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Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  18,217 ratings  ·  2,009 reviews
If your funny older sister were the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, her behind-the-scenes political memoir would look something like this...

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change h
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by Twelve
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
"I also wanted to write this book because I didn't see anything like it out there. When I was trying, kind of desperately, to get a job in politics, and then one I got one, all my mentors were men. Most political memoirs are written by men--because most of the people who work in politics are men."

This is like if Mindy Kaling wrote a book that was half-memoir/half-what it's like to work in the White House: kind of a mixed bag.

While the memoir parts are dull and unnecessary--weird that I wasn't in
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-again, political
After seeing her on Charlie Rose, had to read this audio book. Every 18 to 25 years old female should read this book. Author has great advice for those looking for work. Loved behind-the-scenes look of youngest woman working in the White House and after. Needed this book fifty years ago, but I loved her humorous writing, she's definitely very comfortable in her own skin. Her story about tampon dispensers made me laugh, and her tragic story about her cat, made me cry.
Not many male reader reviews,
Because I cannot do anything earnestly, I'll preface this review by saying that I really, really hate the title of this book. It's a blatant play on Mindy Kaling's first book, but it doesn't stick in the memory. In fact, I couldn't remember the title well enough to look it up, and had to go by the author's name.

With some mild complaining out of the way, let's do this thing. (I say, as if I could possibly limit my tendency to complain to just one paragraph
Fred Klein
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I am stopping at page 159. This book is too annoying. I love political anecdotes, but this woman thinks she is funny (she is not), and I have read enough about her menstrual cycle, digestive problems, and love life. She has not kept my interest nor entertained me. Not recommended. Moving on.
Alyssa Mastromonaco has met the Pope, the Queen of England, and Colin Firth. She has worked for Bernie Sanders and John Kerry, and has jumped on the hood of Newt Gingrich's car. Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush both inquired after her sick cat while flying Air Force 1. Anna Wintour texts her and Mindy Kaling comes to her parties. And, of course, she worked for Barack Obama while he was a senator, and then on his historic campaign. She's the youngest woman to occupy the office of deputy chief o ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
2.5 stars. What to say about this one?

The writing itself is not very good. And it feels extremely derivative of Mindy Kaling's work and style (even going so far as to basically copycat Kaling's own book title, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)). Mastromonaco is pretty open about the influence there: she specifically mentions that she's friends with Kaling, that she loves Kaling's books, that The Mindy Project is her favorite show. And Kaling recently optioned Mastromonaco'
This is the autobiography/memoir of Alyssa Mastromonaco. She starts off telling about growing up in a small town in New York. While attending the University of Vermont she did her summer internship with Bernie Sanders. After college she worked for Senator John Kerry then obtained a job with Senator Barack Obama. When Obama became President, she became the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President. She was the youngest women to assume this office.

The author provides a look inside how presidential ca
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm the wrong demographic for Alyssa Mastromonaco's story of her time working for Barack Obama, in his Senate office, his political campaigns, and the White House. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is subtitled "And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Won in the White House". I guess I thought a forty-year-old would write a thoughtful book, maybe with some humor since it does have that title and jacket cover. But, it's really meant for fifteen to twenty-five-year-old young women ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I stumbled upon this book because a) I read the NYT bestseller list (sue me, okay), and b) I listen to Crooked Media like it's a side hustle I'm hiding from my boss: aggressively and in a panic - America better start subsidizing heart medication for millennials after this administration, I swear. Mastromonaco's book is exactly how it was marketed: a fluffy book about life as a young person in positions of power, alongside people of power, written in the voice of Mindy Kaling. Mastromonaco admits ...more
Patrick Pilz
Apr 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Writing this book was definitely not a good idea. It reads like a book written by a 20-year old youtube star for teenagers, definitely not of a 40 year old successful manager of Barack Obamas back office. I guess once you reach certain heights, it is prudent to write a book to start the next career, but I am not sure what her move will be. It is not going to be book writer.

Disclosure: I stopped reading at 60%, I really tried and did not give up hope, but a book that does not turn the corner past
I work in library IT and have no desire to work in a different industry, especially the private sector, and I'm finding these stories of powerful woman who work in public service really valuable and inspiring. ...more
Mar 25, 2017 added it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I devoured this book on a transatlantic flight (as it turns out, reading an Obama staffer memoir as Trumpcare failed felt exactly as satisfying as you think it would). This book was Mindy-Kaling-meets-the-West-Wing (except a version of the West Wing where sexism is called out, not in a patriarchal Sorkin way). I especially appreciate any human with a serious job who can write about poop and feelings in her memoir.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Disappointing, even after discovering it's YA aimed. Here's an example of the writing and the book's (lack of) depth: "At any high-powered job, you're going to have to work a lot. America is a nation of people who work a lot and of people who strive to work a lot." (Page 130)

I'd seen the author speak in an interview and I was excited to read the book. It appears the author's goal is to inspire young women to consider politics as a profession, an admirable objective; but even so, I wouldn't expe
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gr-deals
I waffled on how I felt about this book up until Obama calls Alyssa from Air Force One to express his condolences over her cat's death. Then I started crying. What an amazing (and kind of crazy?) gesture—it completely won me over.

Reading about Alyssa Mastromonaco's experiences working in the White House stressed me out. To say that she's dealt with some intense exchanges would be an understatement. She coordinated transportation in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake, secured meeting
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
From the A+ Obama anecdotes to the zany but practical career advice, I loved every minute of this. Alyssa Mastromonaco is obviously a badass who has seen some crazy stressful situations in her professional life that many of us will (thankfully) never have to navigate, but she has written a book that is completely approachable, charming, and applicable for women in all career paths.

And also I would be remiss if I didn't mention that her relationship with her cat Shrummie was the *best* part of th
May 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
By a few chapters in, the main title was already starting to sum up my feelings about this book. I'm glad that the author has enjoyed her career, but the book is not nearly as funny, clever, or insightful as it thinks it is.

First off, skipping all over the timeline is a pet peeve of mine even when it's done more coherently. But as executed here, it feels like the author and her co-author just threw this together over the course of a champagne brunch and then couldn't be bothered to go back and
Helen Marquis
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I picked up this paperback at an airport bookshop, looking for an inflight read. It filled a flight from Mexico to San Francisco, but I didn't feel particularly rewarded beyond not spending 4 hours staring out the window.
On the plus side, it does nothing to dispel the fact that Obama is just an all-round wonderful human being. It is also a sobering and depressing reminder of how far into the gutter US politics have now sunk.
On the down side, for someone who was responsible for organising the pre
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir of her political career, including her time in the Obama White House, is funny, inspiring, and vulnerable. When I bought it, I was wishing for a reminder of what made Obama’s presidency exemplary. I really had no idea tampon access in the White House would be covered. But kudos to the young staffers who made it easier for women to be a vital part of the political structure of this country. (Dare I wonder if those dispensing machines have re
Courtney Judy
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Considering I read it in three days, I would say I liked this book quite a bit. The author did a great job of proving some 'behind the scenes' without it coming across like a gossip column. She also didn't push any political agenda, which was nice. It felt like a book that's not-not about politics that omitted any overtones of overt political talk. And while the author does specifically mention that her plan was to not write the book chronologically, I still found the jumping around slightly ann ...more
-- Proper review to come --

Full disclosure: I am an Australian who has long been the kind of person who tolerates politics but has never been tempted to pick up a political-themed book. For some reason this one spoke to me, and I decided to give it a go. I'm very glad I did

I laughed out loud quite a few times, I cried (maybe even sobbed) once.

Funny, heartfelt, honest. This book, while not entirely about Obama but also about Mastromonaco's road to the White House, definitely solidifies Obama's st
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to tear up while reading this, but I did!

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. It's more life advice book than straight memoir, but it blends them together well enough. The stories are AMAZING and the lessons are certainly stuff that bears repeating. And it's novel to get this from a youngish woman who has held incredibly important political positions, and therefore I am glad to have read it.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
I returned this to Audible at the 50% point. It was awful, and that's saying something because I'm a huge sucker for political memoirs. I found the book to be shallow. It lacked flow and was terribly light on interesting details about the work. I don't want to know all about Ms. Mastromonaco. I want to know about her JOB. The crass language was also obnoxious, and I just found the whole thing sophomoric. It needed a good editor. ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Check your target audience

This is a well intentioned book, and possibly a fifteen to 25 year old will find it inspiring. However it seems that pages devoted to veterinary medicine and vomit bags might have been better spent on descriptions of the White House...or policy decision making process.
M.L. Brennan
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Full of great anecdotes, plus a lot of interesting advice on navigating challenging professional environments. And in the current political climate, this book will make you unbelievably nostalgic for the days of the Obama presidency, and for when we were led by such a classy and wonderful adult.

I'm giving this three stars because in terms of the structure of a memoir, this one struggled a lot. Mastromonaco has a lot of interesting thoughts, useful and relevant advice, and good insights (plus fu
Judith E
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Make sure to check out You Tube and Alyssa Mastromonaco's highlights on the Charlie Rose interview. In an attempt to make her book humorous and trendy, it bypasses Ms. Mastromonaco's true composure, confidence and intelligence. The book really does not do her justice in this respect.

The author's experiences are important for girls and young women to hear. The lessons she has
learned and writes about, from working at a grocery store to working at the White House, are wise and honest (work hard,
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
2-3 stars. I love reading inside accounts from pretty much any field. This includes some interesting stories from one of Obama's top staffers. This book wasn't in chronological order, which was a little disorienting. Mastromonaco is writing specifically to give a glimpse of her political positions to young women who may be interested in getting into politics, so I'm not her target audience. This book isn't trying to convince you on political issues, which is refreshing. ...more
Rachel Wall
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this! Very insightful and funny. The tampon chapter was ridiculous, not to mention
It was a sad representation of a grown ass woman not being able to prepare for (numerous times) something you should've learned how to prepare for as a teenager. Followed by chapters on the importance of planning, making lists, etc. it was just odd. But I'm glad the machine got installed! However, loved the rest and find her to be incredibly intelligent and witty.
Kim Kaso
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! I started to read it as a counterweight to Woodward’s excellent Fear, and I read a few pages or a chapter right through the election. It reminded me that presidents can be gracious, erudite, thoughtful, generous, compassionate & so much more. It made me laugh and cry. Thanks so much, Alyssa Mastromonaco, for sharing your stories, I mourn Schrummie’s passing, our cats and dogs bless us every day. Very highly recommended!
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book (though it did make me feel a bit lazy for all the times I've sat at my desk and tried to summon motivation from the gods). I wish this had been written 10 years ago so I could've read it when I was trying to decide what to do with my life - though that decision-making process is never really over. ...more
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this SO MUCH. I had already read Alyssa's other book, and I always love hearing her voice on various podcasts, so I knew I would enjoy this based on her voice alone. But then, the anecdotes in it were SO GREAT and so lovely and such a good glimpse into the behind the scenes goings-on of an actually functioning White House full of decent people doing their best. Her job has always fascinated me most of probably any job in public service, and it was so cool to get to hear more of it ...more
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White House Staffer Books 1 18 Jun 20, 2018 06:56AM  

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Alyssa Mende Mastromonaco is the Chief Operating Officer of Vice Media. She is also a contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine. She previously served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2014.She was the youngest woman to hold that position. Mastromonaco had worked for Obama since 2005 when he was on the United States ...more

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“It doesn't matter who came to talk to me,' he said (Barack Obama). He went on to say that I needed to realize the power of my words. I could not send emails like that because they - I am paraphrasing - freak everyone out.

Developing self-awareness is a lifelong process; you don't just wake up one day and have all you need. So even though I'd spend the last few months demonstrating that I was cable and knew what I was doing, this was something of a revelation. When the president of the United States tells you your words are powerful, it can be pretty shocking. I honestly didn't think anyone would give a shit if I sent a snippy email.

It was good advice, specifically to me at the time but generally as it relates to any kind of replying-all in life: Think about how what you say could affect people, from the top down. It was also a wake-up call for me about my state of mind: I didn't know why (yet) - though I'm sure I did, deep down - but my temper was getting worse, and my fuse shorter and shorter.”
“You should always be prepared to defend your choices, whether just to yourself (sometimes this is the hardest) or to your coworkers, your friends, or your family. The quickest way for people to lose confidence in your ability to ever make a decision is for you to pass the buck, shrug your shoulders, or otherwise wuss out. Learning how to become a decision maker, and how you ultimately justify your choices, can define who you are.” 7 likes
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