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Government & Politics

More Books on Leadership, Recommended by Md. Political Leaders

Second of two parts.

On Wednesday, Maryland Matters carried an article about a collection of books, compiled by state Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery), that they’re recommending to colleagues and other policymakers for tips on leadership.

But the list doesn’t end there.

Compiling suggested titles from about 15 individuals, Korman and McCray put together a secondary list of good books that Maryland leaders ought to read. Think of it — gratuitous sports metaphor alert — as the NIT of book recommendations.

How do you think they did? Are there titles they forgot — that should have been included on the list? If you’ve got suggestions, email them to us at [email protected]. We’ll publish them down the line.

So without further ado, here are some more titles for your consideration, complete with comments from the people who recommended them:

General Leadership

“7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey.

“This is a classic, written more than 30 years ago; its principles, however, are still relevant and very useful.” –Sandra Benson Brantley, chief counsel, Maryland General Assembly

“Blink,” “The Tipping Point,” and “David and Goliath,” by Malcolm Gladwell.

“The author lives in our same world but his power of observation is amazing. The recent George Floyd situation is perfectly laid out in ‘The Tipping Point’ and his other books have just as amazing insights. I might also recommend his article in The Atlantic on why he opposes recreational marijuana. More useful for politicians is his latest book, ‘Talking to Strangers’” – former state Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington)

“The Tipping Point” was also recommended by House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City)

“The Bully Pulpit,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

– Recommended by Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City)

“Disciplines of a Godly Man,” by Kent Hughes.

“My wife taught the author’s son, who was also a classmate of the Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer. If we believe that women and men are different and that we all should strive to be better people, this is a book that may challenge any man.” – Andy Serafini

“Drive,” by Daniel Pink.

– Recommended by Maggie McIntosh

“Eisenhower: Soldier and President,” by Stephen Ambrose.

“Perhaps the 20th century’s most substantial and substantially overlooked leader.” – Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany)

“Hamilton,” by Ron Chernow.

“The basis for the famous play … an incredibly interesting depiction of our country’s history and its founding and is truly a great read.” – Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert)

Also recommended by Andy Serafini

“Inside the Five Sided Box,” by Ash Carter.

– Recommended by lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones

“The Lawyer As Leader,” by Artika Tyner.

“Although written concerning lawyers and social justice, her principles are broadly applicable to all of those who are entrusted with advocacy responsibility.” – Stuart Simms, attorney, former secretary at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and former state’s attorney for Baltimore City

“Lead from the Outside,” by Stacey Abrams.

– Recommended by former Del. Salima S. Marriott (D-Baltimore City)

“My American Journey: An Autobiography,” by Colin Powell.

“In addition to getting a better understanding of the leadership qualities that overall made him popular at the State Department, it was also instructive about how best to understand how government works from his choice and assignment to the Office of Management and Budget as a White House Fellow.” – Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s)

“Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,” by Peter Canellos.

“Politicians are flawed humans – like everyone else – but they are expected to be perfect and outsized. This is a great book as it shows the human flaws of the Kennedy son no one expected to make it; how he worked together with people he didn’t always agree with — to have a powerful influence on the Congress.” – Alexandra M. Hughes, chief of staff to Speaker Adrienne A. Jones

“Leadership,” by James MacGregor Burns.

– Recommended by Victoria L. Gruber, director, Maryland Department of Legislative Services

“Leadership in Turbulent Times,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

– Recommended by Vicki Gruber

“Long Walk to Freedom,” by Nelson Mandela.

– Recommended by Erek Barron

“Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America,” by Stacey Abrams.

– Recommended by Salima Marriott

“Radical Inclusion: What the Post 9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership,” by Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman.

– Recommended by Michael Sanderson, Maryland Association of Counties executive director

General Politics and Government History

“Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” by Al Franken.

“As a political junkie and someone who has been a long-time fan of Franken’s books, I truly enjoyed this book in which Franken describes his journey from political satirist to U.S. Senator. Additionally, as a government staffer, I appreciated the credit Franken gave to members of his own staff.” – Sandy Brantley

“Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown.

“Popular book that tells a great story of how a team of underdogs took the gold medal in Crew at the 1936 Berlin games under the watchful eye of Hitler, with a Jewish kid as the American team’s coxswain. A fun read, but one that underscores the importance of teamwork and ‘rowing together.’ Some good history in it, but mostly a great story about the importance of bonding and teamwork and lessons applicable to getting things done in a democracy, especially when policymakers today seem to want to go it alone too often.” – Former Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s)

“Citizen Soldiers,” “D-Day,” and “Band of Brothers,” by Stephen Ambrose.

“Obviously, ‘Band of Brothers,’ which was made into an HBO miniseries, is the most popular. These books give you the best sense of what it was like to be a regular soldier in WWII. Ambrose taught history at John Hopkins for a while and former Sen. Don Munson took classes from him.” – Andy Serafini

“Drawing the Line: Legislative Ethics in the States,” by Alan Rosenthal.

– Recommended by Vicki Gruber

“Enemy Aliens,” by David Cole.

“One of the first (and maybe the best) analysis of the constitutional downside of the war on terrorism which is part of the underpinning of the war on immigration.” – Stu Simms

“John Adams,” and “The Pioneers,” by David McCullough.

“The foremost historical writer.” – Andy Serafini

“The Nightingale’s Song,” by Robert Timberg.

“A little dated now — it deals with the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan presidency. It focuses on five Naval Academy grads, including John McCain and Oliver North. Besides the Naval Academy connection, it also includes Chuck Larsen, who was the running mate for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in her failed gubernatorial bid. A good read about how blind loyalty, even for one’s country, can turn well trained leaders into rogue operators.” – John Bohanan

“The Political Brain,” by Doug Weston.

– Recommended by Bill Ferguson

“Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom,” by James MacGregor Burns.

– Recommended by Vicki Gruber

Public Policy

“The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control,” by Franklin Zimring.

– Recommended by Lisa Harris Jones

“Crime is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America,” by Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins.

  • Recommended by Lisa Harris Jones

“Economix,” by Michael Goodwin.

– Recommended by Bill Ferguson

“The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas.

“It is a tough read at times, but important and necessary, and so relevant to the reckoning that white Americans are finally truly having with racism.” – Rachel Hise, principal policy analyst, Department of Legislative Services

“Smarter Government,” by Martin O’Malley.

“A new book which I have just begun is a very promising exploration of application of appropriate electronic tools to analysis and solution of public policy issues.” – State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D)

“The Smartest Kids In The World and How They Got That Way,” by Amanda Ripley.

– Recommended by Vicki Gruber

“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” by Anne Fadiman.

“Cultural competency in health care” – Maggie McIntosh

“Too Big to Fail,” by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

“The single best book I have read on the collapse of Wall Street during 2008 (so good, in fact, I gave a copy to President Miller for his coffee table stacks). The facts behind how decisions were made, as well as the transition from Bush to Obama, are some times jaw-dropping – and sad – in the way these same mistakes are reflected today.” – Alex Hughes

Maryland-specific Politics and Government History

“Legislative Life,” by Alan Rosenthal.

– Recommended by Nancy Kopp

“Running Mates,” by John Feinstein.

“It’s actually not a particularly good book as I recall, but it takes place in and around the halls of the Annapolis State House and social/political scene; for that it’s noteworthy and bound to be the lightest entry on the list by far. ‘Junior’ has gone on to become a fairly big deal in the sports writing field, but this is his first novel, I think, hatched from his time as a beat writer on state politics.” – Michael Sanderson

Regional Understanding

“The Georgetown Ladies Social Club,” by C. David Heymann.

“Fun read with historical context. Five women pressing the levers of power from behind the scenes for decades in Washington, D.C.” – Alex Hughes


Here are a few more recommendations that Korman and McCray got that did not necessarily fit into set categories. Some aren’t even books.

“Anti-Racist Neighboring: Where Will You Live? How Will You Neighbor? An Open Letter to Young White Adults With Options Who Want Justice,” by Michael Sarbanes (Medium article).

“In this article, Sarbanes calls for white people who seek to dismantle systemic racism to commit to what he calls ‘anti-racist neighboring.’ The article shares his hope that 2020 will turn out to be a true beginning to addressing systemic racism and outlines in detail how this can be done in housing. What gives Sarbanes credibility in my view is that I have known Michael for more than 20 years and can attest that he truly ‘walks the walk,’ as the saying goes.” – Sandy Brantley

The Bible

– Recommended by Andy Serafini

“Can Man Live Without God, Jesus Among Other Gods, and Why,” by Ravi Zacharias.

“He recently passed away and within weeks 2 million people had watched the video of his memorial service. Raised in India, he attempted suicide as a teen and later spoke at the United Nations and college campuses around the world. He frequently spoke at the Naval Academy as well. He was the foremost Christian ‘Apologist.’ This comes from the Greek work ‘apologia’ which means to give a defense for one’s beliefs. His book ‘Why’ answers the question that many people ask, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ Also, one of his partners who has three doctorates from Oxford” –Andy Serafini

“The House I Live In,” by Eugene Jareki.

“OK, I am bending the rules (again)—this is a documentary, not a book. I saw this film in 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Award. The documentary traces the roots of the ‘War on Drugs,’ and shows in personal detail for those profiled in the film its negative impact. Policymakers today are still grappling with the impacts of prior policy choices and the ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric continues to be trotted out as a solution to drug addiction.” – Sandy Brantley

“How One State Enhanced Diversity on the Bench,” by Andrea M. Leahy (The Judge’s Journal, ABA).

“This article describes former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening’s efforts to increase diversity among the state’s judges. (Disclosure: I worked for Governor Glendening) After being told that the reason judicial nominating commissions sent so few diverse candidates to him for appointment was lack of qualified candidates, Governor Glendening examined the nominating process. He discovered, in his words, ‘the gate keepers did not know what was on the other side of the gate.’ Once he broadened the make-up of the nominating commissions, he noted, “all of the sudden — like a miracle — there were qualified, inclusive nominees everywhere.” – Sandy Brantley

International Panel on Climate Change Report.

– Recommended by Nancy Kopp

“Legislative Chaos: An Exploratory Study,” by Vincent Di Lorenozo (Yale Law Journal).

  • Recommended by Erek Barron

“Mere Christianity,” by CS Lewis.

“Lewis was a contemporary of JR Tolkien and an avowed atheist. His story as an Oxford professor and amazing writer and communicator was the reason for change in the life of Chuck Colson, former Nixon aide who went to jail for his involvement in Watergate. The is s compilation of stories that he shared on the BBC during the German Blitz of London during WWII.” – Andy Serafini

“The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren.

— Recommended by Andy Serafini

“Seeing White (Podcast).”

–- Recommended by Rachel Hise

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More Books on Leadership, Recommended by Md. Political Leaders