If politics in the real world have you exhausted, why not explore the presidency through the lens of fictional novels?
Between historical fiction, totally fictional stories, and quirky what-ifs, it’s clear that presidents and the very concept of the presidency itself have been creatively inspiring to plenty of writers. We’ve picked out some of our favorite novels that feature presidents—real and fictional—for Inauguration Day, Presidents’ Day, and beyond!
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the OG “weird presidential” novel, with Seth Grahame-Smith recasting Lincoln as—you guessed it—a vampire hunter out for revenge after his mother’s death. Don’t be put off by the poorly-received movie adaptation from a few years back—the wild mash-up of vampire myth and one of America’s most mythologized figures actually works as a compelling, creative story.
America's First Daughter: A Novel
Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie’s America’s First Daughter puts the presidency as a backdrop, focusing on Patsy, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. As she navigates the complicated and glittering world of Parisian society and struggles with how to reveal her romance to her family, she learns the unsettling truth about her father’s actions towards Sally Hemings, a slave girl the same age as her.
Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel
Stressed about real-life politics? Casey McQuiston’s bestselling rom-com Red, White & Royal Blue is for you! In an alternate version of 2020, America’s first female president—a Texas Democrat—is up for re-election, but her son accidentally causes an international scandal with his rivalry with the youngest British prince. To combat the media problem, the men agree to fake a friendship, but their closeness turns real—and more than friendly.
11/22/63: A Novel
You can’t have a list about “presidential” books without Stephen King’s classic time-travel alt-history 11/22/63! A high school English teacher gets swept up in a time-travel mission, where he gets sent back in time to try to prevent the assassination of JFK. The only thing is, if he succeeds, there’s no guarantee that the ripple effects will actually make a brighter future.
And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
Stephanie Marie Thornton’s And They Called It Camelot follows the complicated, heartbreaking life of one of the most famous women in the world: Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The story threads through her rising fame and her marriage to JFK, then follows her in the aftermath of his assassination as she struggles to figure out what to do with her life, how to be a mother to her fatherless children, and who she is as a woman in her own right.
Courting Mr. Lincoln: A Novel
Instead of the usual dreary portrayals of the Lincolns (especially Mrs. Lincoln), Louis Bayard joins Abe and Mary at a younger age in Courting Mr. Lincoln, when he’s still very rough around the edges and she’s feisty and outspoken, as both of them have no idea of the futures that await them. The book’s depiction of Lincoln is told through the eyes of the people who know him best: his wife Mary, and his best friend and roommate Joshua Speed, both of whom have had their own complicated portrayals throughout history.
The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington: A Novel
Based on rumors of a real (and failed) kidnapping plot against Washington, Charles Rosenberg’s alternate history The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington explores what might have happened had Washington been captured and sent to England to stand trial for treason. As the dangerous politics of the era continue to swirl around the major players, Washington chooses an unexpected lawyer to aid him: an American-born barrister with his own opinions on the revolution.
With Crooked, Austin Grossman provides readers with a very different, delightfully bizarre take on the Watergate era, in which the cover-up was about weird magic and supernatural beasties, not re-election. In this sci-fi alternate history, Nixon accidentally discovers a supernatural secret as a young man and becomes embroiled in a desperate battle involving dark magic, alternate realities, and terrifying creatures from another dimension.
All-American Girl (All-American Girl, 1)
Meg Cabot’s YA classic All-American Girl looks at the American presidency from the perspective of an artsy, slightly goth teenage girl who instinctively saves the president from an assassination attempt. As she’s forced into the spotlight and asked to take on a public role by the president himself, she struggles to adjust to her new reality—not to mention her tentative friendship with the president’s teenage son.