Who Thought this Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

  • ATY #2: One of the 5 W’s in the title
  • PopSugar #16: Question in the title
  • Book Riot #5: By a journalist or about journalism (reaching)

And just like that, I’m caught up again! (At least for now.) As I predicted, the memoir I had lined up for Week 2 did go quickly, so I’m back on schedule, a status I predict will be maintained till the wheels fall off the cart in March.*

But hey, might as well celebrate being on track for whatever window of time I can claim that virtuous status.

This book came into my hands in a rather less purposeful manner than the Alain Locke bio. There have been times during my Kindle ownership when I have been rather obsessed with the Kindle Daily Deals. Every evening, part of my bedtime ritual was to click the little shopping cart on my library home screen to see what titles were being offered for the irresistible price of $2.99 or less.**

Some of those titles were classics or authors/titles that had been on my radar for a while (e.g., Handmaid’s Tale, Octavia Butler, Cloud Atlas), and I jumped on the opportunity for a good deal. And then there are the few (several?) hundreds of titles that just looked vaguely sort of interesting. Like this one.


I’m grateful to report that, however unplanned many of these additions to my Kindle library are, Mastromonaco’s book continues the trend of these books being generally worthwhile and enjoyable reads.

Mastromonaco’s memoir lifts the curtain on her time as a political staffer, first, briefly, working for Bernie Sanders and John Kerry, and then joining then-Senator Obama’s team in 2005 and riding that affiliation all the way to the White House and the position of Deputy Chief of Staff—in other words, one of DC’s most powerful but least famous people. I know some reviewers have complained about the TMI factor in some of Mastromonaco’s anecdotes, but I myself very much enjoyed Mastromonaco’s desire to subvert and demystify any fantasies readers might be holding about the glamorous nature of White House service. (I would also argue that the stories about insufficient access to women’s restrooms and menstruation supplies make a vital point about the ways our systems and structures in DC remain oh-so-male-centric.)

This book’s desire to offer some kernels of advice or inspiration to young women interested in political careers is laudable, and I appreciated Mastromonaco’s emphasis on the value of behavioral strengths–hard work, preparedness, humility, confidence, self-awareness–as contributing to her success, rather than connections, family money, or claims to innate/instinctive genius.

Finally, I am so grateful for the little bit more I learned about Barack Obama through reading this book. Mastromonaco is up front in saying she wants to focus on her own story, rather than betraying confidences and dishing dirt on her famous former-boss. Still, Obama’s appearances in different stories emphasize again and again his decency, his dedication, and his desire to do good. That kind of reminder of what an American President can be is like water to a desert for me right now.

After leaving the White House, Mastromonaco worked for Vice Media, and she currently holds positions at A&E Networks and as a contributing editor to Marie Claire magazine. Because of that, I’m currently using this book to check off the “journalism” category for Book Riot, but I’ll own it’s kind of a stretch. We’ll see if something else I read in 2019 is a better fit and gets swapped into that category.


* March and April contain: Wolf Hall, The Luminaries, Cloud Atlas, and 11/22/63. Pray for me.

** I am pleased to say I have mostly broken this particular spendthrift-y habit. Every now and then I slide off the wagon, but that’s only every couple of months, rather than Every. Single. Night.


Image credit: Photo taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

2 thoughts on “Who Thought this Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

  1. Pingback: The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis – Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

  2. Pingback: January Recap – Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

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