Playing with Fire by Lawrence O'Donnell

Playing with Fire

From the celebrated host of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, an important and enthralling new account of the presidential election that changed everything, and created American politics as we know it today. Long before Lawrence O'Donnell was the anchor of his own political talk show, he was the Harvard Law-trained political aide to Senator Patrick Moynihan, one of postwar America's wisest political minds. The 1968 election was O'Don...

Details Playing with Fire

TitlePlaying with Fire
Release DateNov 7th, 2017
PublisherPenguin Press
GenreHistory, Politics, Nonfiction, North American Hi..., American History

Reviews Playing with Fire

  • Erin
    Until 2016 the most wild and complex modern election was the 1968 election. If a screenwriter had written the '68 election no one would have believed it. Assassinations, riots, treason, war, and literal fist fights on the floor of the Democratic convention. 1968 was the year that modern campaigning was truly invented and it laid the groundwork for the 2016 election of 45. Lawrence O'Donnell is one of my favorite tv hosts. He's smart, funny, and b...
  • Barbara
    I have been staring at this computer screen for half an hour, trying to find the words to explain how I feel. I think I am so unable to find the words because I am struggling with my 18-year-old self.Lawrence O'Donnell has captured so many of the feelings from that incredible year. This book is not just a recounting of the events that happened in 1968. It also reminds me viscerally of how I felt the year I graduated from high school. As O'Donnell...
  • Steven Z.
    The publication of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s new book, PLAYING WITH FIRE: THE 1968 ELECTION AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN POLITICS comes at a propitious moment in American political history. According to O’Donnell 1968 is the watershed year that set our current politics in motion – a partisan conflict were by ideology and party affiliation has become more important than the needs of the American people. O’Donnell argues that ...
  • Jason
    I'd like to begin this review with a question. How do you follow up reading and reviewing the most highly-anticipated book of the year? In my case it was simple to go from one presidential campaign to another. Although the campaign that I chose was not just any campaign it was the granddaddy of all presidential campaigns: the campaign of 1968.Of course, I was not alive in 1968 but having studied the 1960s at length I can readily assure you that I...
  • Penn Jillette
    LOD is one of my best friends. I love his writing and I love him on TV, but the best is when he gets on a jag late at night when we're chatting and just turns world events into a story. This book is the closest I've experienced to that joy being done for the public. I was 13 in 1968 and I knew all these names and words, but never knew the story. Now I feel I know the story.This book is opinionated, but it's not liberal porn. I loved it.
  • Mehrsa
    In my book (The Color of Money), I have a chapter on the 1968 election and as I was writing it, I was thinking "you could write a whole library on this election!" This book is a worthy first volume for that library. I think we are far enough out and every strand of American politics that either died or was born during that election has played out. The harvest has been an ugly one. But it all started in 1968. I've read a lot of books about the 201...
  • Tracy Rowan
    I was sixteen in 1968, and I remember being a Gene McCarthy supporter in spite of my inability to vote.  I was anti-war, as were most of my friends, I was pro civil rights, and was discovering my conscience slowly but surely.  I also lived in Chicago and have vivid memories of the bloody protests and the subsequent trial of the "Chicago 7."  Remembering these things has given me more of a perspective on current events than a younger person mig...
  • Barbara (The Bibliophage)
    This is an intense political history, focused on the events of the 1968 US Presidential election. It covers a dozen people, from candidates to the sitting President. There are two assassinations, multiple protest, and one terrible, unwinnable war. Not exactly light reading. But O'Donnell weaves the stories together into a compelling account. I'm very glad I read it, even though it took me a long time.Full review at
  • Joseph J.
    I received my copy through a Goodreads giveaway. I own White's The Making of the President 1968 and An American Melodrama; what else did I need to know about the tragic, tumultuous and eventful election of 1968? With the hindsight of 50 years and the election of 2016-PLENTY! I enjoy the author on MSNBC and was a fan of The West Wing which he produced; but O'Donnell is also a great writer who in these pages blends the past with the recent-the rise...
  • Kaileigh
    Eerily relevant.
  • Just A. Bean
    For those wondering about author bias, I would say that he's an MSNBC host, profoundly anti-Vietnam war, and quite possibly a Bernie Bro (this unconfirmed, but I have suspicions). He doesn't like Nixon or Regan, but he doesn't seem to like Humphrey either. He's mixed on the LBJ, Kennedy family and most of the rest of the players. (Most of which means that I more or less agree with his politics, even if he strikes me as somewhat to the right of wh...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    The election of 1968 was a realignment election. It signaled the beginning of the end for the New Deal Coalition that was established with FDR. It was a tumultuous year. Martin Luther King and RFK were assassinated, the Melee at the Democratic convention in Chicago, Tet Offensive, and as icing on the cake the election of Richard Milhouse Nixon to the presidency also being the most divisive candidate in the field. I was one at the time. Good thing...
  • David Longo
    "Playing With Fire" is an informative book about the trials and tribulations of the 1968 U.S. presidential election by MSNBC news host Lawrence O'Donnell. I like O'Donnell on TV. I wasn't sure I would feel the same way about him as an author. I did, however. O'Donnell was quite detailed and always remained on track. He didn't write with quite the panache of Jay Winik or David Halberstam. I could let that slide, however. Few historians are such fi...
  • Christopher Saunders
    Many recent works have revisited the tumultuous 1968 presidential election, which seeded many of the conflicts and resentments American politics still wrestles with today. Though covering well-trod ground, MSNBC host O'Donnell teases a gripping narrative bristling with fresh, provocative insights. Most of the book focuses on the Democratic primaries between Lyndon Johnson, still clinging to hope for reelection despite the Vietnam War's increasing...
  • Mahlon
    Playing with fire is the best book on 1968 that I've read, Lawrence O'Donnell combines the social and political history of that time into one seamless narrative, The bulk of the book focuses on the campaign season that year highlighted by an almost a minute by minute analysis of each convention. He also offers probing character studies of each Candidate. The similarities between the Wallace campaign and the Trump campaign are startling and I hope...
  • Bruce Katz
    An exceptional read. Like many other reviewers, I remember that election quite well, but I was young and in college, and thus distracted by life. I had no idea of all that was going on -- as no one could at the time it was all happening. O'Donnell lays it all out, both the events that made it to the daily newspapers and TV screens, and those that were taking place behind the scenes and weren't, in some cases, known until many years later: the sec...
  • Koren
    I was 12 during the 1968 election so I remember some of the events, the big ones like the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations. I remember liking Hubert Humphrey, mainly because he was a home state boy. This is a very detailed look at that election that was different from any election before it. The author has his own show on MSNBC.
  • Nicole D.
    I had no particular interest in the 1968 election, but I like Lawrence O'Donnell a lot so I decided to give this a go and it was pretty interesting. I was 5 at the time, so obviously didn't realize what was going on around me. Every time I read a book like this, I think wow - it was exactly the same then as now. From Lincoln on the Bardo, to this. So I wonder - is this just the way of politics? The divisiveness and all that goes with it - or are ...
  • Bill Warren
    this book was simply phenomenal. I was born in 79 and I feel like I just experienced the 1968 elections and events leading up. A great read to end the last and kickoff the new year of reading. Lawrence O'Donnell makes sure to take his shots at the current president throughout, but not at all unwarranted. Highly recommend.
  • Tom Walsh
    I was one of a small group of anti-war protesters on Long Island who led the fight for Gene McCarthy’s nomination in 1968. O’Donnell captures the enthusiasm, excitement, adrenaline, sadness, pain and frustration of that year. The Dream will Not Die! Even now.
  • Matt Smith
    The only reason I read this book is because O'Donnell promised that 1968's presidential election was way more wild and crazy than 2016's. And yeah, maybe I needed to feel a little bit better about that big old gaping wound that still affects my life (and the life of everyone I know) every single day since it happened.What O'Donnell comes up with here is a book that hits something that most people know the major points of. Lyndon Johnson wasn't pr...
  • Julia Shaw
    Deeply fascinating, and surprisingly relevant to our contemporary political landscape. A lot of familiar names crop up on the periphery of mainstream events, from Roger Ailes, George Romney and Pat Buchanan to Bill Clinton and John Kerry. I wasn't alive in 1968, and previously knew only the broad strokes of that campaign season, with the result that this book almost read as suspense. I knew MLK and RFK would be killed, that Nixon and Humphrey wou...
  • Stephen Bird
    I enjoyed this book and thought it was well done. At certain points, I was unable to grasp / keep track of the details, but I was impressed with O'Donnell's presentation of his subject and so this work kept my interest. I normally don't read books about politics / U.S. political history, but the time period interested me as I was 8 years old in 1968. My father was a Republican (moderate conservative) and my mother a Democrat (centrist liberal). W...
  • Robert
    I LOVE LAWRENCE O'DONNELL. His monologue/diatribe at the beginning of each of his shows (right after Rachel) is a "must-watch" for me. I was born in 1939 and came of age (politically) in the 1960s. It's what turned me into a liberal - the murders of JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, the obscenity of the Viet Nam War, the murders by our own National Guard troops of the Kent State students. I try to explain to my own children and to others wh...
  • Kate
    Playing with Fire far exceeded my expectations. I grew up close enough to the 1960s that I have never had a burning desire to study the history of the 1960s. As all good books do, this one taught me that I didn't know what I don't know. In particular, the idea that in my lifetime there was a liberal wing of the GOP stunned me. While I understand Democrats were the party of racism in previous decades, I grew up associating the GOP with dog-whistle...
  • Paul
    I wonder what this book’s experience would have been like had a I not lived through the ‘68 election. I do know that O’Donnell very capably stitches together all the pieces of the narrative into a tight coil, especially notable when you already know the outcome beforehand. I wasn’t old enough to vote in the election, but I do remember watching LBJ’ announcement not to run again, and the Chicago convention and rioting in the streets. Wha...
  • Christi
    I HIGHLY recommend this book. This book covers the 1968 Election plus 1960's history in general including the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Civil Rights, the Vietnam War and the attempted assassination of George Wallace. LBJ's political manipulation and collusion with Nixon and Nixon's treason. There is a lot in this book that rings true about our political situation today. We are still fighting ...
  • Martin
    While I wasn't quite a "Clean For Gene" volunteer during high school, I was an avid McCarthy supporter and anti war proponent. I thought I knew most of what went on during the1968 campaign until I read this terrific book with incredible inside info which made my stomach churn (Nixon's treasonous subverting of the peace process, for example) despite the fact that I knew the outcome, the book was still a page turner. Recommended to all political ju...
  • Lisa
    A terrific read. 1968 is a pretty legendary year, and I thought I knew a lot about it. But Lawrence O'Donnell managed to find out tidbits that even 60's history buffs might not know. I read this as well as listened to the audiobook, and TV personality O'Donnell, of course, does a wonderful job narrating his own work. He manages to make every person multidimensional, even Richard Nixon, of all people. Read this book!
  • Abdul
    It is a comprehensive review of the 1968 presidential election with a brief introduction of the setting in which the event took place and biographical details of all the major players. There are striking resemblances between the campaigns of White Nationalist George Wallace and the current President of United States. Another facet of history that I learned was how Reagen became so influential within the Republican party and how the remaining libe...