As befits an election year, the 10th annual One Book One Community selection will look at Louisiana’s most famous — or infamous — politician.
“Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long” by Richard D. White Jr., dean of LSU’s Public Administration Institute, is a pull-no-punches examination of the man who dominated the state’s political scene from 1928-35 and might have played mischief with President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election bid had an assassin’s bullet not ended his life at age 42.
“This is an outstanding time for this book, because everything old is new again,” said Mary Stein, East Baton Rouge Parish Library assistant director. “It’s a political year. People are thinking big thoughts, and no man was a bigger thinker in our history than Huey P. Long.”
The timing doesn’t hurt, either. Stein said she made campaign buttons using Long slogans like “Share the Wealth” and “Every Man a King” and recently wore them in public.
“Somebody looked at it and thought it was a real, modern button,” she said. “So, the word ‘populism,’ the word ‘progressive’ and ‘sharing our wealth,’ it’s all out there in the political landscape right now.”
The popularity of last year’s book selection, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” encouraged the choice of another book set in Louisiana.
Much of the reading public hadn’t read John Kennedy Tool’s novel, and White’s 2006 biography of Long also has flown under the radar, she said.
Long’s was most famously told by T. Harry Williams’ “Huey Long,” a 944-page biography that won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize. But the selection committee made up of Forum 35, Up Alliance and the Foundation for Historical Louisiana opted for White’s work, which is less than half as long.
“For One Book One Community, we purposely look for books that are accessible, that are not overwhelming,” Stein said. “I was so struck by how readable his book is. Of course, his book has fresh scholarship, because the years have passed and new things come to light. Somebody leaves a letter. Somebody else is willing to speak formally and be recorded.”