As Barack Obama finally clinches the Democratic nomination for president, Labour MP Denis MacShane argues that some of the most insightful coverage of American politics can be found in fiction. According to MacShane, The Race, by thriller writer Richard North Patterson, is the best book on the US political scene since Joe Klein’s Primary Colors. Although the novel is not quite a roman à cléf, its hero, Corey Grace, owes much to John McCain—Grace fought in the first Gulf war, when he was captured and tortured, and is now a senator seeking the Republican nomination. MacShane also recommends Arthur Schlesinger’s Journals 1952-2000. Schlesinger’s closeness to key Democratic figures (and Republican ones) make the book an invaluable guide to those seeking to understand the US presidential electoral process. Also this week, the occasion of Israel’s 60th anniversary prompts historian Avi Shlaim to examine the changes in Zionist history of the last two decades. Shlaim is one of the “new historians” responsible for reshaping the view of Israelis towards the birth of their nation and the first Arab-Israeli war. Finally, crime writer Andrew Martin scorns the huge number of prizes, literary and otherwise, that now exist in Britain—but still hopes to win one himself.