"Riveting"—Jill Lepore, The New Yorker

New York Times: ONE OF "100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2020"

What Makes It Worthy by David Paul Kuhn

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Neglected Voter by David Paul Kuhn


“A story that truly explores the American system not just from an insider's viewpoint, but from the very real experiences of human beings ... and yes, add a dose of romance to the political cocktail: it's just what this drink needs to make it perfect!” declares the Midwest Book Review.

What Makes It Worthy is a brilliant tell-all about the tabloidization of American politics that takes readers inside the corruptive interplay between powerbrokers and press at the highest levels.

“Captivating,” writes novelist Matthew Thomas, “part case study, part postmortem, and part love letter to political intrigue.” And novelist Lynn Lauber calls it “a Primary Colors for this generation.”

Kirkus Reviews writes that the novel is “a genuinely tender love story.” “Both a love story and an exposé on modern American campaigns,” says former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

What Makes It Worthy is also the personal story of Taylor Solomon and Cait Ellis. Taylor is a rising star at America's fastest-growing political media machine. Cait is a young New York Times reporter who wrestles with the shadow of her legendary mother.

And it is an historic--yet familiar--campaign. The Republican, who hails from one of America's power clans and has long been in the national spotlight, seeks to become the first female president. Her Democratic opponent, a State Department veteran setting the election afire with populism, hopes to make his own history as the first Hispanic president. On the campaign trail, as ethics gray and events envelop politicians, operatives, and reporters--as Cait and Taylor struggle with how much distance must be accepted between their ideals and their choices--the political not only becomes personal, but also threatens to upend their lives, as well as the presidential campaign itself.

Written by well-known political journalist David Paul Kuhn, What Makes It Worthy is “a heartfelt page-turner that proves a good novel can both entertain you and inform you,” in the words of former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

The novel is also perhaps the most accurate depiction yet written about how the relationship between the media and the modern presidential campaign shapes American politics, and an enthralling story of how celebrity culture has consumed the political class.


“What Makes It Worthy is a heartfelt page-turner that proves a good novel can both entertain you and inform you. Beautifully written, this important book exposes the forces threatening our media and our politics. Yet it also retains integrity and optimism, and after a gripping journey, you’ll walk away from the novel deeply moved and enriched.”—JENNIFER GRANHOLM, former governor of Michigan

“Both a love story and an exposé on modern American campaigns, David Paul Kuhn’s What Makes It Worthy takes readers inside what it takes to run a modern-day campaign and illuminates the personal toll it can take on those who are part of it. In a compelling manner, Kuhn’s novel shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of campaigns, from candidates to spin doctors to those whose job it is to cover them. I trust readers will come away with a healthy skepticism of all they read during a campaign and an appreciation for those who survive the process.”—CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN,former governor of New Jersey

“A genuinely tender love story that demonstrates how hope can bloom in even the most inhospitable places. . . . Insightful political commentary that will keep readers immersed.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This novel, at the intersection of media and politics, provides a disturbing education in the process by which the virus of half-truth is injected into political discourse and disseminated across a bewildering array of platforms, acquiring by mutation that peculiarly postmodern trait, ‘truthiness.’ The fever rises until the end is inevitable, but the body that truly suffers, Kuhn suggests, is not one party or the other, but the body politic itself. What Makes It Worthy is part case study, part postmortem, and part love letter to political intrigue. . . .

Real-life bold-faced names mingle with those of invented characters in a way that evokes Bruce Wagner or Bret Easton Ellis, and the fast-paced, telegraphic prose calls James Ellroy to mind. The fragmented sentences become metonymic for the radically reduced thinking required of political operatives and reporters, and the blinkered present-tense narration heightens the sense of claustrophobia and conspiracy. The epigrammatic dialogue and aggressive exchanges of wit highlight the impossibility of people ever getting close to one another in a world this lupine. This portrait of the cynical side of political wars fought in the theater of the media is not a comfortable place to dwell in, but then again the truth is so often uncomfortable. The outlook for the republic may be dark, but the journey into the night, in David Paul Kuhn’s hands, is a captivating one.”
—MATTHEW THOMAS,author of the New York Times
bestselling novel We Are Not Ourselves

“Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, What Makes It Worthy is a welcome reminder that fiction can still deliver the news. With an astute and probing eye, David Paul Kuhn provides a devastating insider’s look at the bloody intersection of media and politics. Full of surprising twists and inventive plotting, Kuhn’s writing is at once lyrical and realistic. And despite his vision of a corrupt, dysfunctional world, he still manages to evoke both tenderness and hope. Especially rare, he breathes life into three-dimensional female characters. The book’s depiction of the current political landscape and those who cover it make it a Primary Colors for this generation. —LYNN LAUBER, author of White Girls, 21 Sugar Street, and Listen to Me

“This novel about the American political process, What Makes It Worthy, could not come at a better time. At a point in American history where houses are divided, sentiments run high, and alliances between press and political figures are at an unprecedented peak, along comes a novel to nail all these actions and place them in perspective. . . .

As readers move through a vivid, personal story, it’s the people interactions that are striking. One would expect the novel to be replete with political exchanges (and it is), but not necessarily the depth of personal relationships explored here—which, after all, are the foundation of any decision or belief system’s evolution. Under Kuhn's hand, the realities of conflicts that become landslides, relationships that become matters of political convenience or manipulation, and cultural and social settings that separate D.C. from the rest of America make sense. Under his pen, politics lives and breathes in the form of human interaction as much as political process. . . .

Wrap it all up in a novel that delves into these circles and reveals their underlying motivations and influences and you have a story that truly explores the American system not just from an insider’s viewpoint, but from the very real experiences of human beings just like you and me: people that tend to ask too little or too much of life, but rarely get it right—even in love. And yes, add a dose of romance to the political cocktail: it’s just what this drink needs to make it perfect!”
—D. DONOVAN, Midwest Book Review, Senior Book Reviewer

“Kuhn does a stellar job in cast development, especially with the money-and-fame-driven characters, such as Luke Brennen. Kuhn also keeps his debut novel fluid by alternating character scenes throughout each chapter and throwing in unexpected twists and turns along the way. What Makes It Worthy is indeed riveting and eye opening from beginning to end.” —ANITA LOCK,
who rated the novel “Recommended”
in The US Review of Books

What Makes It Worthy by David Paul Kuhn is a one of a kind political thriller that portrays the extent to which the media influences and shapes politics . . . It is an incredibly well written story and fans of political drama with a touch of romance will have a thrilling reading experience.” —FARIDAH NASSOZI, who rated the novel Five Stars for Readers’ Favorite


“David Paul Kuhn’s What Makes It Worthy is an engaging, formidable work of fiction that encompasses every aspect of life on a campaign trail from the perspective of both candidate and journalist. From page one, we are sucked into a world of corruption, scandal, and the inner workings of the relationship between politicians and the press. . . . I give David Paul Kuhn’s What Makes It Worthy a well deserved fi —Please Pass the Booksve stars.”


“This book was just ... wow!! Yup, one of those - where your brain just can't even function when it's all over. I've spent all day trying to recover from the story just so I could write up this review, and even now, I still can't get my thoughts in order enough to be coherent. . . .

The writing is eloquent and moving, and I love how he expresses events that are fast-paced - the party at the beginning of the book, I mean, I felt like I was there. I wish more writers had this ability. I also really like his characterization - each person feels so real, no matter what level they are on, and are written in such a way that you feel like you know them; the whole thing feels like you are part of the story itself, the emotions, the stress.

This is an incredible story, one that is definitely on my top favorites of the year. Anyone who is interested in politics and how it works, who gets frustrated by the media and the way they look at, pinpoint or ignore important things, should definitely give this book a read. The whole story is reminiscent of what is going on now, and what has been going on for the past couple of presidency runs, and it's just really good. It was so hard to put this down.”—The Gal in the Blue Mask book reviews


“As I began reading this novel I became increasingly excited to realize it was not at all what I originally thought it would be. Yes, this book is political fiction but it’s also so much more! I was not expecting the love story aspect nor all the scandal and intrigue. I was so completely caught up in this story that I flew through the pages and at one point even startled myself when I stopped to take a break and discovered how close I was to the end! This is one of those rare books that reads more like a movie or a television show, each scene coming to light vividly in my mind. David Paul Kuhn’s writing is brilliant and he’s created fully fleshed out, three dimensional characters that for me, seemed to step right off the page.

I loved this book and eagerly passed it along to my husband who reads a lot of political mysteries. He’s now reading it and is totally hooked; actually, he hasn’t really spoken to me since he started reading it Lol But I can’t wait for him to finish so we can discuss that stellar ending!! It’s hard for me to compare it to other books of this genre since it’s not one I typically read so I’ll say that if you’re a fan of shows such as House of Cards then you should definitely pick up What Makes It Worthy and give it a try, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!” —My So-Called Book Reviews