Book Review: “Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

I don’t read very many political autobiographies (or autobiographies in general). For that matter, I don’t read very many political pot boilers, either. Life is too short to spend time on such interest conflicted material.

I’m not a gigantic fan of his comedy, and haven’t his earlier books. So, who knows? But Franken was a professional writer and seems to inhabit the fact-based universe, so I gave it a try.

This book is mostly autobiographical, beginning with a brief rendition of his early life, including years at Saturday Night Live. Most of the story is his career running for and serving in the US Senate.

The book is well written (as I said, Franken was a professional writer), and has a certain amount of humor. I didn’t find the humor especially fun, though some of it did help to reveal his thinking and personality.

The main point and greatest value of the book is that it has a lot of information about how contemporary US politics looks from the inside. As he comments, things don’t always look the same from the inside as they did when you were outside. We all know it’s an ugly mess, but Franken offers nuance and some understanding of the humanity of people involved.

Al Franken is an unabashed Democrat, and pulls no punches about his own views. If you don’t like his politics, this book will be difficult to read, that’s for sure. But anyone might find some nuggets inside. He has insights about connecting with people and being a good senator, and he gives his own views on how to try to get things done, even when you don’t agree about everything.

Autobiography can never be flawless history. Usually, it is horrible history because the author is too close to the topic. But Franken has succeeded in giving a good mix of public events and his own inside view of them. For this reason, I think this book may well be a useful source for  historians of this era.

  1. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, New York, Twelve, 2017.


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