This page features four of my seven books. The other books include Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of World History (1993) and "I Love Paul Revere Whether He Rode or Not." (1991). I contributed a chapter on "Television, Democracy and Presidential Politics" to The Columbia History of Post-World War II America. My first book, coauthored with Kurt Reiger, was a fun anecdotal history of the United States, One-Night Stands with American History (1980).
Click here for the website for Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.
Political Animals challenges us to go beyond the headlines, which often focus on what politicians do (or say they'll do), and to concentrate instead on what's really important: what shapes our response. Shenkman argues that, contrary to what we tell ourselves, it's our instincts rather than arguments appealing to reason that usually prevail. Pop culture tells us we can trust our instincts, but science is proving that when it comes to politics our Stone Age brain often malfunctions, misfires, and leads us astray. Fortunately, we can learn to make our instincts work in our favor. Shenkman takes readers on a whirlwind tour of laboratories where scientists are exploring how sea slugs remember, chimpanzees practice deception, and patients whose brains have been split in two tell stories. The scientists' findings give us new ways of understanding our history and ourselves—and prove we don't have to be prisoners of our evolutionary past.
Just How Stupid Are We
Fifty percent of Americans can name four characters from The Simpsons, but only two out of five can name all three branches of the federal government. No more than one in seven can find Iraq on a map. In Just How Stupid Are We? best-selling author Rick Shenkman takes aim at our great national piety: the wisdom of the American people. American democracy is as direct as it’s ever been, but voters are misusing, abusing, and abdicating their political power. At once a powerful indictment of voter apathy and political indifference, Just How Stupid Are We? also provides concrete proposals for reforming our institutions, the government, the media, civic organizations, and political parties to make them work better for the American people.
In this timely, illuminating, and often shocking book, Rick Shenkman reveals that it is not just recent presidents but all presidents who have been ambitious--and at times frighteningly so, willing to sacrifice their health, family, loyalty, and values. Presidential Ambition is a book that will permanently alter the way we think about past, present, and future American presidents.
Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History
The truth and nothing but the truth--Rick Shenkman sheds light on America's most believed legends:
● The story of Columbus discovered that the world was round was invented by Washington Irving.
● The pilgrims never lived in log cabins.
● In Concord, Massachusetts, a third of all babies born in the twenty years before the Revolution were conceived out of wedlock.
● Washington may have never told a lie, but he loved to drink and dance, and he fell in love with his best friend's wife.
● Independence wasn't declared on July 4 (and the Liberty Bell was so little regarded that Philadelphia tried to sell it for scrap metal but nobody wanted it).