Hochschild is a journalist and the author of "King Leopold's Ghost" and "To End All Wars." "The Global Warming Reader," edited by Bill McKibbenI'm tempted to make all five books on this list books about climate change, because it is the gravest challenge facing us on Earth — and both major presidential candidates hardly mention it. Time to get serious, boys. "The Best and the Brightest" by David HalberstamSome 60,000 Americans, and a vastly larger number of Vietnamese, died because of our hubris about our ability to reshape a distant part of the world to our liking. The final bill is not yet in for similar attempts to do so in Iraq and Afghanistan. A careful reading of this classic account of our Vietnam folly might discourage a president from trying the same thing in yet a new country. "The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It" by Timothy NoahWe now have one of the most unequal distribution-of-income patterns of any major country in the world. This, too, ought to be an issue on the campaign trail. "Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America" by Matt TaibbiSomething else missing from campaign rhetoric: any talk of who belongs behind bars for getting us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Taibbi, one of the country's premier journalists on this issue, introduces some of the villains involved. "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben FountainThe other books have few laughs, so, as a reward for reading all four, I'm going to assign the presidential candidates a novel. Raunchy, eloquent, dazzling, the entire action of the book takes place during a Dallas Cowboys game, as seen through the eyes of a shrewd, oversexed, traumatized 19-year-old Iraq war vet being paraded around the country on a closely-managed "victory tour" with his squad mates. Ben Fountain is marvelous: Few other American fiction writers today have this ambitious, tragic, hilarious and brilliant political eye.
Kim Kulish / Los Angeles Times