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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

A political tome for the beach bag?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Huma Abedin's memoir, "Both/And: A Life in Many
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the
From left, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent $5 million book deal sparked a crisis for him. Huma Abedin, ex-aide to Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Mike Pence have forthcoming books. (James Carbone; Invision/AP/Andy Kropa; AFP via Getty Images/Eric Baradat)

Beach season is book season. As always, many fresh titles are meant to promote the named authors for future elected office. Or explain their actions in past elected office. Or justify what they did for others who held elected office.

These purported works of nonfiction often cause a stir outside of what their pages contain. Simon & Schuster ditched plans to publish a book by Sen. Josh Hawley, citing his "role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom."

So another company published it, giving Hawley both a book deal and a dubious claim of "cancel-culture" martyrdom.

Now Simon & Schuster is reportedly beating back internal company dissent over former Vice President Mike Pence’s multimillion-dollar deal for a book whose title, like Pence’s plans, has yet to be announced.

The relevant question is whether Pence will deal with the events of Jan. 6 in any way that resembles candor. That should be known after folding-chair-and-umbrella season.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent publication of "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic" became a crisis for its author that could itself qualify as a leadership lesson.

Best known about the book is its $5 million advance, its "mission accomplished" overreach, and that investigators are exploring the role public staff played in preparing it.

The titles of such books always seem to grow stale on the shelf sooner or later, suggesting they are written for the moment and not for posterity. Hillary Clinton authored "Living History" and "Hard Choices." It turned out that the history she lived was far from what she bargained for, given the hard choice the American electorate made to reject her nearly five years ago.

Announced but not yet available are a pair of unrelated, yet perhaps parallel, accounts. One will come in November from longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, ex-spouse of ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, and another next year from Jared Kushner, ex-White House aide and still-son-in-law of ex-President Donald Trump.

At best these books may hint at what led to their going from political players to former political players.

The story around a political book can be as instructive as the text. This week, President Joe Biden’s Justice Department dropped a lawsuit filed by the Trump Justice Department seeking to seize profits from a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.

Bolton’s title plays off a song from the musical "Hamilton" — "The Room Where it Happened." Does it fit? By Bolton’s account, what happened at the White House was driven by the president’s personal interests, and not much at all happened for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

Once in a while, a political player produces a book of merit rather than a self-advertisement. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan penned a brief, readable 1998 book called "Secrecy" that drew on a bipartisan commission’s work and used dramatic examples to argue for open government.

It could be interesting in the next few months to critically assess the shelf life of Biden’s "Promises to Keep" or ex-presidential and current mayoral candidate Andrew Yang’s "The War on Normal People."

Such titles have a way of proving accidentally ironic. Maybe the best beach reading is a pulp novel after all.

Columnist Dan Janison’s opinions are his own.

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