Still curious about the candidates' characters but can't sit through another campaign ad or watch one more speech? Pick up one of these books to find out what John McCain and Barack Obama value, why they serve, and who they really are—or, at least, how they see themselves.
Faith of My Fathers (1999). John McCain's first memoir explores honor, framing his recollections—including his more than five-year imprisonment in Vietnam—with his family's tradition of military service.
Worth the Fighting For (2002). McCain's second book follows him from befriending senators to becoming one himself. Political blunders, such as his temper flaring with reporters during the Keating Five scandal, get the same candid treatment as other moments.
Why Courage Matters (2004). "Be brave. The rest is easy," McCain tells readers in a book as slim as it is ambitious to inspire. Between sketches of self-sacrificing individuals like Vietnam soldier Sgt. Roy Benavidez or Hitler resistor Hannah Senesh, McCain expounds on courage. While not autobiographical, by focusing on his heroes the book shows who McCain is—and who he hopes to be.
Character Is Destiny (2005). Compassion, courtesy, and confidence are just three of 34 criteria that McCain presents as not only character creating but destiny shaping, and each has a story of a historical figure to prove it. Rather than inject his ruminations, McCain lets the narratives speak for themselves, making the book seem more substantive, if less personal, than his notes on courage.
Hard Call (2007). In his third installment of inspiration, McCain draws on leaders, from Winston Churchill to Gertrude Ederle, to give lessons in making the right choices.
Dreams From My Father (1995). "Whatever the label that attaches to this book . . . what I've tried to do is write an honest account," Barack Obama pens. He's also written a lyrical tale of a man's Kansas-to-Kenya search for his father that explores the intersections of race, class, and country, shedding light on what shaped Obama.
The Audacity of Hope (2006). Stemming from discussions with government-wary (and weary) Americans on the campaign trail, Obama's second book argues that "we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans." Obama argues that only America's founding principles can parlay partisanship into potential—and he proposes how.
Change We Can Believe In (2008). Sweeping statements get anchored in specifics in Obama's blueprint for change. An overt campaign document, complete with a collection of his speeches, it's also chock full of policy proposals that range from the particular (eliminating income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000) to the general (practicing tough diplomacy).