One of my favorite kinds of books to read are very long, very detailed, well written American political history books with a biographical bent. Most have been about presidents. Some of my favorites are Truman and John Adams by David McCullough (OK, anything by David McCullough), Robert Caro's series on Lyndon Johnson (particularly Master of the Senate), and Edmund Morris' series on Theodore Roosevelt.
I like them because the biography part engages my sympathies (trying to understand the personal motivations of the historical figure), while I am exposed to the larger picture of what America was like at that time and all the different factions and pressures that effected outcomes that we now take for granted.
One of the things that always amazes me is how little things have changed, no matter what time period you are reading about. Some problems with the way our country was designed were there from the beginning.
I recently started reading Taylor Branch's series on Martin Luther King Jr. It is a really fascinating and exciting read so far. One of the aspects I have been reading about is the power of the black church and the power struggle within it and ultimately the circumstances that led to blacks voting for Kennedy. As a white person, the political muscle of this group has definitely been under the radar for me- just as it was for the mainstream media then.
So it brings me to Obama and the whole Reverend Wright thing. It must be a very delicate political balance for Obama right now, because he needs those black church votes. But bringing disparate groups together is what he says he can do so this is just a test of that quality I guess. I definitely want to read about the (original) Clinton campaigns, as I'm sure that must have been a big factor in his wins too.