Cupples (co-author: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style, 2013) provides a straightforward, user-friendly guide to the American political system with an emphasis on how the average citizen can get involved.
Cupples’ guide comprises three sections. First, the author focuses on the source of citizens’ rights and duties, namely the Constitution and the laws that are enacted by federal, state, and local governments. Second, she explores the three branches of federal government (executive, legislative, and judicial), how they interact, and how they affect American citizens. Third, she explores outside influences on government, such as lobbying and the media, and covers ways citizens can participate in the lawmaking process. Cupples eschews stodgy descriptions of the governing process. In discussing the overall maturity of the Senate compared with the House, she notes, “That doesn’t mean the Senate is always like the Dalai Lama or Yoda.” She goes on to refer to the speaker of the House as its “head honcho.” She also finds ways to make certain her text does not become boring, inserting theoretical situations that may surprise the casual reader (in discussing the Sixth Amendment and problems with state-appointed counsel, she asks, “What about a lawyer who slams vodka shots before trial?”) Cupples’ work is also very much geared toward the modern world of connectivity. Throughout, she suggests websites (such as for each executive branch department) and internet search terms for seeking out answers to policy questions or the validity of news stories (e.g., “To find your county election office, search online for ‘election office’ + your county + your state”). She is admirably nonpartisan throughout her work, focusing instead on the facts of American government with little regard for party.
Easy-to-read, balanced introduction to American civics.