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Believer: My Forty Years in Politics

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,262 ratings  ·  278 reviews
New York Times Book Review
“A stout defense--indeed, the best I have read--of the Obama years."

A New York Times Bestseller

David Axelrod has always been a believer. Whether as a young journalist investigating city corruption, a campaign consultant guiding underdog candidates against entrenched orthodoxy, or as senior adviser to the president during one of the wor
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Penguin Press
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 ·  2,262 ratings  ·  278 reviews

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Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
How can you not love Axlerod's description of Chicago politics? As anyone knows who has lived through Daley I, Daley II, and the Interregnum, it's the finest political theater anywhere. The close-up of how Obama ended up running when he had far less experience than conventional wisdom would decree, was quite interesting. Oddly enough, I found the story of the Presidential campaigns (for which Axelrod lives) a tad disappointing. I'm used to politics as a blood sport even among members of the staf ...more
Russell R Miller
interesting and a bit sad at the same time.

David Axelrod takes us through the presidential story from a very early time before Obama was even in the U.S. Senate. Having been in campaigns and even run for office I can sympathize with him in trying to keep the candidate on the proper path, and at the same time not so antagonize him so not to be excluded from additional advice and a personal bond. There is an underlying sadness that the relationship although close somehow didn't develop the intimac
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Parts of this book were fascinating. I was very interested in learning about Axe's rise through politics, and the ups and downs of the campaigns.

However, he lacks the self-awareness to make this a truly great memoir. He seems to be unconscious of the amount of spin he puts on everything. Axelrod is a campaigner & has built his career on spin, so it shouldn't be surprising. But at a certain point, it became incredibly frustrating to feel that the entire book was just one long campaign ad for Obam
Carol Storm
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
So much better than the usual political biography. David Axelrod has an authentic voice and actually tells about his whole life, not just working for Barack Obama as a campaign manager and speech writer.

There were so many great things about this book. Axelrod as a little boy, seeing JFK in 1960. The descriptions of machine politics in old-time Chicago. (Fans of the 70's cult TV series KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER will recognize the deli food from Manny's, as well as brothers Sidney and Marshall K
Andrew Middlestead
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a nice read through the eyes of Axelrod on his story and the campaigns of President Obama. I came across this one after watching the Master Class from Axelrod and Rove on campaign strategy, which was also fascinating!
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have to admit I read this for a book discussion group but I found it a very enjoyable and readable book. Once I got into it, the 500+ pages went fast. It certainly made for a good discussion, pro and con ...It does help if you have an interest in politics. Axelrod not only gives us an insider's look at the Obama campaigns and presidency, but relates the story of his life. It all started in New York when he was taken to a JFK rally during the election of 1960. Although only a small child at th ...more
Srinath Jagannathan
Frank and disarmingly honest account

It's not surprising that a master of messaging would write an engrossing book largely covering one of the most eventful periods of world history. But what comes across most starkly is Axelrod's immunity to the effects of the very process he so expertly deployed throughout his career - unbridled faith through repetitive exhortations and self-delusion.

It's not hard to find partisanship or excuses or willful dismissal of opposing viewpoints in this book. But the
Kay Rahardjo
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book about an interesting man who was close to many well-known politicians. He tells of his personal tragedies and also of his triumphs in a way that makes it hard not to like him a great deal. Given his support of mostly Democrats, this book will likely be viewed as highly partisan. Maybe it is. I loved it, especially the lead up to Obama's presidential campaign. ...more
Raul Fernandez
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
David Axelrod's book provides an in-depth understanding behind the scenes about Chicago politics and Barack Obama. He provided this behind the scenes through his perspective and his history in politics. It was so fascinating to hear about his journey in politics and I just wanted to read more. ...more
John Gurney
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
David Axelrod started his career as a political reporter for the Chicago Tribune before becoming a political consultant with three decades of experience culminating in Barrack Obama's election and reelection.

Because political views color the lens one uses to read a book like this, full disclosure: my outlook is not easy to pigeon hole, but to call me a small-l libertarian, #neverTrump, moderate Republican is fair. I enjoyed Axelrod's Believer even though I don't share a lot in common with him.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, memoir
So, so fun to listen to. It's like David Axelrod tucks you in a night and tells you bedtime stories about Obama. Highly recommend. ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
I enjoyed this behind the scenes look at high-profile campaign work and the glimpses into the Axelrod family. What a career and what a life.
Jim Blessing
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Excellent political book by David Axelrod.
Justin Tapp
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I began this book just before the November, 2016 election and finished it in those incredibly sobering days afterward. (The 2008 election was somewhat similar to 2016 in that voters went with the candidate that least resembled their perception of Washington.) I listened to this in Axelrod's own voice, which is the best way to do it. This might be a good look at what it's like to be a professional campaigner, writer, marketer. Axelrod is famous for being Pres. Obama's political adviser, but this ...more
Megan McDonough
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book reinvigorated my faith in the American people and the importance and worthiness of fighting our ideals. David’s unwavering commitment to the progress of our nation and the responsibility of politicians to give voice to the struggles and beliefs of the American people is truly inspiring. Reading this book in our current political reality was a truly fascinating experience - right now, it is hard to find hope. But David has given me hope again. What I believe in, and my beliefs about how ...more
Pau Pereira
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting inside look of the Obama campaigns and his first term in office. The book is divided into three parts. It begins with a young David Axelrod (the author) working for the Chicago Tribune covering local politics. This section is dense in historical details about the Democratic political machine of mayor Richard J. Daley.
In the second section, the author, quits his job at the Tribune and starts a political consulting company. This will be interesting to political wonks who want to
Allison Berkowitz
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a strong 4-stars, and I'd likely give it 5 if it weren't about politics [which ocassionally makes this text deeply frustrating as a socially conscious citizen]. I never could've imagined enjoying a retrospective about someone's time working in politics to be so enjoyable. Axelrod can clearly write e.g.: see Obama's campaigns)—duh. What I found the most enjoyable about this book was its affirmation in positive ideology but also decision making based in critical thinking and the big pictur ...more
Arlitia Jones
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am a Believer. I was long before I read this book. And I will be to the end of my days, I don’t doubt. Politics are complicated and hold no promise. But once in a lifetime a leader emerges backed by the right team who goes to battle for the people. We witnessed that for 8 years. I am grateful for this book detailing the victories and pitfalls along the way. This is a look backstage at what worked and what didn’t. The voice is honest, strident, self revelatory and inspiring. I read this book as ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed Axelrod's biography, and it was good to read this given how often I listen to his podcast. I think the non-Obama stuff was the most insightful, and I enjoyed the parts about being a journalist in Chicago. Perhaps I've just read too much recently about similar subjects but this didn't totally grip me, and I would have liked a bit more detail on the nitty gritty of being a political operative. This gives highlights only. ...more
Max Godin
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A frank and engaging book. Axelrod gives a detailed account of growing up in Chicago and a fascinating account of his time as a reporter, allowing us to understand how deep the level of corruption was within city and its politics.

It was his work with both the Obama presidential campaigns that I personally found most interesting, Axelrod was there from the very beginning with Obama, from the start of his campaign, to winning the primaries, the convention night and then election day. Throughout it
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful.
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book. You must know, though, that the subtitle, My Forty Years in Politics is somewhat misleading. The bulk of the book centers on the time Axelrod spent in campaigning/working for Obama, so that's less than ten years. But let's be honest: Do most of us reading this book care about what Axelrod was up to before he met Obama? I sure didn't. In fact, I didn't even bother to read the first hundred-ish pages leading up to the point where he meets Obama.

So, if you like Obama, yo
Apr 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
I decided I can't build tolerance to yet another politician yammering about his years in office, particularly if that memoir's not in Greek, Russian, Chinese or another intriguing language, especially if he bases it on something as upsetting as belief, yet doesn't clearly depict the corresponding trauma I associate with the term, and I checked the index to make sure...

I only found vagaries talking about the drive "to destroy Al-Qaeda" which I basically translate to xenophobia since Al-Qaeda is
Steve Peifer
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I can't tell if this guy is the ultimate liar or really believes this stuff.

He takes the most gratuitous shot at Mike Royko I have ever seen. So mean spirited, and isn't it sad that Royko isn't around to tear him apart. I promise you this guy would have NEVER dared to take on Royko when he was alive.

The book is mildly entertaining at the beginning, and he has crap to say about EVERYONE. Until Obama comes into his life, and the shift in tone is so drastic and so immediate that I wondered if he ha
Jeff Currie
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A poignant read in view of the 2016 presidential election. Enlightening and disheartening too - Axelrod believes that public officials - politicians - can do good things for the public. His profession is also the one that sells candidates - good or not - to the electorate.
Jun 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: chicago
Maybe I read too many histories and not enough autobiographies, but this book is a unique portrait of a man who has lived in some interesting times. The pre-Obama sections are most fascinating in that they give a glimpse of what Chicago politics means. That being said, there are a lot of people that he does not want to offend. Obama and 2008 election were compelling. After he gets to the White House it seems that there's a lot of terrible stuff going on and a lot of Obama being AWESOME! Kind of ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I found the first half of this book to be extremely engrossing. Following Axelrod's career from young journalist to political insider was very interesting. His stories and reflections added a side to the political front that we seldom see. However, once he begins writing about working with Barack Obama, the book became tedious at best. Almost completely gone were the anecdotes that made the book come alive, replaced by adoring stories of the always glorious Obama. It matters not what your politi ...more
Dennis Swanger
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Axelrod's book is an entertaining glimpse into the life and career of a political-campaign insider. The book is well written --- Axelrod started out as a newspaper reporter --- and focuses on the gritty details of modern, American political campaigns, mostly in the Midwest. The heart of the book runs from Axelrod's first meeting with Barack Obama (page 119) to the winning night of the 2008 presidential election (page 323). A must-read for hardcore Obama supporters and political junkies of all st ...more
Bookforum Magazine
"The conceit of frustrated idealism animates Axelrod's account of his political coming-of-age in Believer.

It's a well-written story that will find its most enthusiastic audience among readers doggedly devoted to the Obama creed."

–John Stoehr on David Axelrod's Believer: My Forty Years in Politics in the April/May 2015 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to Bookforum:
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“Congress is going to meet with you or without you, I tell them. Don’t turn away in disgust and leave those decisions to someone else. You don’t like politics today? Grab the wheel of history and steer us to a better place. Run for office. Be a strategist or policy aide. Work for a government agency or a nonprofit. Become a thoughtful, probing journalist. Get in the arena. Help shape the world in which you’re going to live. At a minimum, be the engaged citizen a healthy democracy demands.” 4 likes
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