to the show business demands of the television age, we must recognize the ways in which the media shape our lives and the ways we can, in turn, shape them to serve out highest goals.

The Power Game: How Washington Works, by Hedrick Smith... From THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW: Power is the name of the game. But until now, no one outside "the beltway" knew just who was wielding how much -- and for what ends. Pulitzer Prize-winning, ex-Washington bureau chief of THE NEW YORK TIMES, Hedrick Smith, tells the whole story. From PACs to influence-peddling from the Pentagon to the WASHINGTON POST, THE POWER GAME reveals Congressional staffers more powerful than their bosses, media advisors more powerful than the media, and money that not only talks but threatens. It's all there, and it's all in here.This is a long book; reading assignment involves just a section, to be assigned.

Hardball: How Politics is Played, by Christopher Matthews... From the author: Let me define terms: hardball is clean, aggressive Machiavellian politics. It is the discipline of gaining and holding power, useful to any profession or undertaking, but practiced most openly and unashamedly in the world of public affairs. When the preceding words first appeared, I had no idea this book would become a classic, that many hard-nosed politicians would employ it as their bible, that CEOs would be caught carrying it in their briefcases, that young people set on bright careers would cherish their tattered copies as if they were treasure maps, that political science professors would assign it as required reading, that the word "hardball" itself would so penetrate the country's vocabulary.

All Politics Is Local: And Other Rules of the Game, by Thomas P. O'Neill and Gary Hymel... i>From the Publisher Tip O'Neill was an American institution, known and loved across the country. In All Politics is Local he shares his secrets. Continuing in the tradition of his best-selling Man of the House, O'Neill's inimitable stories and irresistible style show how politics really works. Each of his rules comes to life with an unforgettable story about presidents, congressmen, or constituents.

Republic of Denial: Press, Politics and Public Life, by Michael Janeway... From the Publisher: This book offers the most insightful critique of the decline of American journalism and politics in decades. Drawing on years of experience in the news business, politics, and government, Michael Janeway shows how profound changes in these worlds relate to each other and to deepening public alienation. Neither the press nor the political system is likely to recover its standing, the author concludes, without taking into account their interrelationship. In a new preface, Janeway discusses recent events that bear out his premise.

There will be an essay question on your final dealing with the book you have chosen to read. The essay question portion of your final exam will be worth more points than one letter grade on that exam (i.e., poor performance would change an "A" to a "B" and could change a very weak "A-" to a "C"), so be sure to do your reading assignment.

Extra Credit Readings

For extra credit you can do a written and oral report on the book you have read. During Class 14 (the class before the Final Exam) I will leave time for as many reports as there are students doing extra credit assignments. In this way, other classmates can share information to be found in these books. Email me at for more information on the structure of your written and oral report.

Extra Credit Grassroots Game Plan

For extra credit you can also do a grassroots campaign game plan. Your game plan should follow the discussion of this subject in class, and should be informed by additional information available to anyone interested in this extra credit assignment. Again, email me at for more information.

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