Book Review: What It Takes

by Richard Cramer first hit my reading list after listening to a podcast interview with political journalist Ezra Klein. He called this book, “The best political journalism writing out there,” and highly recommended it. As part of my 2018 Reading Challenge, I tackled this under the category, “Books by an author who is no longer living.”

Cramer writes an exhaustive (1,072 pages of small print!!) book chronicling the 1988 Presidential Campaign. In the process, he digs deep into the backgrounds of each of the major Republican and Democrat candidates, exploring the question of what motivations drive an individual to take on the exhausting, expensive, life-altering journey of a presidential campaign.

That premise makes this sound like a dull, lifeless report. But it’s not—Cramer’s lively, informal, rollicking prose takes the reader into the minds and lives of the characters he writes about and gives a sense of depth and dimensional it’s to each candidate. I came away with a real sense of knowing what these men sounded like, what they were thinking about, and how they viewed the world and each other.

Overall, this is a lengthy book—and on account of the length, it probably would not be interesting to anyone who doesn’t enjoy political history. If you do like that sort of thing, you’ll find this book a richly engrossing read.

The next book on my reading list was supposed to be Artemis, but due to getting cheated by a rogue Amazon seller and the timing of the paperback release, I’ve decided instead to start in on Dune by Frank Herbert.