As we gear up for the 2020 presidential election and all that it brings — debates, attack ads, smear campaigns, candidate videos, kissing babies, and yard signs. As someone who worked very closely with politics as a journalist and now works in a non-political field, I am actually looking for ways to bring politics back in. Crazy, I know. Writing for FFL is a great way to do this, but I’m a big reader, and I LOVE finding an election in the book I’m reading–whether it’s a presidential race, a school board, the town council, whatever. I think we can learn a lot about an author by how they write about elections and we can learn a lot about how our society operates by whether or not we like those representations on the page. 

At the same time though, I like fiction books because of the new stories that take me away from modern politics. These five books all feature elections but also interesting stories and characters that will provide a good respite from real-life politics while still providing a little political punch. 

Red, White & Royal BlueWhen his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? 

The Casual VacancyWhen Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Hartsburg, USAHartsburg, Ohio, is a vintage rust-belt town on the wane; the factories and foundries are closed. And as the local cineplex gives way to yet another fundamentalist church, an ideological turf war has begun. Oppressed by a dominant culture hostile to her values, born-again Christian mom Bevy Baer decides to run for a spot on the school board. Her plucky door-to-door campaign finds trouble when it runs into Wallace Cormier. A failed Hollywood screenwriter who has returned to his hometown to raise his daughter and churn out an uninspired newspaper column, Cormier fears that he’s gone soft. When Bevy knocks on his door, he decides to fight for his town and his beliefs. But has he jumped in over his head? Signs are posted, debates scheduled, sausage-making contests endured…and then big-time political advisers get involved. Soon Cormier and Bevy find themselves in a passionate, nationally televised, tooth-and-nail battle that leaves voters wondering which candidate, if either, is on the side of the angels. It’s red versus blue, Christian versus atheist, and the future of the country―or at least of one town and two families―seems to hang in the balance.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state. Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

Election Tracy Flick wants to be President of Winwood High. She’s one of those ambitious girls who finds time to do it all: edit the yearbook, star in the musical, sleep with her English teacher. But another teacher, staunch idealist Jim McAllister (aka “Mr. M.”), thinks the students deserve better. So he persuades Paul Warren—a well-liked, good-hearted jock—to throw in his hat. But that puts Paul’s sister, Tammy, in a snit. So she runs, too, on an apathy platform—before starting a real campaign…to get herself kicked out of school. Tammy’s upset because her secret, forbidden love has been lured away…by her own brother. Tracy’s upset because losing this election might screw up her college chances. Mr. M.’s upset because ever since he embarked on his own extramarital affair, his life’s been falling apart. As for Paul, well, he’s not sure what’s going on. The whole idea was to educate these suburban New Jersey teenagers in the democratic process and the American way. But with all the sex scandals, smear campaigns, and behind-the-scenes power brokers at Winwood High, it doesn’t look as if they need any lessons.

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member