Donald Trump and Melania Trump

The Donald Trump Circus is in town, meaning every news article, angry tweet and Facebook update from your Mum over the next three days is likely to include a picture of the US president.

Will he embarrass the Queen? Will he see the baby blimp? Will he pop out for a Big Mac with Nigel Farage and get milkshaked? Whatever happens during Donald Trump’s UK visit, it will be reported - and meme’d - from every corner.

Of course, to get a real insight into this unconventional presidency, what you need is a book – and the Trump white house has been great at inspiring those, if little else. From scalding portraits of a White House in turmoil to sobering insights into the future of democracy to the recollections of the First Lady forced to welcome Trump on her way out, this reading list will help you cut through the froth and get to the heart of the most hair-raising chapter in modern American politics. 

1. House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger

Of all the controversies to dog Trump’s political life, the extent of his ties to Russia have been the hardest to shake off with just another rally or incendiary tweet. In this follow up to 2004’s House of Bush, House of Saud, which detailed worrying links between the Bush dynasty and Saudi Arabi post-9/11, veteran reporter Craig Unger attempts to unpick what we do know about the President’s relationship with the Russian strongman he openly admires. Like Mueller, Unger’s findings are inconclusive but utterly fascinating.

2. A Year At The Circus by Jon Sopel

Few British observers have been as up close to the Trump presidency as Jon Sopel, the BBC’s indefatigable North America editor. Sopel’s second book on the 45th POTUS – following from 2017’s If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's America – focuses on how Trump is impacting iconic American institutions, including, of course, his fractious relationship with the press. Consider this your Englishman’s view into the chaos.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s insistence that “when they go low, we go high” became a rallying call for decency as Trump’s bombastic, sneering style of politics swept through Washington. No wonder her memoir – which includes a revealing account of her eight years as one the most popular First Ladies in history - was such a sensation. Inevitably, Trump features, as an understandably furious Obama remembers how his “crazy and mean-spirited” birther conspiracy put her family’s safety at risk. The must-read book of 2019.

4. Trump and Me by Mark Singer

This extended New Yorker profile of Trump, first published in 1997, is an early, highly entertaining attempt to discover what motivates a man who at the time was just the most desperate celebrity in New York. Profiles were being written about The Donald even then, but Mark Singer’s eyewatering demolition job – with an excellent introduction by the magazine’s editor David Remnick - stands out as the best. It didn’t predict the future – who could? – but it does help make sense of what happened next. 

5. How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Don’t tell him, but it’s not all about Trump. Here, Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt see the POTUS as a symptom of a wider assault on 21st century democracy taking place in the world under our watch, made possibly by what they call the ‘erosion of norms’ in civic life. This is Trump in context, alongside other luminaries such as Pinochet in Chile, Orbán in Hungary and Erdogan in Turkey. Interestingly, it is also a book endorsed by Trump’s predecessor, President Obama – who doesn’t escape uncriticised either.

6. A Ladybird Book About Donald Trump by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

For a lighter heartened evisceration of the Trump presidency, look out for this from the writers who brought you 2018’s much-celebrated The Story of Brexit. Two of country’s most successful film and TV writers (Paddington, Screenwipe, Cunk on Shakespeare, to name just a few) now turn their talents to the biggest challenge in comedy: finding smart new ways to make fun of Trump. Spoiler: they do so brilliantly. Find out more about the Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups series.

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