Review: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History / by Madeleine Riley

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I'm kicking off 2018 with the goal of expanding my non-fiction reading this year. I started with Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History and it was a great way to get myself excited for more non-fiction reads. This narrative non-fiction came highly recommended by Annie B. Jones, an independent bookseller in Georgia whose taste I trust inherently. Written by Katy Tur, the NBC correspondent during Trump's presidential campaign, the book takes back to the beginning of Trump's berserk path to the White House, with moments from the actual election day peppered in between chapters. 

Katy's narrative is extremely accessible, for those who aren't well-versed in politics or who find themselves lost in the jargon of political talk. Reading this book feels like have a long coffee-date with your girlfriend, during which she details the craziest, and yes, most unbelievable experience of tailing Trump for his entire campaign. Katy spent over 500 days following Trump, and in that time found herself trapped in a cycle of abuse and off-putting admiration with Trump himself. Katy sacrificed her life as a foreign correspondent to be the point person for the campaign, and I am in awe of her ability to do her job without losing her mind in the process.

I've had some readers ask me if this book will make them angrier and the answer is yes. For me, it just shed light on even more evidence supporting the fact that we have a leader who is unfit for his role. It made me angry, but I also think that Katy gave Trump fair representation in this book. She pulled everything straight from facts, and then added her own impressions. Even she was sometimes taken aback by the vulgarity she witnessed at Trump's rallies, on display from seemingly normal people who don't immediately look like they'd be the type to spit in a reporter's face (but did that and more). I can't imagine the level of exhaustion that Katy and other reporters experienced throughout those two years on the campaign trail, but I am so grateful for the work they do. Despite the president's claims that the media is all bad, I disagree. I think it's the thing we can rely on most in our current climate, and I'm grateful for the people who chase truth and fact-check their stories and put it all out there, despite the animosity they receive from so many.

As we all know, reading isn't just about the content of the book, but is also about the experience and bias that we bring to the story. So I'll make it very clear -- I read this book from the perspective of someone who abhors our current president. When I woke up to discover that Trump had been elected, I was crushed. That day was the first time I ever cried at work -- when my student asked me if the new president would hate him because he is a black boy, and I didn't have a comforting answer for him. As a teacher, I can't comment with any personal slant when it comes to politics in the classroom, but I think it speaks to something when kids realize that our president isn't a person they want to model themselves after. As a teacher of students with special needs, I feel no obligation to respect a man who doesn't respect the children that I spend my days advocating for. Politics is a tricky topic to discuss, but I stand firm in my belief that our children have nothing good to learn from our current president. That's all the more reason to advocate for change, though, so if you're going to pick up this book, I'd recommend one to counterbalance it: Courage is Contagious, and Other Reasons to Be Grateful for Michelle Obamaa collection of essays that cultivates hope for the Obama legacy. 

Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5


  • Title: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History
  • Author: Katy Tur
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • Price: $14 on Amazon
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Local Independent Bookseller