2010. HarperCollins. Hardcover. 448 pages.
From: the public library
In a nutshell:
In Game Change, political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin give a behind-the-scenes account of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, from the primaries to the general election. Their account is drawn from interviews they conducted with campaign staffers immediately after the primaries and then again after the general election.
Despite my current residency in the D.C. metropolitan area, I am not a de facto political junkie. I keep up with current events fairly well, mostly by listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and checking in with Google News aggregate headlines during the day – but I am not an avid follower of political news stories.
So when I read Game Change in October of this year, the insider stuff was mostly new to me. I remembered many of the gaffes and controversies and major moments and it was cool to revisit them again, but this time from the perspective of the campaign offices.
When I’ve read other reviews of Game Change, “gossipy” is a word that comes up often. The authors describe near the start of the book their efforts to corroborate what they were told, but I still took everything with a grain of salt. That said, it was dishy, turn-the-page fun. I read an excerpt to my roommate early on, and this turned into me reading aloud almost entire chapters to her at a time.
I mean, anyone running for President has to have an ego, and when you have all those egos crashing around, there’s going to be tantrums and fallouts. And then the nature of the beast, is that your friends – who happen to be politicians and influential people – may very well throw in their lot with your opponent. The stakes are high, the variables of a successful campaign are many, and the world is watching. It’s a miserable business and you wonder why anyone does this. So reading Game Change while the United States gears up for its next election was actually very timely.
The authors write entertainingly without seeming to give in to sensationalism. Occasionally there was a metaphor or colloquialism that went over my head (and that of my roommate’s), but then there would be a turn of phrase or concise summation of a moment that would be just perfect. Also, all the campaign staff got muddled together in my head, and I couldn’t always remember their titles or background unless I looked them up in the index. If I was a political junkie, this probably would not have been a problem.
This was the right nonfiction book at the right time for me. I swore after Zeitoun that I was taking a break from harrowing nonfiction for the rest of the year. And while Game Change is not a lightweight book as it certainly provoked several engaged discussions with my roommate, its fast-paced, tidbit-filled narrative was a boost for me.
Excerpts from other reviews:
A Novel Menagerie – “I found NO excitement, joy, or pleasure in reading this political rubbish.”
Bookchickdi – “It is also must-reading for anyone who is engaged in current events, and it puts into question whether the complicated primary process in its current form is the best way to elect the most important office in the land.”
Unruly Reader – “For narrative nonfiction junkies, this book is pure pleasure. For political junkies, same thing. “