Introducing the Official Free Press Book Club

Every month we’re recommending two titles that speak to each other—something old and something new. First up: Nellie Bowles and P.J. O’Rourke.

No one reads anymore. At least, that’s what they tell us. The algorithms broke our brains and there’s no going back.

We don’t believe that.

If anything, we crave books now more than ever—books that obliterate tweets and Google calendar notifications, books so consuming they drown out the noise. Books that last far beyond the day’s outrages.

We know you do, too. That’s because you tell us. Free Pressers constantly ask us for book recommendations. If our recent series The Prophets taught us anything, it’s that even long-dead writers can help us understand the present better as long as we look away from our phones long enough to give them some attention.

So today, we’re thrilled to launch The Free Press Book Club. And we’re doing it our way.

Each month from now until forever (or at least until we announce an actual publishing house), one Free Press writer will recommend two books—a recent release, and a classic work from the past—that speak to each other in some way.

Kicking it off is none other than Nellie Bowles. Given that she is our TGIF dictator, we’re granting her the right to recommend her own book, Morning After the Revolution, which is officially out this week. (Order it here! Read an excerpt here!) 

In the essay below, she also endorses a book by the late P.J. O’Rourke, America’s finest political satirist of the twentieth century—and asks: What the hell happened to political satire? 

If you’re a paid subscriber, you get a bunch of special things behind the paywall today.

First: a Q & A with Nellie (the Clintons; Kendrick and Drake; lots of other bonbons). Also: a long conversation with Nellie and me on video talking about her book. And: you get to weigh in on our book club discussion in the comments.

So: What are you waiting for? Become a Free Press subscriber today. —BW

Subscribe now

Political satire has been on life support, and we all know it. Our late-night hosts, left and right, are very well-behaved party members. Stephen Colbert does not make funny jokes about Joe Biden—he looks straight into the camera and tells you that tonight is no time for laughs, but time to talk about tomorrow’s procedural vote, which is the linchpin of democracy. The trend in comedy specials is toward deep, confessional monologues meant to make you cry about political situations.

And The Onion, which was brilliant for a long time, is now run by a “disinformation” reporter from NBC—the kind that specializes in arguing for more censorship. Maybe he’ll go through an internal awakening, or maybe we’re in for thousands of Onion headlines about how it’s. . . no time for laughs, it’s time to talk about tomorrow’s procedural vote.

It has not been a fun few years.

There is hope: Tom Brady’s roast was rude and fun. And of course, there is my beloved Bill Maher, who has steadfastly refused to give the world a nepo baby to carry on his legacy, but after I kill him and inhabit his skin for a while, there will be very few torchbearers left indeed.

So, for the first Free Press Book Club, I propose we all revisit the work of the late, great P.J. O’Rourke, America’s finest political satirist. He was one of the most quoted writers alive in his time, and you can see why: “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it,” he wrote in Parliament of Whores, which is my book club pick today. (Subtitle: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government.) The other classic line from the book: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” 

Now, O’Rourke was prolific. I don’t want to limit you to that one book. So, a request: put your favorite O’Rourke essay in the comments—with a quote or two. I love this little riff of his—in which he writes that “arguing, in the sense of attempting to convince others, has gone out of fashion with conservatives”—but it’s so hard to choose. 

And to pair with O’Rourke, I am shamelessly recommending my own book of satire: Morning After the Revolution. In this time of humorlessness and extremes, both sides are convinced the other is Dangerous. We’re told there’s nothing funny about Black Lives Matter protests and nothing funny about January 6, that there’s nothing funny in abolishing the SAT in favor of more equitable things like excellence in extracurriculars (dressage awards, anyone?).

Okay, I admit, these are very serious things: a shirtless man in antlers breaking into and marching around Congress while others take shits in the building; social justice leaders buying themselves a secret party house under an LLC called Abolitionist Entertainment; doctors very patiently explaining that toddlers know their gender identity; “progressive stack” meetings, in which participants contribute in order of privilege. . . does gay go before or after Asian? We’ll never know.

I play around with facts like these each week in TGIF, and I play with them some more in Morning After the Revolution

I promise that after this week, I will never push this book again. Or, almost never. (Watch me on Bill Maher’s show tonight! Sorry! I’m shameless!)

But before then, let’s chat satire: scroll down to the comments and you’ll find three questions that will get this Book Club started. 

To watch Bari interview Nellie about her book, or to read Nellie’s 25 revelations—including the worst job she’s ever had or if she’s team Kendrick or Drake—become a paid subscriber today.

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Log in

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines